2 House panels to probe red-tagging in Cagayan de Oro

Two House committees will look into the persistent red-tagging incidents in Cagayan de Oro, Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez said on Tuesday, April 27.

The Cagayan de Oro 2nd District representative said this a day after he filed Resolution No. 1725 to call on the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Commission in Human Rights (CHR) to separately investigate the red-tagging and alleged police profiling of community pantry organizers in the city.

Rodriguez said the House committees on justice and human rights would call hearings to tackle the relentless red-tagging in Cagayan de Oro which, according to the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), is emerging as the Philippines's "red-tagging capital."

Cagayan de Oro's community pantries sprang up last week from the movement unintentionally started by Quezon City resident Ana Patricia Non. Like Non, some of Cagayan de Oro's pantry organizers were linked to the communist insurgency without sufficient evidence.

Rodriguez said the city's pantry organizers were "civic-minded" citizens who merely wanted "to provide food to the poor amid the pandemic."

"The initiatives exemplify the bayanihan spirit of Filipinos," he said. “Unfortunately, some pantries were forced to close because their organizers became afraid of being red-tagged."

Rodriguez said reports that some of the organizers were approached by police, and then asked for personal information, were disturbing.

He said the case of Cagayan de Oro's first community pantry in Barangay Kauswagan suggests a systematic and synchronized harassment and red-tagging on social media, and with the circulation of anti-communist leaflets and posters against the organizers.

The Kauswagan pantry organizers, led by University of the Philippines (UP) physics instructor Rene Principe Jr, decided to stop their initiative on April 21, on the third day of their food distribution.

The Cagayan de Oro City Police (COCPO) denied having a hand in the red-tagging as it started setting up police community pantries around the city on Monday, April 26. The COCPO also denied that officers had profiled pantry organizers, explaining that they were just sent to ensure that public health protocols were being followed.

Despite the police's denial, Rodriguez said there was still a "need to look into the red-tagging activities, and put a stop to it."

Rodriguez said the red-tagging problem has been recurring in Cagayan de Oro for years, and there were no efforts from authorities to identify suspects and hold them to account. – Rappler.com