‘King red-tagger’ Duterte distracting public from ‘incompetence’ – Makabayan

Mara Cepeda

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‘King red-tagger’ Duterte distracting public from ‘incompetence’ – Makabayan

NO TO RED-TAGGING. Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate speaks during the Makabayan bloc's virtual press conference on December 1, 2020.

Screenshot from the Zoom meeting of the briefing

'Itong lahat ay tingin namin ay pagtatakip lamang sa incompetence at sa makabuluhang problema ng bayan ngayon,' says Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate

Lawmakers from the progressive Makabayan bloc called President Rodrigo Duterte the “king of red-taggers” after he accused their party-list groups of acting as communist fronts. 

In a hastily called press conference on Tuesday, December 1, members of the Makabayan bloc once again denied being affiliated with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), its armed wing the National People’s Army (NPA), and its political arm the National Democratic Front (NDF).

Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate said they would not dignify the President’s insults because he is just distracting the public from the government’s inadequate response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

After red-tagging the Makabayan bloc, Duterte also mocked Zarate, saying he looked like dog shit.

“I will not reply specifically na doon sa panlalait na ginawa ni President Duterte dahil wala namang basehan ‘yun. It will only divert the real issue ngayon sa ating bansa, lalong-lalo na nitong napakatinding krisis na ating dinaranas,” said Zarate.

(I will not reply specifically to the insults of President Duterte because they do not have any basis. It will only divert the public from the real issues being faced by the country, especially now that we’re in a severe crisis.)

“Itong lahat ay tingin namin ay pagtatakip lamang sa incompetence at sa makabuluhang problema ng bayan ngayon. At pilit kaming pinipilayan to silence us, especially in our active role bilang mga mambabatas sa loob ng Kongreso,” he added. 

(We think all of these are just meant to cover up the incompetence and the significant problems in the country now. They’re trying to cripple us and to silence us, especially in our active role as lawmakers in Congress.)

The Duterte government has long faced criticism for mishandling the COVID-19 crisis. Months into the pandemic, cases are still steadily rising, with the total number of infections now over 431,000 as of Monday, November 30. 

‘King of red-taggers’

For ACT Teachers Representative France Castro, the President’s latest remarks against her bloc makes Duterte the “king of red-taggers.”

“Patunay lang ito na si President Duterte ang hari ng red-tagger. At siya ‘yung nagpapalakas ng loob dito sa mga militar, mga PNP (Philippine National Police) at iba pang mga sektor ng national security forces para doon sa ginagawa nila na patuloy na red-tagging sa Makabayan bloc, sa BAYAN, sa mga progressive organizations,” said Castro. 

(This proves that President Duterte is the king of red-taggers. And he is emboldening those in the military, the PNP, and other national security forces to continue their red-tagging of the Makabayan bloc, BAYAN, and other progressive groups.)

Red-tagging of activists has intensified under the Duterte administration, with police and military officers even sharing social media posts red-tagging the Makabayan bloc members. 

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Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago, who is one of the primary targets of such posts, said the Duterte administration is “insatiable in their scheme to silence dissent.”

“They are trying so hard to intimidate the youth, to discredit our work, and to divert attention away from legitimate issues and concerns presented by young people and students,” she said. 

It’s been a tough week for the Makabayan bloc after the daughter of one of its members, Bayan Muna Representative Eufemia Cullamat, was killed in an encounter between the NPA and the military in Marihatag town, Surigao del Sur.

Cullamat, a leader of the Manobo tribe, said her daughter Jevilyn might have decided to join the armed struggle after seeing the military abuses firsthand. 

Zarate and Elago have already decided to stop participating in the Senate probe into the government’s red-tagging practices, arguing that the panel has been “reduced to a venue for witch-hunting” by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). –

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.