Mountain Province police apologize for flyers red-tagging people's orgs

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – The Mountain Province police on Wednesday, February 19,  apologized to members of people’s organizations who were red-tagged in flyers distributed by municipal police in Sagada town.

After a dialogue with the groups at the Sagada Municipal Hall on Wednesday, Police Major Jerry Haduca of the Mountain Province Police Provincial Office apologized to the people’s organizations and said they would correct their mistake.

Haduca said that they were not able to keep track of the issuance and distribution of the flyers and that they would verify the sources of the information. 

Windel Bolinget, chair of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, welcomed the gesture and said the Sagada Municipal Police Station (MPS) should do the same, since it was the one that distributed the flyers in Sagada before and during the town fiesta at the end of January. 

“We welcome the provincial PNP’s apology and will be following up on their commitment to look into the MPS’ flyer and correct it. The Sagada MPS must stop red-tagging and politically vilifying people’s organizations and creating confusion and fear in Sagada communities. Sagada MPS owes us a public apology,” said Bolinget.

The flyers were titled, “Deceptive Recruitment of CPP-NPA Terrorists” and listed as alleged communist fronts the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), Innabuyog, Gabriela, Mountain Province Research Development, Inayan Watch, APIT TAKO Montanosa, Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), Katribu, and Bayan Muna, among other progressive people’s organizations.

During the dialogue, Sagada police chief Captain Basilio Hopdayan said they "do not owe a public apology" as he denied that the flyer distribution was an act of red-tagging. He claimed that “the purpose of the leaflets was to warn the organizations that they may be used or allowing their organizations to be used” by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army- National Democratic Front.

Hopdayan maintained they were only "following a directive" and had "basis" for their actions.

Bolinget said that the Sagada police "should differentiate the CPP-NPA and civilian organizations."

"Our organizations are neither members of the CPP nor recruiters of the New Peoples Army. Labeling our organizations as fronts of the CPP and NPA recruiters is red-tagging, political vilification and is putting our security and lives in danger. The flyers and Facebook posts circulated by the MPS are making us open targets that could lead to extrajudicial killings if not corrected,” Bolinget said.

The dialogue was attended by 92 participants, including Mayor James Pooten, members of the municipal council, barangay officials, church ministers,  Sagada police, local residents, representatives of the 54th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, and representatives of the people's organizations featured in the flyers.

Meanwhile, the Kabataan Cordillera criticized the Baguio City Police Office for red-tagging students of Saint Louis University when the police described their February 18 rally opposing tuition increase as an “NPA rally” in their Facebook page. 

“The protest led by members of Anakbayan and DASIG SLU was staged in opposition to the proposed 7% tuition and other fees increase in SLU for incoming students. It was also conducted as part of the series of actions in preparation for the National Day of Action for Education and Democracy on February 28,” Kabataan Cordillera said in a statement.

“The PNP vilifies students for asserting their right to accessible education, voicing out concerns against the skyrocketing tuition and other fees increase. Tell us PNP, how low can you get?” it asked.

Policy research group Ibon Foundation had earlier condemned the "persistent raid-baiting" of the Duterte administration instead of addressing the issues raised by progressive groups.– Rappler.com