2022 Philippine Elections

Ilocos Sur officials supporting ‘United North’ senators red-tagged

Sherwin de Vera

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Ilocos Sur officials supporting ‘United North’ senators red-tagged
The targets say red-tagging and scare tactics try to undermine the growing support for the Leni-Kiko tandem and divide the opposition

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – Two local officials in Ilocos Sur supporting Makabayan Bloc senatorial candidates Neri Colmenares and Elmer Labog and the Liberal Party’s Teddy Baguilat, Jr. are now at the receiving end of a red-tagging campaign.

Santa Vice Mayor Jeremy Jesus Bueno III and Cabugao Councilor Randy Kinaud posted on their Facebook pages samples of posters accusing them of supporting the communist New People’s Army. The two lawyers are known supporters of environmental and human rights groups in the province.

On March 14, Bueno uploaded a picture of a tarp and a nylon sack poster naming him as an NPA and terrorist supporter.

The tarpaulin contained a quote card from the United North Facebook page, where Bueno was expressing support for the three senatorial aspirants. It then added the text: “Si Vice Mayor na sumusuporta sa mga Terorista! Magisip ka para sa ikabubuti ng Bayan mo hindi ang ikabubuti ng yung Tito Neri at Tito Elmer.”

(The vice mayor who supports terrorists! Think of the welfare of your town and not the good of your Uncle Neri and Uncle Elmer)

“Mag-ingat, Jeremy Bueno III NPA supporter,” was the text written on the sack.

(Beware, Jeremy Bueno III NPA Supporter)

Bueno was among the local officials who spoke on January 22 during the launch of United North, a network of different groups and individuals in Northern Luzon supporting the Leni-Kiko tandem and the senate bid of Baguilat, Colmenares, and Labog.

“Honestly, ‘di ko na alam kung ako ba’y “bimpo,” “trapo,” o “komunista.” Pero isa lang ang nasisiguro ko: takot kayo sa mga nag-iisip at sa mga progresibong kaisipan na ikakabuti ng mamamayan,” the vice mayor responded in his post.

(Honestly, I do not know if I am a wet cloth, a traditional politician or a communist. But I am sure of one thing: you are afraid of progressive thinkers who think of the welfare of the people.)

Vice Mayor Jeremy Bueno of Santa, Ilocos Sur is an environmentalist and, despite red-scare tactics, is running for reelection unopposed. (Jeremy Bueno)

Bueno said that he does not want to boast of what he has done for constituents, but invited the posters’ authors to ask Santa people about his contributions and governance.

“(M)aninindigan ako sa mga susuportahan ko dahil sa kaisa ko sila pagpapabuti pa ng kalagayan ng mga nasa laylayan,” he added.

(I stand firm for those I am supporting because they are one with me in uplifting the lives of the marginalized.)

Bueno is a convenor of the Save the Abra River Movement and Defend Ilocos Against Mining Plunder Network. During his mayoral term in Santa in 2012, he, along with Makabayan lawmakers, filed a petition for a Writ of Kalikasan against the magnetite mining in Ilocos Sur. In the same year, Santa also passed a resolution holding Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corporation accountable for the pollution of the Abra River, which passes through his town.

He is running unopposed for the same post under Makabayan. His father, Jesus, Jr., is also seeking reelection as mayor without an opponent.

Two days earlier, on March 12, Kinaud also posted a picture of a poster made from nylon sack, which was posted in several parts of Cabugao.

“Matagal na ang threat [sa akin]. Nag iiba lang ng form. Pero hindi puwedeng yun ang iniisip dahil anong silbi na nabubuhay kung lagi naman nangangamba?” the lawyer said in a text message to Rappler when asked about the incident.“Basta tingin ko ay tama, yun ang gagawin ko. Hindi naman puwedeng pati pag iisip ay angkinin nila.”

(I’ve had threats for a long time. They just change in form. But I can’t focus on these because I don’t want to live in fear. I will keep on doing what I think is right. They cannot control our thoughts.)

Kinaud has lawyered for high-profile cases in the province involving activists accused of participating in NPA actions against government troops.

He seeks his third term as councilor, aligned with the incumbent mayor and vice mayor under the Nationalist People’s Coalition.

Makabayan Ilocos Coordinator Eduardo Rimando condemned the incident. He said the two officials “are long-time allies of the people’s movement in Ilocos.”

“Red-tagging has now become an election smear campaign against progressive candidates and those supporting the presidential bid of [Vice President Leni] Robredo. They are using communist scare tactics to undermine the growing support for the Leni-Kiko tandem and divide the opposition,” he said. – Rappler.com

Sherwin De Vera is a Luzon-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.

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