Newly installed Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Lieutenant General Guillermo Eleazar vowed that cops will not resort to any form of harassment, including red-tagging, in the government’s fight against insurgency.
“Malinaw ang sinasabi ng ating leadership na hindi tayo magre-resort sa red-tagging, even to harassment (Our leadership has a clear order, we will not resort to red-tagging, even to harassment),” Eleazar said in a Rappler Talk interview on Sunday, May 9.
During his first speech as the new PNP chief, Eleazar said he will focus on an internal cleansing program to clean the ranks of the police and minimize criminality. These focal points include the continuing fight against insurgency.
Under President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration, the red-tagging and killings of progressive individuals have worsened. On March 7, the Calabarzon police launched a simultaneous crackdown against activists dubbed “Bloody Sunday,” which saw the death of 9 activists and arrests of 6 others who are still currently detained.
The new PNP chief also said that they already released a memorandum reminding all police units to carefully avoid red-tagging in statements they release.
Meanwhile, on the groups identified as communist-terrorist groups by the government, Eleazar said that instead of stooping down to the level of these organizations that resort to violence, they will instead use programs and educational activities that will counter the ideologies being taught by these groups.
Duterte’s campaign promise is ending insurgency, which has been one of the government’s main concerns for the past 5 decades. In 2018, Duterte signed Executive Order No. 70, which ordered the creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and the whole-of-nation approach against insurgency.
During his first press conference on May 10, Eleazar said the public should expect police presence in the community pantries. The new PNP chief clarified that they will not profile or order the closure of such pantries, but rather will secure the area.
Eleazar also said he already instructed the police commanders to assist community pantry organizers in their areas.
On the red-tagging of pantries, Eleazar said he will not tolerate this.
“At least doon sa effort ng pulis na pupunta doon para magtanong, para magbigay sila ng protection, that’s one thing. Pero ‘yung mag-post ka sa social media telling them na involved sila in those activities [by the rebel groups] ibang usapan din ‘yun,” Eleazar said.
(At least for the police’s efforts to personally go to the pantries to monitor, and give protection, that’s one thing. But posting on social media telling that they are involved in the activities of rebel groups is a different thing.)
On April 14, Ana Patricia Non opened a community pantry along Maginhawa Street in Quezon City, where people can donate and take food supplies and other needs. The project has since gone viral and replicated all over the country.
But a few days later, Non suspended their operations due to safety concerns after the Quezon City Police District and the National Task Force To End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) red-tagged them on social media. The post was also shared by at least 7 Facebook pages linked to the police.