Rights group, journalists denounce recent red-tagging in Cagayan de Oro

Bobby Lagsa

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Rights group, journalists denounce recent red-tagging in Cagayan de Oro
An unknown person distributed the list to journalists during a human rights forum in Cagayan de Oro City on Friday, February 22


CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Journalist groups and a human rights organization denounced an anonymous list distributed to journalists in Cagayan de Oro City on Friday, February 22, that tagged several groups and individuals as members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). 

The red-tagging document came from an unknown person and was given to journalists during a human rights forum in Cagayan de Oro City on Friday. 

The document, written in Bisaya, said, “Here is the list of several members of the Communist Party of the Philippines here in our city that are aspiring to wrestle the government.” 

Among those included in the list are: 

  • lglesia Filipina Independiente priests Rolando Abejo, Khen Apus, Kris Ablon, and bishop Felixberto Calang
  • Rural Missionaries of the Philippines
  • Alliance of Concerned Teachers
  • Journalist Leonardo “Cong” Corrales, his son LA, and his wife Ai
  • Lawyer Beverly Musni and her lawyer daughters Czarina and Beverly Ann Musni
  • Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao
  • Kabataan Partylist 

Karapatan-Northern Mindanao in a statement Friday deplored the list as yet another case of harassment against human rights defenders in Northern Mindanao.

Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary-general, said that two brown envelopes with 13 copies each of the document were handed over by “military-looking” men to the security guards of Philtown Hotel, where human rights groups were holding an assembly.

Palabay said the document tagged the names in the list as communists.

“The notorious lists have further endangered the already perilous situation of human rights defenders. We have repeatedly raised how these arbitrary and baseless accusations incite threats to the lives and security of named individuals, the worst of which they become victims of extrajudiial killings,” Palabay said.

“We call on the Commission on Human Rights and the local government to protect the rights of defenders and make accountable those who continue to put their lives at risk,” she added.

But the 4th Infantry Division denied the allegation thrown at them by Karapatan. 

“To all our media friends, it’s for Palabay to prove it…burden of proof,” Lieutenant Colonel Eugene Osias of the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Eastern Mindanao Command said. 

“My take on this is if Karapatan cannot prove that it came from the Army then I say that they [Karapatan] are the ones who made it to sow intrigues among our ranks!” he said.

Captain Ryan Delgado, spokesperson of the Army’s 403rd Brigade, and Captain Regie Go, acting spokesperson of the 4th Infantry Division, both denied that the document came from them.

“This is the first time I’ve seen this document. We don’t know where that came from,” Go said. 

‘Virtual death sentence’

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) in a statement deplored the inclusion of its member and former director Corrales, as well as his wife and son in the list. 

“There is nothing more cowardly and deplorable than to vilify persons and put them in mortal peril behind the cloak of anonymity,” the statement said.

“As has happened all too often, red-tagging is not mere intimidation. All too often it can be a virtual death sentence,” the NUJP said. 

The group added: “Even media have not been spared from red-tagging and other acts clearly intended to intimidate a critical press into silence, as with the ongoing vilification campaign against the NUJP and the cyberattacks on alternative media.”

The Cagayan de Oro Press Club (COPC) also condemned the list. 

“The COPC strongly debunks the allegation that Board Member Leonardo Vicente ‘Cong’ Corrales is affiliated with the Communist Party of the Philippines as what has been stated in a document circulated during a press conference in a hotel this morning, February 22, 2019,” the organization said.

The COPC added, “Let it be known that we will stand with Board Member Corrales as we call on the authorities to investigate this red-tagging and ensure that media personalities be spared from this accusation.”

Corrales, meanwhile, said that whoever put him and his family on the list is a coward.

“We are not, have never been and never will be members of CPP. My wife is a marketing executive with Gold Star Daily, where I am the associate editor. My son is a regular staff of the Commission on Elections-10 and is currently serving in the commission’s city office. He is also currently studying at Xavier University College of Law. Our credentials are readily available,” Corrales said.

“We denounce this list as it is not only aimed to intimidate me in my work as a journalist but has endangered my family. We know fully well that red-tagging is a virtual death sentence.”

“On my end, I will not let this cowardly act push me to silence. I will continue speaking truth to power,” Corrales added. – Rappler.com

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