red-tagging

[Newspoint] Wolves in friendly visitors’ clothing

Vergel O. Santos
[Newspoint] Wolves in friendly visitors’ clothing

Alejandro Edoria

It’s all just too pat, too unimaginative, which is why it smacks of conspiracy and impunity, which is why it’s especially chilling

Last weekend our village was given notice that the police were visiting, already the following Monday, with handouts-cum-briefing to give, warning us against communism. Supposedly, the communists are at it again, propagating their ideology, and need countering. 

But I don’t know. Communism seems to me a long-dead horse, although beating it, in hopes it would revive, or look revived, is an old trick insecure governments resort to as a pretext for tightening up. The previous government and its newly installed successor have exhibited that precise predisposition, which is all too obvious in the whimsical and wholesale Red-tagging of progressive or, if you like, leftist activists. As I’ve always held, left is the only noble side to take where the rest of the ideological spectrum has been appropriated by the repressive right, as precisely exemplified by those Red-taggers, who surely feel particularly emboldened by the Anti-Terrorism Act.

The notoriety of that law proceeds from three things: one, it is superfluous – enough national-security and criminal laws have been in the books to serve its purpose; two, it is unable to define the crime it punishes precisely because preexisting laws have defined and cover it; three, it leaves adjudication in the first instance not to a judge or a judicial council, but to an appointed group of people who, by training and background and the positions they hold, tend only to confirm a militaristic or otherwise extremely rightist bias. Enacted in Rodrigo Duterte’s regime, the law is now applied with undiminished ardor under his successor, Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Back to the planned police visit. I learned of it from a post on a thread, although, as quickly as the post appeared, another came on, from the barangay council itself, saying it would not allow the warrantless visit. Indeed, it did not happen, although, again, not that no actual attempt had been made. 

In the meantime, I went on the thread to express both fear and indignation: “This is very dangerous, opening a village, let alone a home, to police and other state security agents.” This I said knowing only too well from this nation’s running history – firsthand or from the vantage seat of a journalist – about such visits by wolves in friendly visitors’ clothing. 

And to a comment that advised against my call to preemptive action and in favor of going to court instead, I replied: “Wait for court action? Risk plants (meanwhile)? Take both actions!” I was alluding to not a few cases in which incriminating stuff was turned up by those deft-handed visitors. 

Even if those handouts were distributed in an open public setting, in the streets, say, the arrangement would still feel intimidating, because it sort of puts one on the spot. The issue is simply too sensitive for a personal meeting between citizen and police to work constructively. A more agreeable arrangement would be for the police to confine their campaign to their media platforms, and leave us citizens to air our comments, including contrary views, as we please, where we please.

The home-visit trick has been deployed in the war on drugs as well, and our own community found itself on the other end of it. Police tried to enter our condominium in the early days of the war. They even found a tenant, an unsuspecting foreigner, to agree to not only open his door and take a leaflet in person but be briefed inside his home. A number of us reasonably suspicious dwellers told our concierge to keep the cops out, which it did, and advised the tenant to meet them outside, which he did not. Once apprised of the risks he was taking, he decided altogether to lock himself in and the cops out. Other condominiums along our street similarly resisted.

If that contributed at all to the overall pushback against such pretextual visits, or the drug war itself, it did not show. Gated, not to mention exclusive, villages are naturally better organized and equipped, thus more safely situated, than the un-gated ones – and I feel even guiltier imagining the slums. For the first year alone, in any case, the Duterte presidency, in an official report published in print, counted 20,000 kills in its war – drug dealers, runners, users, in other words, small fry all. The police owned 4,000 of these and blamed vigilantes for the others, as if these vigilantes went about on their own so efficiently, so elusively, uninspired by Duterte’s resounding war cry, “Kill! Kill! Kill!” The official counting has all but stopped after that.

Not to forget, in that same year, Leila de Lima was put in jail on drug charges, with not a shadow of the alleged drugs or bribe money found in her possession for evidence. She was picked up at her own official home, her senatorial colleagues unable to shield her from the patently questionable arrest, on the frail excuse of a warrant.

She’s now on her sixth year of detention, continued to be denied bail in spite of recent recantations by principal state witnesses, who presumably felt encouraged by Duterte’s exit from the presidency to finally do the right thing. These recantations lend credence to a scenario of fabrications built from Duterte’s repeated threats to take vengeance on De Lima, for going after him on charges of death-squad murders brought against him as mayor of Davao City.

It’s all just too pat, too unimaginative, which is why it smacks of conspiracy and impunity, which is why it’s especially chilling: The war on drugs then, the war on communism now; the druggies and De Lima then, the progressives and Leni Robredo’s social-amelioration movement now. Duterte then, Marcos now. – Rappler.com

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