The red-tagging of indigenous Lumad schools by the military has been going on for a time. The military has always alleged that these schools were established by the Communist Party of the Philippines. Teachers have been branded as members of the New People's Army (NPA). Families who send their children there have likewise been tagged as communists. As a result of the communist-baiting, these people have been harassed by the military and its paramilitary sidekicks. Under former Pres. Aquino's Oplan Bayanihan, some schools were shut down by the Department of Education upon inducement by the military. In other cases, soldiers took over the schools and assumed teaching. One school was burned. Another was fired at by the military. Some became military camps. Some Lumad became victims of extrajudicial killings (EJKs). 
The harassment as a consequence of the tagging was one of the reasons why Lumad evacuated to Davao City and other areas in previous years. This was truly sad because the Lumad are so attached to their ancestral domains. They returned home to rebuild their lives when Pres. Duterte assumed office. But the military seems to have a life of its own and regards the Lumad with eyes different from Duterte's. And this is happening in the midst of peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front. It appears that certain elements are sabotaging the peace talks.
One, the schools were established not by the CPP but by the communities with the assistance of NGOs. Two, the establishment of the schools was a response to the failure of government to make education accessible to the indigenous Lumad. Three, the schools were given permits by Department of Education. In short, the government must encourage and even support the schools.
While tagging remains unpunished, it will continue. If it continues, certain people's lives and liberties will remain at risk. Prof. Philip Alston, in his 2007-2008 report to the UN as special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, and arbitrary killings, stated that EJKs perpetrated against activists in the Philippines were preceded by red tagging. In one forum I attended in 2011, participants claimed that they were denied social services by the Department of Social Welfare and Development due to suspicions they were NPA members or sympathizers.
It has always been my view that red-tagging is not protected by freedom of expression. It is more than libel which destroys reputation. It is a form of hate speech. It subjects the target's life, security, and liberty to serious peril.
More than condemning it, Congress should pass a law criminalizing red-tagging.
Post a Comment