International rights group Human Rights Watch called on the Philippine government to end the “red-tagging” of activists as rebels or supporters of the communist insurgency.
The group released a video on Monday, January 17, on the experience and impact of red-tagging on a human rights activist, a workers’ rights advocate, and a journalist.
Red-tagging, also known as red-baiting, has been used for decades in the Philippines in the government’s campaign against the communist New People’s Army.
The government’s counterinsurgency efforts include publicly accusing activists, journalists, politicians, and others and their organizations of being directly involved in the fighting or supporting the NPA.
In the Human Rights Watch video, Cristina Palabay, secretary-general of human rights group Karapatan, described how she was harassed and threatened with rape and violence as part of the red-tagging.
Mylene Cabalona, president of the BPO Industry Employees’ Network, said that her work to advocate for the welfare of call-center workers has led to threats online, including accusations of rebel links.
Cong Corrales, editor of the Mindanao Gold Star Daily, a newspaper in the southern Philippines, said he and has family have been accused of being communist supporters because of his writing.
Human Rights Watch also accused the Philippine military of being responsible for large numbers of extrajudicial killings and torture of alleged communists.
“Red-tagging is a pernicious practice that targets people who often end up being harassed or even killed,” said Carlos Conde, senior Philippines researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“Red-tagging is rapidly shrinking the space for peaceful activism in the Philippines,” Conde added in a statement.
Human Rights Watch noted that red-tagging has become “deadlier” since Rodrigo Duterte became president in 2016.
Duterte created the National Task Force on Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), an agency that has been, on several occasions, tagging activists.
The task force is composed of, and headed by, former military officials.
Several civil society and human rights groups have called for the task force to be defunded or abolished.
Karapatan, whose members are often targets of red-tagging, claimed that dozens of red-tagged activists have been killed or arrested.
The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has denounced these killings.
“Red-tagging is a key component of the Philippine government’s abusive campaign against critical activists, journalists, and politicians,” Conde said.
“The United Nations, the European Union, and influential governments should not merely denounce red-tagging, but publicly call on President Duterte to end this deadly practice,” added Conde.