Progressive groups welcome SC’s ruling on red-tagging

Photo by Supreme Court of the Philippines

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — Progressive groups welcomed the Supreme Court’s ruling on the petition filed by former Bayan Muna representative Siegfred D. Deduro, declaring that red-tagging, labeling, and guilt by association threaten a person’s right to life, liberty or security.

In a decision dated July 4, 2023 penned by Associate Justice Rodil V. Zalameda but uploaded May 8, the high court granted the writ of amparo to Deduro who was red-tagged by members of the 3rd Infantry Division which is under the command of Maj. Gen. Eric C. Vinoya.

SC: Red-Tagging Threatens Right to Life, Liberty, and Security – Supreme Court of the Philippines

Deduro filed the petition at the Regional Trial Court of Iloilo but was dismissed, prompting him to file the petition to the SC.

For the SC, Deduro’s petition and allegation are substantial to merit the issuance of a writ. The SC added that it was an error for the RTC to “cursorily dismiss the case without requiring respondent to file a return.”

“The RTC effectively denied both parties’ due process: it not only prevented petitioner from fully ventilating his cause, but it also deprived the State of the occasion to effectively define its side on the matter,” the decision read.

“Petitioner should not be expected to await his own abduction, or worse, death, or even that the supposed responsible persons directly admit their role in the threats or violations to his constitutional rights, before the courts can give due course to his petition,” it added.

The SC added, “Inherent in the practice of red-baiting is the use of threats and intimidation to discourage ‘subversive’ activities.”

In a statement, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) Chairperson Edre Olalia said that the SC’s ruling is not “a mere legally meritorious victory, nor a vindication and potential shield of human rights defenders and a tribute to those fallen and already victimized by it, but a strong slap on self-righteous red-taggers before and now, particularly those who would even spin and distort what the Court says.”

In a statement, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Chair Emeritus Carol Araullo described the SC’s ruling as clear, unequivocal legal and morally binding ruling.

“Finally there is no hiding behind the deceptive defense that no law exists defining and proscribing the evil practice as a means by notorious red taggers using official and other platforms to evade responsibility for their acts,” Araullo said.

Araullo filed a civil case in July 2023 against notorious red-taggers, Lorraine Badoy-Partosa and Jeffrey Celiz, hosts of “Laban Kasama ang Bayan” which airs at the Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI).

Read: Veteran activist files civil damages against red-taggers

Araullo said the SC ruling should also “provide a warning to their unthinking followers, especially on social media, who parrot their line and contribute to what amounts to the public lynching of their targets.”

Her son, broadcast journalist Alfonso Tomas “Atom” Araullo was also red-tagged. He filed a P2-million civil suit against red-taggers Badoy-Partosa and Celiz.

Read: Broadcast journo files P2M civil case against red-taggers – Bulatlat

Bayan Muna Executive Vice President Carlos Zarate meanwhile said the declaration of the SC affirms what they have long asserted – “that red-tagging is gravely dangerous as it is not a simple labeling or vilification since it clearly threatens the life, security and liberty of the victims.”

“As shown by many such cases, it eventually resulted in terrible consequences, such as trumped-up charges like the recent case of Bayan Muna Secretary General Nathanael Santiago and several other publicly known activists being charged of terrorism, or, worse, enforced disappearance as in the cases of Dexter Capuyan and Bazzoo de Jesus who were abducted and went missing since April 28, 2023, or, even worst, becoming a victim of extrajudicial killing like in the cases of Zara Alvarez and many others,” he said.

In its decision, the SC pointed out: “Quite like the development of the Rule on Amparo, the damages inflicted by red-baiting evolve too: They start from the psychological before they tum physical. Amid a history of shifting social and political ties, we affirm the Judiciary’s sworn duty to see to it that the protection of every right guaranteed in the Constitution remains constant for all.”

Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) also said that while the SC’s ruling is overdue, “it is otherwise imperative amidst the dire human rights situation.”

The teachers’ group said that as of January 2023, ACT Philippines has documented 37 incidents of red-tagging and terrorist-tagging among teachers since 2018.

The group added that red-tagging has “become more pervasive, systematic and deadly under President Duterte’s Executive Order 70 which formed the disreputable military-led NTF-ELCAC; victimizing not only activists, but also actresses, judges, a House Speaker, a former Vice-President and even a United Nations expert. President Marcos, Jr. and his cabinet have disregarded calls from civil society and the international community to abolish the NTF-ELCAC.”

Read: Need to rethink EO 70, ‘National Peace Framework’

“May the recent Supreme Court decision acquaint all levels of our judicial system and enjoin them to uphold due process, the rule of law and human rights for all Filipinos. The courts and the justice department must act swiftly on similar and pending petitions concerning aggrieved activists and political prisoners,” ACT added.

One of the several petitions for amparo is the petition filed by the NUPL, Karapatan, Gabriela and Rural Missionaries of the Philippines which was granted by the SC but was denied by the Court of Appeals.

Read: Rights group pushes for amendments to protective writ

Human rights defender Zara Alvarez, who was scheduled to stand witness on Karapatan’s petition, was killed in August 2020 prompting Karapatan to ask the SC to reconsider their CA’s decision to junk their petition.

Read: SC urged anew to grant protection to human rights defenders

Meanwhile, Zarate urged the Congress to fast track the passage of a bill criminalizing red-tagging and make those responsible criminally accountable. (RVO)

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