By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — Leaders of progressive youth groups in Baguio trooped to the city council and were accommodated at the regular council session on Monday, November 5 to raise their concerns on red-tagging and harassment perpetrated by the city police.
During the council session, Youth Act Now Against Tyranny (YANAT) Baguio-Benguet convenor Marben Panlasiqui said the Baguio City Police Office (BCPO) posted on its social media page “BCPO Kasangga mo” a meme tagging the Kabataan Partylists, Anakbayan and other progressive youth groups as terrorists and recruiters for the alleged “Red October” plot to oust President Rodrigo Duterte. The post called on parents to prohibit their children from joining the said youth groups.
Panlasiqui said the police’s action brought chilling effects on the students who are members of the organizations being tagged as terrorist youth organizations. He said that aside from the social media posts, police forces are also aggressively conducting orientations and seminars in different colleges and universities showing or featuring presentations like “Safety and Security” and “Know your Enemy” blatantly calling legitimate groups including the progressive youth organizations who are open critics of abusive and oppressive policies of government as fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP).
He added that they were also being subjected of surveillances and intimidations. He said that being vilified is scary as many of the victims of extra judicial killings (EJKs) were activists who were earlier tagged as terrorists before being murdered.
Cristian Dave Ruz, coordinator of Kabataan Partylist Cordillera pointed out that the nine farmers, who were members of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) murdered in Sagay, Negros Occidental were also subjected to red tagged.
Weeks after the massacre, the farmers’ lawyer Benjamin Tarug Ramos Jr. was gunned down in front of a Sari-sari store in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental. NUPL said that Ramos, a founding member of the National Union of Peoples Lawyer (NUPL) was maliciously and irresponsibly tagged as belonging to an underground armed movement before he was killed.
On October 22, members of the red-tagged youth groups filed nine cases of political vilification, harassment and intimidation before the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Cordillera. Prior to this, Kabataan Partylist Representative Sarah Elago talked with the heads of the CHR national office in relation to the red tagging of youth activists in the country. This led to a directive to different regional branches of CHR to conduct investigation on the matter.
Councilor Peter Fianza said that most of the youth organizations being red-tagged have been actively working with the city council in advancing youth programs. “These organizations are the most active in city’s youth programs,” he said.
Councilor Faustino Olowan reminds the Baguio City Police that the city is a peace zone area where everybody have the right to express their own political views and opinions and they should respect it .
Olowan said that representatives from BCPO will face the City Council on November 26 to shed light on the issue they are facing.
In a statement BCPO posted on its social media account, the police force stands by their actions saying that they only meant to warn parents and students of the “lies and deception” of “left-leaning” organizations.
The BCPO statement claimed that it has no intention to neither degrade nor violate the rights of personalities in the post or to endanger their lives.
“BCPO believes that there is no truth in the allegations raised considering that previously, on March 6, 2018 a similar post in the FB Page was shared from ‘We Support AFP’ pursuing awareness to the public on the identity of one Sarah Elago, a supporter of the KABATAAN PARTYLIST. The post intents to spread the message to the youth giving warning on Terrorist deception,” the BCPO statement said.
Elago is the Kabataan Partylist congress representative.
Ruz, in a separate statement condemned the BCPO statement saying that it only proves how lowly the police force regards the youth’s basic rights. “BCPO’s contradictory and unapologetic statement only proves how dismal our uniformed men know and care about our basic human rights,” he said. # nordis.net