Home Opinion Columns Red scare vis-à-vis red tagging

Red scare vis-à-vis red tagging


Whether it is red scare or red tagging in the Philippines, they mean be afraid of communists. However, one of them is scarier for one who is being tagged. While to be scared means just that, be scared; to be tagged could virtually mean be sentenced to death not only as being red but also being a terrorist defined out of context of a real terrorist.

I was in the Immaculate Heart of Mary Minor Seminary in Bakakeng, Baguio City when I was first subjected to red scare. This was against the Vietcong in Vietnam. Then Philippine President Diosdado Macapagal tried to persuade the Philippine Congress in 1965 to send troops to South Vietnam. This was in consonance with the public appeal of President Lyndon B. Johnson for other countries to come to the aid of South Vietnam on April 23, 1964 in what was called the ‘More Flags’ program. Later, despite his initial questioning Macapagal, then to be president Ferdinand E. Marcos advocated for the sending of combat engineers to Vietnam which according to ten Congressman Pablo V. Ocampo was “a euphemism for combat troops.”

Whatever the politics bickering was in the Philippine government at that time on the issue, we, in the seminary, were bombarded with the red scare against North Vietnam. The priests and almost all our teachers smothered us with the line that the Vietcongs, supported by Red China and Russia, must be stopped at all cost. They injected us with the idea that, based on the Domino Theory, if Vietnam falls, one by one, all the Asian nations will fall under the specter of communism. A history teacher, who, in our youthful minds thought he knew everything, even said, “If only the US dropped the atomic bomb at the Yalu River in China during the Korean War, communism would have been stopped right there and then.”

The scare became more felt when newly formed Kabataang Makabayan (KM) hit the news as causing boisterous rallies in front of the US Embassy in the Philippines. They were rallying against the Vietnam War and Philippine support for it. They had placards shouting, ‘Down with US Imperialism’. Our librarian broke silence code in the library one morning, with one of the newspapers spread on his table, breathing fire in his voice, saying, “Damn those communists. How dare they do that. Mga walang utang na loob. They don’t know how much we owe America….” A spread on the paper splashed pictures of fleeing activists being smacked by the police with truncheons.

I carried that scare within me until I graduated from high school in 1968. Earning a leadership scholarship, my parents asked me to enroll at the University of the Philippines (UP) – Baguio. At first, I relented because the priests told me that the institution was a haven of communists and I believed them. Nonetheless, my parents told me that I could be in the midst of communists but not be one. Besides, should I lose my scholarship due to its high-performance requirements, my parents would be hard up to afford tuition fees at the private universities.

Armed with the scare, I was a resolute anti-communist student. I even ran for the student council as sophomore representative and won. Our catch line against our opponents, the Partido Progresibo was ‘Tuta ng mga KM ang mga yan. Kumunista ang mga yan.’ I was not the only one who feared communists.

In the end, Vietnam won independence despite the US billions of dollar bombs carpeting suspected Vietnamese enclaves and the Vietnamese people’s economy rose from the rubbles of war. Around 60,000 American troops died due to a red scare that did not result in a domino effect. Russia and China became revisionists and are now social imperialists away from the path of communism. The KM grew in number with its founding members establishing the Communist Party of the Philippines and is now in its 50th year of waging a protracted war with its New People’s Army which will also be celebrating its 50th year anniversary on March 29, 2019. In the end, Dictator Ferdinand Marcos was ousted in a mass movement that was percolated, rode on by his class enemies, by activists led earlier by the KM.

The red scare is surmounted by those who finally understand why there is an ever-escalating price of goods and services including education vis-à-vis stagnant wages. The red scare is surmounted by those who understand why peasants are continuously losing their rights to lands when they produce the most in terms of sustaining the whole population. The red scare is surmounted by those who understand why the government – full of landlords and rich entrepreneurs never really cared about those who voted for them for the laws are meant to benefit them and not those in the lower strata.

Fast forward to the present times in the Philippines, the red scare is still there but now on a higher level. Red Tagging. It means you are not only a communist but also a terrorist. While a terrorist, by strict definition, is one who sows fear by indiscriminately causing mayhem – causing death or destruction without regard to religion or creed, gender or age; from the government’s perspective, it is one who practices the tenet of free speech or of redress of grievances as enshrined in the constitution of the land…and must be stopped.

In short, red tagging means one must keep silent about sensed government functionaries’ ill actions against the people. It means you cannot practice what the constitution provides if anything goes against the whims, wishes, and benefits of those in power. It means the law is interpreted never to benefit the common tao but always for those in power. It means you can be punished, jailed, for actions inimical to the interests of those who have the power to interpret the law.

It means you could be targeted to die.

Priests, activists, indigenous leaders, leaders of worker unions and peasant organizations, even mayors and other government officials who contradict the current administration had already been shot to death because they were tagged to be communists or terrorists. They had been piled up along the 20,000 or so already killed in the Operation Tokhang of the so-called war on drugs. Of late, the latest tagged victim is Randy Malayao. While he should have all the protection as a National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant, he was cowardly shot while asleep inside a bus on a brief stop while he was homeward bound.

Red tagging could mean you are placed in a matrix list, meaning you are reported and compiled to be spewing negative comments against the administration, its dealings with oligarchs and foreign interests when you are just practicing your freedom of speech and right to seek redress. Your organization such as churches could also be splashed along side the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and New People’s Army (NPA) and branded as their fronts when you are just advocating for the rights of your constituents. Priests and other advocates often receive threats such as through texts with lines such as ‘You know you are next to killed if you do not stop what you are doing.’ Others do not even receive warnings. They are just killed.

True, red tagging is scarier than red scaring.

Nonetheless as the red scare could be surmounted by understanding why the Philippines has such maladies as spiraling high prices, unemployment, etc., red tagging will have to end. Sooner if the understanding will be hastened.

After all, history has it written. From the pharaoh of Egypt, no dictatorship has ever escaped the wrath of the people when they fully understand why such is their malady and take their destiny into their arms.

‘A few months later,’ Filipino Congressman Pablo V. Ocampo said, ‘the same Ferdinand Marcos advocated the sending of combat engineers–a euphemism for combat troops… #  nordis.net

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