By SHERWIN DE VERA
BAGUIO CITY — Youth and student groups lambasted the Police Regional Office Cordillera (PROCor) for its “shameless” denial of red-tagging cases perpetrated by the police against activists groups in the region.
“How shameless can it be that rather apologizing and uttering commitment to rectify, the PRO-COR chose to deny the cases of red-tagging that its elements conduct categorically? To whom are they lying?” said Christian Dave Ruz, Regional Coordinator of Kabataan Partylist Cordillera.
The youth group was reacting to the statement made by PRO-COR director, Police Brigadier General R’win Pagkalinawan published in Suns Star Baguio. Cordillera’s top cop was quoted on the papers February 21 issue saying, “[i]t is not a policy of the Philippine National Police to conduct alleged red-tagging activities particularly here in the Cordillera Administrative Region…”
Pagkalinawan made the assertion a few days after the chief of Sagada Municipal Police, Senior Inspector Basilio Hopdayan, admitted of following orders when they distributed flyers naming progressive groups as fronts of communist rebels.
The denial came even after police units in the Cordillera apologized for maliciously linking progressive groups to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and recruitment of the New People’s Army (NPA). The most recent public apology made by the police was during a community dialogue between the local PNP personnel and people’s organizations facilitated by Sagada Mayor James Pooten on February 19.
During the dialogue, Police Major Jerry Haduca of the Mountain Province Police Provincial Office apologized and committed to correct their mistake. He also said that they would verify the content and sources of information on Facebook posts and flyers circulated by their personnel.
In November 2018, then Baguio City Police Office (BCPO) Chief Eliseo Tanding said sorry to members of progressive youth organizations during the city council session that included a probe on the disinformation shared and posted by the BCPO Facebook page.
Ruz said that red-tagging of youth groups intensified after the 2018 Red October Plot accusation by the government against critics of the Duterte administration. The police linked top universities and national student organizations in purported ouster plot against the president.
“It includes red-tagging forum in schools where fully-armed elements of the PRO-COR RMFB enter schools to spread malicious and threatening discussions vilifying various organizations. More so, this smear campaign extends to distribution of flyers, in social media and even official police journals,” he said.
Earlier, the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) Cordillera condemned PNP Mountain Province for accusing students of the Saint Louis University protesting against tuition increase as “communists fronting as activists.”
“Red-tagging is is a low and desperate form of political harassment with serious, life-threatening effects. We enjoin the youth to continue defending our right to education and our democratic rights as students and human beings,” NUSP Cordillera said.
The police unit, through its Facebook page Pnp Mt.Province Pmfc posted a picture of student’s protesting against tuition hike with the following text:
“ALERT! Mga kabataang pag-asa ng bayan, huwag hayaang masira ang inyong kinabukasan dahil sa mga taktika ng mga Komunistang nagtatago sa ilalaim ng pagiging Aktibista! Huwag po tayong magpalinlang sa mga gawaing makakasira sa iyong pag-aaral.”
(ALERT! To the youth who are the hope of the country, don not let the tactics of the communists who are pretending to be activists destroy your future. Do not allow yourself to be deceived by the actions that can damage your study.)
Aside from PNP Mountain Province’s Facebook post, Baguio City Police Stations 4 and 5 also shared the post with their insight regarding the matter.
The SLU Student Council and the university’s School of Teachers Education and Liberal Arts (STELA) Student Assembly also criticized the malicious post of the police page.
“PNP Mountain Province PMFC vilified SLU students that staged a protest for educational rights at the Bonifacio Campus Main Gate. In the spirit of solidarity, let us not allow our basic rights to speech, expression, and the supposed guardian institutions violate privacy,” said the SLU Student Council on its Facebook account.
Meanwhile, STELA criticized the PNP for its insincerity for reposting the material red-tagging their schoolmates.
“The PNP Mountain Province PMFC vilified Louisian activists in a post on Monday, February 17. The following day, the PNP has apologized for the red-tagging of the members of progressive organizations and has since deleted the said post,” the group said.
However, STELA noted the police reposted the material on the morning of February 20, “even after issuing an apology.”
“Apology or not, the fact that the post was restored still endangers the lives of these students. Louisian or not, we denounce the act of red-tagging of progressive activists as it not only threatens their safety but also threatens democracy itself,” they added.
Last February 5, PNP Tabuk City led by Plt.Col. Romulo Talay, Jr. also red-tagged activists youth groups, including KPL Representative Sarah Jane Elago, during the launching of Kabataan Kontra Droga at Terorismo (KKDAT) at the Tabuk City National High School in Kalinga.
Also, earlier this month, the Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict pushed Barangay Aguid, Sagada, to include in their persona non grata declaration against the CPP-NPA organizations the police accused as front organizations. Named in the resolution are Anakbayan, Gabriela, Kabataan, Katribu, League of Filipino Student, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Karapatan and party-list Bayan Muna and Anakpawis. # nordis.net