De Lima bewails PNP’s reported use of social media to red-tag progressive groups


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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has slammed the Philippine National Police (PNP) over reported cases of red tagging of progressive groups by the regional offices, through the PNP’s official social media accounts.

De Lima filed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 451 seeking to exact accountability from the persons responsible for the state-sponsored disinformation campaigns, which are obviously intended to suppress legitimate forms of dissent and protest while undermining the country’s democratic institutions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“State agents’ blatant red-tagging of activists is an attack on the very foundations of our democracy and constitutes a grave abuse of authority and misappropriation of public funds in addition to the potential harm it may cause to its targets,” she said.

“This practice of red-tagging undermines the fundamental principles of the Constitution and other international treaties to uphold, promote, and protect basic human rights, particularly the right to freedom of speech and expression,” she added.

De Lima pointed out that the current political climate makes these instances of red-tagging even more dangerous given the anticipated signing of the Anti-Terrorism Bill, which uses an overbroad definition of terrorism that can subject suspects to weeks of detention prior to an appearance before a judge, into law.

“Activists and legitimate political dissent may be wrongfully conflated with terrorists and acts of terror with such irresponsible and malicious acts perpetrated by state agents,” she said.

 Last June 7, two PNP regional offices reportedly posted images on their official social media accounts, accusing legal activist organizations of being communist fronts while implying that the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act would snuff them out.

De Lima recalled that one Facebook account – which belongs to Butuan City-headquartered Police Regional Office 13 – listed a number of activist organizations as “communist terrorists”, including militant groups Anakbayan, League of Filipino Students, Bayan Muna and Kabataan Party-lists.

De Lima added that another Twitter account with the handle PNPBaguioStn4 – which is followed by the PNP’s official Twitter account – also published a post, singling out Kabataan party-list.

The same account accused the Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Gabriela Women’s Party, Bayan Muna, League of Filipino Students, Kabataan Party-list, and Anakbayan of being terrorists an earlier post before Labor Day last May 1.

De Lima maintained that an investigation is necessary to exact accountability from the law enforcement officials who were directly involved in these instances of red-tagging and red-baiting.

“Critical dissent is a crucial component of a healthy and functioning democracy and allows for the participation of ordinary citizens in the political process,” she said.

In filing the Resolution, De Lima said she believes that the Senate investigation can also help determine whether the reported cases of red-tagging “are components of institutionalized counterinsurgency strategies geared towards winning the ‘hearts and minds’ of people through massive social media disinformation campaigns.”

It may be recalled that in the 17th Congress, De Lima sought a similar Senate inquiry into the rampant human rights abuses committed by state actors against legitimate civil society organizations and rights defenders in the country in the guise of counter-insurgency measures. (30)

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