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Remulla on red-tagging: If you can dish it out, you should be able to take it

For Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla, criticizing certain individuals or political critics, including the act of red-tagging them, is part of democracy.

Giving his perspective on red-tagging during the 136th session of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, Remulla said critics should be able to “take it” if they can “dish it out.”

“When people are criticized for helping the wrong people, why is red-tagging the issue? It is because it is the defense of the left to protect the left in the country,” Remulla said.

“It’s par for the course. If you can dish it out, you should be able to take it. That, for me, is probably the essence of democracy. Are we not allowed to criticize our critics too? Is it a one-way street?” he added.

Remulla described red-tagging as “a term used when a person belonging to a civil society organization is criticized for the work they’re doing as being related to the persons who commit criminal acts in our country.”

For the Commission of Human Rights (CHR), red-tagging "involves the characterization of most groups on the left of the political spectrum as 'front organizations' for armed groups whose aim is to destroy democracy' and as 'enemies of the State' making them as legitimate targets."

A Manila Regional Trial Court previously warned against the danger of red-tagging in a resolution dismissing the Justice Department’s proscription case to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army as terrorist groups.

It said that while a CPP-NPA member may be a member of underground organizations or above-ground organizations (national democratic mass organizations or NDMOs), this is not true for all members of NDMOs who think they joined an activist organization.

The CHR has also denounced red-tagging, saying groups and personalities being red-tagged are subjected to attacks such as  “vilification, intrusion into a person’s right privacy due to surveillance, harassment, to grave ones, such as unlawful arrests, enforced disappearance, and even killings.”

According to Remulla, the topic of red-tagging is “very difficult” to debate about.

“Because it is about criticism. It is criticism to people who also criticize or whose main vocation is to criticize government,” Remulla said.

“They will say that the person is red-tagged, it imposes a danger to their lives. What about the support they are giving to those who kill our policemen, to those who kill our soldiers, and to those who kill our people without any fight,” he added.

EJKs, torture cases

Meanwhile, Remulla also denied that extra-judicial killings (EJKs) increased under the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

“We do not know where these figures came from. Can we have the names of the people who were killed in a said EJK fashion? Because if I’m given the name now, I will have the National Bureau of Investigation investigate this matter at once,” he said.

During another meeting, the Justice Secretary also urged the Supreme Court Administrator to look at cases of torture in the Philippines.

He said 57 cases of torture have been reported to the DOJ, of which 20 were delisted after complainants dropped the case while one conviction has happened among the 37 remaining cases.

“If we examine the cases where people’s extra-judicial confessions were used for their conviction, probably we can find out more about what happened in these cases,” Remulla said.

“Therefore, we are asking our Court Administrator here to look at the cases passed upon by the Regional Trial Courts and the Court of Appeals where extra-judicial confessions was used as basis for the conviction of persons.”

Remulla said they are also seeking to improve the country’s detention system.

“Because the picture of a congested jail is the worst picture that one can see in any civilized society. We have a duty to make sure that the rights of people are respected, especially when they are called to account for the violation of rights of other people,” he said. —KG, GMA News