TWO things happened recently that brightened the overcast freedom sky. It had been a murky gray sky for months, brought about by government forces who only saw red.
They saw red in everything not going their way. They saw a rainbow and saw only the red and orange, saying that the rainbow brings forth the birth of aswangs, tikbalangs and other night creatures.
They saw people fighting for their rights and thought of red. They saw a panel of heroes by the river and said that they were red warriors and that the panel should be demolished. Which they did.
They saw people speaking through Zoom and said that they were all red warriors, not seeing that they were teachers, doctors and artists. Some long dead were also said to be still living and were casted as red.
People laughed at them, the finger-pointers were made to go on vacation. But the defense secretary this week reinstated them and said that they may just be color blind.
And these people emboldened the similarly color blind people who only saw red. They went on to doing things their own way, determined to go beyond red-tagging and into neutralizing them. Neutralizing meaning bathing them in red.
And then on Wednesday, a minority senator said, enough is enough. You are not color blind, you are just wearing blinders and you should be corrected.
The senator defined red-tagging as “the act of labeling, vilifying, branding, naming, accusing, harassing, persecuting, stereotyping, or caricaturing individuals, groups, or organizations as state enemies, left-leaning, subversives, communists, or terrorists as part of a counter-insurgency or anti-terrorism strategy or program, by any state actor, such as law enforcement agent, paramilitary, or military personnel.”
“Any person found guilty of red-tagging shall be imprisoned for ten years and shall suffer the accessory penalty of perpetual absolute disqualification to hold public office,” it said.
So the simple pointing to a person and calling him or her “red” is no longer acceptable.
Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), who was among those earlier red-tagged by a general, said that the legal citations and rationales of the Senate bill were similar to those contained in the memorandum NUPL submitted to Sen. Panfilo Lacson when he presided over a Senate inquiry into the red-tagging controversy in December last year.
“Once passed into law, [the bill] will most probably deter the unscrupulous hate speech by state forces against its own citizens and also make more effective … the legal remedies against these dangerous vilification of practically everybody the ‘wayward elements’ victimize,” Olalia said.
“Although the 1987 Constitution guarantees freedom of expression, this does not give state offices and agents free license to label activists, rights workers, labor organizers and journalists as enemies of the state and terrorists,” the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines said.
“The government is the primary duty bearer in upholding human rights. These dangerous accusations, when done by state agents as part of a so-called counter-insurgency program, are no longer private opinions and conspiracy theories but official actions and policy,” it said.
The Senate Bill immediately had a curious effect in Baguio.
RTC Branch 3 Judge Emmanuel Rasing this Friday ordered the Police Regional Office Cordillera and all units under its command to refrain from posting or publishing anything that associates Christian Dave Ruz of Kabataan Party-list, Deanna Louise Montenegro of the National Union of Students of the Philippines, UP Baguio Student Council Chairperson Leandro Enrico Ponce, and Keidy Transfiguracion of the Cordilleran Youth Center with the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army.
The directive stemmed from the Writ of Amparo petition filed by the four youth leaders on March 24, for concerns about their safety after being tagged as front and recruiters of the CPP-NPA by several PNP Facebook Pages and social media trolls.
The Writ of Amparo is a legal remedy that individuals whose rights to life, liberty, and security are under threat or have been violated by the government or private entities.
Yes, Parlade and Pagkalinawan, there are other colors other than red. And only the bull-headed insists otherwise and who eventually will be brought to justice.