By JOEY NACALABAN
MILITARY and police officials over the weekend disowned a list of people, including Gold Star Daily’s associate editor, and four organizations that have been accused of having ties with the New People’s Army (NPA), following howls of protests by news media and human rights organizations in the city and elsewhere in the country.
In a statement, Camp Evangelista said the Army’s 4th Infantry Division “does not engage in cheap propaganda that can cause confusion and division in our society.”
Brig. Gen. Gacal, 4th ID commander, said, “We are making friends, not enemies.”
Gacal said the list shown by the human rights watchdog Karapatan “does not belong to us, and we do not engage on cheap propaganda.”
The military called the distribution of copies of the list as one of the “cowardly practices” and “old dirty tactics of local communist groups.”
Camp Evangelista said these group were out “to create animosity in our peaceful society and later on blame the government, particularly the Armed Forces.”
Gacal said, “We call upon the concerned individuals to refrain from spreading unverified documents/reports. Most importantly, we, together with the PNP, wholeheartedly offer security and other assistance to the innocent victims of this cheap propaganda.”
Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay earlier said the list, shown in flyers contained in two brown envelopes, were handed to a guard at Philtown Hotel at around 10:30 am on Friday while human rights groups gathered inside for an assembly and the launch of Hustisya-Northern Mindanao.
The envelopes came from “a suspected military agent,” Palabay said.
The people and groups in the list were accused of recruiting for the NPA. The list included Gold Star Daily associate editor Leonardo Vincente “Cong” Corrales, his wife and son, bishops and priests, lawyers, teachers, youth leaders, and human rights advocates.
They were referred to as “terrorists,” in the flyers.
The military said such flyers can be the handiwork of anyone “who wants to sow intrigues and create a wedge among the peace-loving individuals in Cagayan de Oro City and the members of the Armed Forces.”
Camp Alagar’s spokesman, Supt. Surki Sereñas, called the distribution of the list as “a cowardly act meant to foment distrust and incite dissension and schism between and among us.”
Sereñas said it was a sordid propaganda aimed at agitating the government, the media and other concerned sectors.
“These dubious red-taggers will magnify the perceived rift and start fomenting conflict. This is simply a divide and conquer tactics; exploiting enmity and distrust to disunite and defeat the government.”
Sereñas said the National Police would never go public with such a list without proof.
“This is certainly not a PNP’s list and [we] will support and defend the rights of everyone [in] the list to seek rectification and disprove their communist affiliation,” said Sereñas.
News media organizations closed ranks on Friday and condemned what they perceived as the red-tagging of people and groups critical of government policies. Journalists also cried foul over the inclusion of editor Corrales and members of his family.
The international group Human Rights Watch also expressed its alarm.
“We view with deep concern the ‘red-tagging’ done on Cagayan de Oro journalist Cong Corrales, his son, and his wife, along with several other local activists and human-rights defenders. There is no other way to describe the list but as a threat against the lives of those in it. Dozens of individuals have been targeted for extrajudicial or summary killing in the Philippines after they were labeled as communist. Although this violence has been happening even before the Duterte administration, the impunity for killings in the present government – whether drug-related or political — has made this type of threat even more worrisome. The government, particularly the military and law enforcers, should back off Corrales and his family and the other ‘red-tagged’ individuals,” said HRW-Philippines researcher Carlos Conde.