By FROILAN GALLARDO
Special Correspondent .
COUNCILOR Edgar Cabanlas on Tuesday said he would lead an investigation into the string of red tagging incidents in the city even as Mayor Oscar Moreno promised to bring the matter to the attention of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division.
Cabanlas said this even as he said he sees the red taggings as serious threats against members of religious groups, lawyers and even journalists.
On Tuesday, Iglesia Independiente Filipina Bishop Felixberto Calang, human rights lawyer Beverly Musni and journalists JB Deveza and Pamela Orias met with Moreno at city hall and asked the local government to protect red tagging victims in the city.
Calang said the red tagging of IFI leaders have resulted in dwindling church attendance.
“Our members are shying away from our churches for fear that they may be red-tagged, too,” Calang said.
He told Moreno: “It is becoming hard for us to perform our duties because we are too concerned about our safety.”
Calang said they found tarps and graffiti on church walls and other public places with messages that accused the IFI as a front of the New People’s Army and Communist Party of the Philippines.
He and five other bishops of the IFI were recently red-tagged.
Calang said he resorted to changing his schedules as security precaution. Other IFI bishops also have their own security plans.
“I am forced to look behind my shoulder to see if I am being tailed or not,” he said.
Musni, a member of the National Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao, said a red tag is equivalent to a “death warrant.”
She cited the case of the late Benjamin Ramos, a founding member of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), who was murdered in Kabankalan, Negros Oriental last year.
“We do not want any lawyer to be killed in Cagayan de Oro. This is the reason why we have sought the protection of the local authorities. We are constituents here and it is their duty to protect us,” Musni said.
Musni and her daughter, Czarina, another NUPL lawyer, have been red-tagged.
Reporter Pamela Orias, chapter head of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), said her parents wept when she was red-tagged, and they went to the extent of asking her to quit her job because of the risks.
“It’s really difficult to balance the concerns of your family and your desire to write,” Orias said.
NUJP safety officer JB Deveza said aside from Orias, three other local journalists — Leonardo Vicente “Cong” Corrales, Joey Nacalaban and Jigger Jerusalem — were also accused of having links to the communist rebel group. Corrales is the associate editor of the Gold Star Daily while Nacalaban and Jerusalem are correspondents of the paper.
(Editor’s note: The author of this story, Froilan Gallardo, was also red-tagged.)