By JIGGER J. JERUSALEM
A TECHNICAL working group will be created by the City Council’s police, fire and public safety committee to look into the reported incidents of red tagging of journalists, church leaders, human rights defenders and other persons as prerequisite for the crafting of an ordinance that will address this issue.
Councilor Romeo Calizo, chair of the police, fire and public safety committee, said the basic job of the working group would be to discuss the proposals submitted by a group who were accused of being members or supporters of the New People’s Army (NPA) and conduct research and set up rules on who to address the incidents of red tagging in the city.
“We at the committee will choose the people who will comprise the TWG, preferably those who have expertise on legal and law enforcement concerns,” he said.
Whatever recommendation that the working group will come up with will then be submitted to the city’s legislature for deliberation and passage as an ordinance after a public hearing.
On Thursday, Calizo’s committee invited the petitioners, those who have been red tagged, and police and military officials to discuss the red tagging issue.
Last month, the petitioners led by human rights lawyer Beverly Musni, who herself has been a victim of red tagging, endorsed to Mayor Oscar Moreno a petition for the city government to declare Cagayan de Oro as a red-tagging-free city, and for the local lawmakers to create a human rights committee that will be tasked to deal with cases of red tagging.
Musni, a member of the Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao, said she was grateful that the city government has taken the first step towards addressing the issue of red-tagging.
“If there is an ordinance penalizing red tagging, it would greatly contribute to our human rights work as it will protect the lives of civilians,” she said.
In the proposal, Musni said barangay officials and residents should also be required to help authorities in identifying people responsible for the putting up posters and other materials containing statements attacking or accusing an individual or group of having links to the communist rebels.
Joseph Ben Deveza, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) media safety officer for Northern Mindanao, said red-tagging is an attempt by some to degrade the credibility of the members of the press.
“It’s also scaring some of our colleagues. They will now be afraid to write well-rounded news stories for fear of being red-tagged, the effect of which is readers will only get one-sided reports. It’s actually the community who’s losing every time we are red tagged,” Deveza said.
Reynaldo Maraunay, DxCC station manager and Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas chapter president, said, “Red-tagging is tantamount of suppression of press freedom.”