Sunio: Red-tagging again

Riz P. Sunio

TWO years ago, I thought it was going to be over when I heard that President Duterte is going to have peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army: How some youths and innocent civilians get tangled up with military involvements. I thought wrong.

The dissolution of the CPP-NPA and Government of the Philippines peace talks not only resulted to discords such as the failure to release political prisoners or the hope of the poor to be freed from the clutches of abusers and land grabbers.

Even youths who assert other people’s rights and those who march on the streets for the welfare of other, dubbed as ‘activists’, are affected by this.

Activists who peacefully and legally rally in the streets, who have decided to share their lives to the masses and fight not for themselves but for others got tangled up in the mess.

Myles Albasin, a UP Cebu graduate and activist who was with other teenagers, went to Mabinay, Negros Oriental for a community immersion.

On March 3, they were accused to be members of the NPA and had engaged in an armed encounter with the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Reports have stated that Myles and the others were only there for a community immersion and never took up arms nor did an encounter with the AFP ever happen.

Now, after AFP’s branding of them as terrorists, the internet has also thought of them as one as well.

It’s troubling how we jumble activists who adhere to their constitutional rights ‘to address their grievance to the government’ through legal means with terrorists.

Red-tagging is falsely labelling youths and civilians as terrorists and rebels in order to capture them, despite no strong proofs of their involvement.

In the past, many have gone to jail and have even died because of this. Some were even products of the Oplan Bayanihan where some local villagers were accused of being rebels and were shot dead, arguing that it was hot pursuit.

In March 2017, College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) Ateneo de Naga officers shared how they were harassed and red-tagged by closely monitoring the whereabouts of the students without due explanation.

Even student activists in Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology once shared to me how some military personal would go personally to their campus while in uniform to question their whereabouts. They also reported about how they were probed before.

Is rallying illegal? No. Then, should you be watched for asserting your right to express your grievances to the government. Also, no.

Is fighting for the poor a crime, then?

Isn’t seeing our youths finally see beyond their comfort zones and affirm the value of the masses by selflessly serving them something the state should be proud of?

To all youths who had decided to selflessly give themselves instead of pursuing money and their own dreams; to all youths who suffer persecution of different degrees, this article is for you.

#FreeMylesAlbasin

(rizsunio@gmail.com)