RED-TAGGING AND THE LAW

Diliman Way

With Homobono A. Adaza

“You cannot govern, you cannot administrate, with an ignoramus. – Oriana Fallaci

“Have you ever thought that war is a madhouse and that everyone in the war is a patient?”
-Oriana Fallaci

We are deeply enmeshed in the pandemic, and all civilian and military leaders could think of is to jump at every opportunity for publicity and diverting the attention of the public from failures – in effectively managing the pandemic and ending the more than fifty years of CPP-NPA insurgency.

This is nothing strange in this country. This is usual and normal. As Oriana Fallaci articulated it so well – you cannot govern and administer, if you do not have the competence and the proper orientation to do it. And this has always been the case in this country – absence of the needed skills of our leaders and the unending pre-occupation with wealth, power, influence and sex.

You do not have to go far – just look at your Presidents from Marcos to Duterte and your senators, congressmen, governors, mayors, barangay chairmen within that period and you will find the reason why this country has been in a quagmire for the past six decades – sixty years!

Simple problems are given convoluted solutions. Complex problems presented with more complex solutions, thus we see no solutions in sight. Our problems appear insoluble – from illegal drugs to corruption, from poverty to oligarchy, from domestic to foreign, from misgovernment to incompetence, from military to civilian. There seems to be no solutions in sight.

And everyone hopes for a miracle to come in the elections in 2022. Hope of this kind is very familiar in this country. With every election, we jump from the frying pan to the fire. What can we expect? Most of our voters are disoriented and unthinking. To paraphrase a famous line of Mao Tse Tong (Mao Zedong whatever suits your fancy) – From the disoriented and unthinking voters to the disoriented and unthinking leaders.

Red-tagging: A concrete example of this disoriented and brainless behavioral pattern is Red-tagging. What is Red-tagging? It is a simple way of calling an individual or organization communist. In the current Philippine environment being tagged as a communist is to brand you criminal – prey to violence or death by some unthinking and disoriented public officials, policemen and members of the military, and they number in thousands.

Is being a communist a crime under Philippine law? Of course not!  Being a communist is to believe in communism – an ideology, a body of ideas designed to establish a kind of society which according to its originators, Marx and Engels, puts in place a dictatorship of the proletariat, meaning the working class, against the rich and the powerful.

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin is one of the three founders of a communist Russia, which later bloomed into a Union Soviet Socialist Republic – a federation of eighteen countries, among them is Georgia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkestan, Lithuania, Albania, Ukraine, Armenia. Lenin, who was an émigré in Switzerland, was asked this question by other Russian émigrés in Zurich, “Vladimir do you think the Revolution will succeed in our country in our lifetime?” Lenin answered in the negative because there was no significant proletariat in Russia since it was an overwhelmingly peasant country then and said, “Probably in Germany because there is a strong proletariat there.” But human creativity and the unpredictable forces of history denied Lenin’s predictions. Few weeks later, Leon Trotsky aka Lev Davidovitch Bronstein, probably the most intellectually brilliant among the trio, the third being Joseph Stalin, started the Russian Revolution in the streets of St. Petersburg in October 1917.

Why the reference to snippets of communist Russian history? It is just a reminder to the Red-taggers that forces of history are imponderable, and they should inject some rationality in their mindless behavior on this matter.

Define lines: Law is a tricky business. In every major controversy, as in the issue of Red-tagging, one must always pay particular attention to the Constitution and our criminal laws. When you tag someone as a member of the CPP-NPA, and he/she is not because you have no evidence to support it, you don’t only run the risk of being charged with libel, you likely will be convicted of libel and spend time in prison unless the judge has been bribed or intimidated so you will only be fined.

That is the case, if it is an individual who is Red-tagged – there is libel. But if what is tagged is an organization, no charge of libel can be filed as under current Philippine jurisprudence, there is no such thing as group libel. This is not the end of the story on criminal prosecution though. Whether the ones tag are individuals or groups, since the ones active in Red-tagging are public officials, such Lt. Gen. Edgar Arevalo and Maj. Gen. Antonio Parlade, they are likely to be charged before the Ombudsman for criminal violation of section 3(e) of RA 3019 for acts which create serious injury to individuals and the government as well as section 4, in relation to section 11 of RA 6713 for unprofessional, unpatriotic, inefficient, undemocratic and unjust conduct – which also results to imprisonment and disqualification to hold public office.

Rebellion: On the other hand, under our laws there is no such thing as a legal front organization. If it is a front, it means it is a part of the conspiracy to commit rebellion. What is rebellion? It is the use of arms for the overthrow of the government. And when it is a part of the conspiracy, the members of the front organization can be charged with rebellion just like any of the leaders and members of the CPP-NPA. Why is that? The reason is simple – in a conspiracy, the act of one is the act of all. For every single act of rebellion, with arms or without arms, a leader or member can be charged with the crime of rebellion.

Of course, everything is a matter of evidence. If you have no evidence, you shut up or say nothing otherwise you surely will be charged with libel and violation of pertinent provisions of RA 3019 and RA 6713. What a government agent or general should is to gather evidence that can first stand the test of probable cause for the purpose of filing the case in court and later stand the test of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in the hearing in court.

The generals who seem to love publicity to curry favor with President Duterte should do their work instead of blabbering in media and loving every opportunity for national media exposure.

Nothing new: Red-tagging is old hat in this country. In the fifties and sixties, when communism was quite popular not only in the countryside but in colleges and universities threatening the strangle-hold of politicians and economic oligarchs on Philippine society, branding activists as   communists and enemies of the State was the favorite pastime of  ambitious politicians and military leaders. The term used was not Red-tagging but Red-baiting.

Congressman Leonardo Perez was the Chairman of the Committee on Un-Filipino Activities of the House of Representatives (CUFA), later renamed Committee on Anti-Filipino Activities (CAPA). He summoned so many young activists to testify before his committee – many of them activists in the University of the Philippines (UP). Red-baiting did not eliminate the Partido Komunista Ng Pilipinas (PKP) and the fight to overthrow the government. It resulted to the birth of Jose Maria Sison’s CPP-NPA, more potent and more attractive to the young, whether in school or out of school.

Lessons: During the presidency of Ferdinand Marcos (FM), a formula was evolved to attract PKP to the fold of the government. Such approach led many young leaders to join Marcos – the most prominent of them was Guillermo “Gimo” de Vega who became Executive Secretary of FM. Gimo as editor-in-chief of the Quezonian, the official student publication of Manuel Luis Quezon Univeritty (MLQU), organized a student National Preparatory Committee, composed of editors of student newspapers and student councils purportedly designed to establish a government which would serve the best interest of the people as against the status quo. 

As the editor-in-chief of the University of the Philippines official student publication, The Philippine Collegian, Gimo invited me to join him but I diplomatically refused.

Red-tagging has not solved the CPP-NPA insurgency problem for the last fifty years. It will not solve it ever. Instead, it galvanizes human rights advocates, constitutionalists, left oriented individuals and liberal democrats to resist, denounce and criticize the government for unconstitutional and illegal behavior. It may, in many instances, encourage the young to join the rebellion hoping that it will bloom into a revolution.

As the Spanish philosopher, George Santayana, once said, “Those who do not learn the lesson of history are doomed to repeat it.” Since Red-tagging does not solve the problem, the government, if it has the appropriate and required evidence, should file cases against individuals whom they suspect of being involved in the rebellion instead of engaging in salivary festival with no positive results. In a similar vein, the Red-tagged individuals and organizations should file cases against the personalities in government who keep Red-tagging, possibly dreaming it as a passport to fame and fortune.

Better still, the contending parties should sit down together in civil conversation beyond the pale of media, so nobody will make any attempt to gain mileage from publicity, and seriously try to find a solution to the problem. 

Fruitful conversation brings peace and justice. Exchanging brickbats in media result to violence, chaos and death. That is not way for the intelligent and the rational; that is the path to insanity and stupidity.

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