By Mike Navallo, June 15, 2022; ABS-CBN News

MANILA — Amid allegations that the anti-insurgency task force is engaged in red-tagging or linking progressive groups and several personalities to the communist insurgency, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra offered one piece of advice.

“Ang DOJ naman ay very clear ang position dyan. Kung merong, let’s say, certain acts ang mga red-tagged persons na masasabi na against the law, then don’t just label them. File the necessary action against them kung meron kayong ebidensya to prove that they are committing offenses or violating our existing laws,” he said at a Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum on Wednesday.

(The DOJ has a very clear position on this. If red-tagged persons commit acts that are against the law, then don’t just label them. File the necessary action against them if you have evidence to prove that they are committing offenses or violating our existing laws.)

Several progressive groups and activists have accused the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) of publicly, and without basis, accusing them of being fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines, New Peoples’ Army and the National Democratic Front.

“What’s the point of labeling people? Wala namang mangyayari kung (Nothing will happen if) you just label people. Kung meron kang ebidensya (If you have evidence) against them, then follow the necessary legal action against them,” Guevarra said.

“Pero kung wala ka namang ebidensya to support anything except to suspect na ito ay fronts ng let’s say communist terrorist groups, ay huwag ka na lang magsalita dahil you’re endangering certain people.”

“Kung wala ka namang sufficient evidence, baka mamaya ma-target naman yung mga taong yun na who are just vocal about their own political views ay baka ma-endager naman yung mga tao na yun,” he added.

(But if you have no evidence to support anything, except to suspect that these are fronts of communist terrorist groups, then don’t talk because you’re endangering people. If you have no sufficient evidence, then some people might be targeted, when they’re just vocal about their own political views.)

NTF-ELCAC spokesperson Lorraine Badoy has said “there’s no such thing as red-tagging” while the body’s vice chair, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, claimed the CPP-NPA invented the term “red-tagging” as a creative defensive tactic.

Groups accused of having links with the armed communist movement have warned against the deadly consequences of red-tagging.

Activists Zara AlvarezJory Porquia and Chad Booc are some of the activists who were reportedly accused of being communist rebels before they were gunned down.

Some of the activists killed on Bloody Sunday last year were also supposedly red-tagged before they got killed during simultaneous pre-dawn raids in the CALABARZON region.

Several cases seeking protection from the courts have also pointed to allegedly concerted efforts of labelling victims as communists and placing their pictures on tarpaulins, flyers and facebook posts before they were eventually arrested or killed.

Badoy herself is facing complaints before the Office of the Ombudsman filed by several activists and journalist Maria Ressa over Badoy’s statements associating them with so-called enemies of the state.

One of the most high-profile personalities Badoy red-tagged is Vice President Leni Robredo.

Guevarra said he does not believe the anti-insurgency body has a policy of red-tagging.

“I don’t think that that is a policy of NTF-ELCAC. Meron lang certain persons associated with the NTF-ELCAC who might have been vocal about their impressions about certain groups, kaya nga sinasabi na (that’s why it has been said) these people are red-tagging certain groups,” he said.

Guevarra said the DOJ has communicated its position on the issue to the anti-insurgency task force.

“As to how they reacted to that position of the DOJ, I wouldn’t really know kung they heeded it or they ignored it. I guess the best person to answer that question is sila mismo, yung mga higher ups noong NTF-ELCAC,” he said.