On the Fringes | Red-tagged for exposing the truth

February 27, 2024


Photo by Jacinto Lingatong

By JACINTO LINGATONG
Bulatlat.com

SANTA CRUZ, Laguna — As a journalist, my duty has always been to shine a light on the truth, no matter how uncomfortable or controversial it may be. Little did I know that in pursuing this, I would find myself at the center of a storm, labeled as a communist simply for doing my job.

I was covering a story about students fighting for their democratic and democratic rights. These students were protesting against a resolution being railroaded in schools submitted by the 202nd Infantry Brigade (IBgde) Philippine Army in coordination with the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF ELCAC), and Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (PTF ELCAC).

The resolution entitled “Resolution Enjoining the Department of Education (DEPED) 4A, Commission on Higher Education (CHED) 4A, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) 4A to Support the Conduct of National Security Awareness Sessions in the Secondary and Tertiary Schools and Technical-Vocational Institutes (TVIS) to Prevent And Counter Radicalization And Violent Extremism (PCRVE) and Stop Youth and Student Recruitment into the NPA’s Violent Armed Struggle” aims to conduct sessions in schools, under the guise of preventing radicalization. However, youth groups see it as a thinly veiled attempt to justify red-tagging and campus militarization.

They were neither invited nor allowed to voice their opinions in meetings regarding the resolution. They said that there is ‘lack of youth and student representation’ in passing such a resolution that violates their rights.

As I go deeper into the story, I became increasingly aware of the dangers that these students face. Red-tagging, the act of labeling individuals or groups as communists or terrorists without due process, has become a tool used to silence dissent and justify human rights violations.

I have written articles about the situation of student leaders and youth activists in the Southern Tagalog, which made me realize the worsening attacks on student leaders.

Jasmin Rubia, Kenneth Rementilla and Hailey Pecayo, youth activists and human rights workers faced the threats of the draconian Anti-Terror Law (ATL). Jpeg Garcia, a stuudent leader in the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), was impilicated in Pecayo’s ATL case. Garcia, Rubia and Rementilla also faced charges of ‘illegal assembly’ during the mobilization for the State of the Nation Address 2022 along with other youth activists and UPLB students Kyle Salgado and Charm Maranan.

It’s clear that the youth are targets for state attacks under the Marcos administration.

Despite the risks, I knew that I have to continue reporting on these issues. The students’ voices needed to be heard, and I was determined to write stories about them.

Little did I know that my determination would make me a target as well.

During my coverage in the Laguna Provincial Capitol where youth and students organization filed their opposition to the said resolution, I was labeled a sympathizer of the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army – National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF). I was branded as “an illegitimate journalist and communist propagandist” by a fellow journalist.

But I refused to be intimidated.

Instead, I was inspired to double my efforts in exposing the truth. I am motivated to cover more stories highlighting the increasing number of human rights violations in the different sectors of the Southern Tagalog region.

I found inspiration in the words of the student leaders. They thanked me for telling their stories, for amplifying their voice when others sought to silence them. Their courage inspired me to keep going.

I may have been red-tagged, but I know in my heart that I am simply a journalist doing my job, and I am confident to say that I am a journalist for the people.

I know that this is just the start of my journey as a community journalist and human rights reporter, and I know the journey to fight for human rights is still a long way. (RVO) (https://www.bulatlat.org)





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