The youth group Anakbayan raised alarm over a recent spate of abuses committed against activists and civilians by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, while a highly-criticized partylist group has begun accusing progressive organizations of being ‘communist fronts’.
“The rights of activists and even innocent bystanders are being wantonly disregarded under the Aquino administration. One factor why this happens is because the so-called ‘Department of Akbayan’ mislabels progressive organizations as communist fronts,” said Vencer Crisostomo, national chairperson of Anakbayan.
“We all know that the military acts arbitrarily and does not respect due process. By accusing us, without even a shred of proof whatsoever, that we are ‘communists’, these partylist nuisances are setting us up as targets of military abuse” said the youth leader.
Last October 14, Daisy Ayo, a local leader of Gabriela in Batangas escaped an attempt to kill her. She was selling fish at the market when two men riding a motorcycle in tandem stopped in front of her, and fired a .45-caliber gun thrice. Ayo sustained a gunshot wound on her left leg. Gabriela, along with Anakbayan, are among the groups being tagged by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Akbayan as ‘communist fronts’.
“But harassments and other forms of abuse are not confined to members of progressive groups. These are inflicted even on innocent civilians. Authorities do not distinguish between the two anymore,” Anakbayan Chair Vencer Crisostomo said.
Earlier, on Oct. 5, the AFP arrested 48 year-old Rolly Panesa, a security guard, and his wife in Quezon City. He was accused of being ‘Benjamin Mendoza’, an alleged top official of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
But as human rights workers have pointed out, the AFP’s accusation suffered from many inconsistencies. One is that while the alleged Mendoza was a student leader in college at the outbreak of Martial Law, Panesa was merely 11 years old. And while the AFP claimed that Mendoza was in a foreign country from 1981 to 1982, records show that Panesa was enrolled in a high school in Cadiz City.
Pictures taken by human rights workers show that Panesa was severely tortured, with his face literally ‘black and blue all over’.
“Nobody is safe anymore. No one can afford to ignore the issue when anybody, as long as they are labeled as rebels, can be arrested or killed regardless of their innocence,”Crisostomo said.
“Just because you are being critical of the government, fighting for the rights of the marginalized and voicing out their concerns, they see red,” he added.
Karapatan has documented over a hundred extrajudicial killings, 11 enforced disappearances, and about 200 cases of illegal arrest and detention. There are also more than 300 political prisoners across the country, which the Palace denied.
‘Red baiting’ or ‘red tagging’ is the act of denouncing or accusing a person of being communist or being a sympathizer of it.