Rights lawyer: CPP membership legal

A LAWYER whose family members were tagged as part of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said that the anonymous list sent to Karapatan on Friday, February 22, could be a "prelude to the killings of the activists."

Lawyer Oscar Musni, the father of lawyers Czarina Musni, Beverly Musni, and Beverly Ann Musni who were included in the list of alleged CPP members said the taggers and red baiters behind the anonymous list are ignorant.

While Musni denied that his family are members of the CPP, he reminded those responsible of the list that membership in political parties, even the CPP is not illegal.

"The CPP has been legalized already. The R.A. (Republic Act) 1700 which outlawed the CPP has been repealed already," he said.

"We have to bring up this matter to human rights organizations because this is a blatant violations of human rights," he said.

A family of lawyers, the Musnis are known here for their humanitarian work. They provide free legal services especially to the marginalized.

The Musnis are among the 24 persons and organizations who are included in the list as "terrorist members and are responsible for recruiting residents in the city to join the NPA (New People’s Army)".

Among the names listed were Iglesia Filipina Independiente Bishop Felixberto Calang, Fr. Rolando Abejo of Movement Against Tyranny-Northern Mindanao, Karapatan Northern Mindanao spokesperson Fr. Khen Apus, and journalist Cong Corrales and his family.

Corrales for his part, called the people behind the "hit list" cowards and denied that they were or are currently members of the rebel group.

Corrales is the current associate editor of a newspaper in Cagayan de Oro.

"My wife is a marketing executive of Gold Star Daily, where I am the associate editor. My son is a regular staff of the Commission on Elections (Comelec)-Northern Mindanao and is currently serving in the commission's city office. Our credentials are readily available," Corrales said.

Corrales said the list not only intimidates him as a journalist but endangered his family as well.

"We know fully well that red-tagging is a virtual death sentence. On my end, I will not let this cowardly act push me to silence. I will continue speaking truth to power," he added.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) meanwhile condemned the inclusion of its member and former director Corrales, his wife and son.

The NUJP said, "There is nothing more cowardly and deplorable than to vilify persons and put them in mortal peril behind the cloak of anonymity".

"And as has happened all too often, red-tagging is not mere intimidation. All too often it can be a virtual death sentence," the NUJP said.

"Even media have not been spared from red-tagging and other acts clearly intended to intimidate a critical press into silence, as with the ongoing vilification campaign against the NUJP and the cyber attacks on alternative media," it added.

The Cagayan de Oro Press Club (COPC) meanwhile debunked the allegation that its Board Member Leonardo Vicente “Cong” Corrales is affiliated with the CPP.

The COPC said Corrales is an active member of the local media community.

"Let it be known that we will stand with Board Member Corrales as we call on the authorities to investigate this red-tagging and ensure that media personalities be spared from this accusation," it added.

At around 10:30 am on Friday, February 22, during the Hustisya-Northern Mindanao assembly at the Philtown Hotel, a person approached the hotel's security guard and handed him two brown envelopes.

Each envelope contained 13 copies of flyers listing names of human rights defenders as CPP members.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch issued a statement on the threat against Corrales, his family, and other civilians:

"We view with deep concern the “red-tagging” done on Cagayan de Oro journalist Cong Corrales, his son, and his wife, along with several other local activists and human-rights defenders. There is no other way to describe the list but as a threat against the lives of those in it. Dozens of individuals have been targeted for extrajudicial or summary killing in the Philippines after they were labeled as communist. Although this violence has been happening even before the Duterte administration, the impunity for killings – whether drug-related or political - in the present government has made this type of threat even more worrisome. The government, particularly the military and law enforcers, should back off Corrales and his family and the other “red-tagged” individuals."


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