Stop red-tagging

TWO Cagayan de Oro-based journalists were again accused by unknown groups of being sympathizers or members communist rebels.

Various media organizations in the country have condemned the accusations, while other government entities have also showed concerns.

Presidential Task Force on Media Safety (PTFOMS) head, undersecretary Joel Egco, has acknowledged the new red-tagging incident of journalists Cong Corrales and Froilan Gallardo.

He, however, said that the task force will go into a series of validation to identify the culprits.

"We are of course concerned about this red-tagging issue being raised by some and, in fact, had acted on previous similar incidents," he said, while citing other members of the press being red-tagged.

On August 28, Corrales and Gallardo were again tagged as part of communist rebels which is currently being subjected to military offensives.

"Validation is essential and there are existing mechanisms, such as referring the matter to PNP (Philippine National Police) or NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) Cybercrime Division for appropriate action. We need to determine where the supposed threat is actually coming from because it could come from anywhere," Egco said.

Meanwhile, Brigadier General Edgardo de Leon, commander of the Army's 403rd Brigade said that Corrales and Gallardo could not be part of the communist guerillas, insinuating that it might come from the rebels to sow distrust.

“I personally know Froilan Gallardo and Cong Corrales. They are professional journalists. To me, Froi and Cong are not simply friends, but close personal friends whom I consider as brothers," he said in a statement.

"I vouch for them that they are not reds and does not deserve to be red-tagged. Whoever is doing this has the malicious intent to sow divide and break our friendly relationship. I suspect that this is the handiwork of the reds (communist rebels)," he added.

Police Lieutenant Colonel Mardy Hortillosa, spokesperson for Northern Mindanao (Region 10) Police Regional Office, said that they "express sympathy to the personalities involved in red-tagging especially those morally having no involvement in any activity of the rebel groups".

"If they believe their lives are at risk because of the red-tagging, the PNP is willing to give them security after their request and the risk assessment will confirm that their lives are in danger," he said.

"But for now, the red-tagging alone can't confirm that their lives are in danger because there is no threat of their lives together with the red-tagging. The office will again repeatedly deny any involvement to the said red tagging as what the other progressive groups had always said," he added.

Media united

Media organizations have condemned anew the repeated red-tagging of Corrales and Gallardo, even as they demand authorities and security forces to ensure their safety.

The latest anonymous red-tagging material against several personalities in the city had been received from a courier service.

This time, the red-tagging of Corrales went beyond the usual accusations of membership or links to the New People's Army (NPA). The journalist, along with members of his family, has been targeted several times this year.

The flyer also contained claims of a P1 million bounty for the death of Corrales. The flyer also made a false claim that the journalist is facing a criminal rape with murder case involving a child.

The courier packet that contained the flyer identified the sender as Danilo Tirso Mantangan of Sitio Camansi, Lagonglong, Misamis Oriental.

On the other hand, Gallardo was included in the list of rights lawyers and church workers who were also red-tagged several times.

He said he might have been targeted because he had interviewed the NPA during a raid where the rebels seized a number of weapons from security guards of Minergy Power Corporation in Misamis Oriental recently.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) believed that the red-tagging has worsened due to the apparent lack of interest of local government and security units to protect those threatened and to go after and prosecute those responsible for the dangerous vilification.

The NUJP urged all media groups to close ranks and join in demanding local government and security officials for protection and safety.

Meanwhile, the Cagayan de Oro Press Club vouched the integrity of Corrales and Gallaro.

In the exercise of fairness, the club said obtaining stories from non-government entities as sources, even if they are perceived to be critical of the government, does not make a journalist a Communist rebel or a terrorist.

It also urged the intelligence and law enforcement authorities to investigate and expose the perpetrators.

The Philippine Press Institute (PPI) also finds the red-tagging of journalists and media organizations baseless and irresponsible.

PPI said this did not only endanger the profession and render chilling effect, but also put the lives of those red-tagged and their families at risk.

It also urged the government to hold accountable the perpetrators of such false, malicious and dangerous propaganda.


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