AMNESTY International expressed its deep concern over threats against Cagayan de Oro journalists Froilan Gallardo and Cong Corrales, and other human rights defenders.
In a statement issued Tuesday, September 3, Amnesty said branding journalists and other human rights advocates as communists or communist fronts has become a means to endanger their lives, leaving them at risk of harassment and attacks by unknown individuals.
The London-based human rights group urged the authorities to “seriously investigate” all threats against the two journalists and others who have been “red-tagged”.
“Take proactive steps to protect the safety and other rights of journalists and others at risk; and ensure an environment that allows individuals to undertake their professions without fear of violence and other reprisals,” the statement read.
Amnesty said tagging Corrales and Gallardo comes at a time of ongoing attacks against journalists and human rights defenders under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
“Labeling groups and individuals who are critical of government policies as ‘communist fronts’ has become a way to undermine the peaceful exercise of their human rights to freedom of expression, and has in some cases resulted in violent attacks, including killings,” it said.
As of June 2019, the group said four human rights activists who were red-tagged were killed in a span of 3 days and 14 people in Negros Oriental were killed during police operations supposedly targeting communist rebels.
The group said the government should fulfill its international obligation to respect and protect the rights of journalists as guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which the country is a state party, and by the Philippine Constitution.
“In particular, Amnesty International calls on the Philippine government to conduct prompt, thorough, impartial and effective investigations into any incidents of ‘red-tagging’ involving violence, threat of violence or incitement to violence, as well as the violent attacks that have resulted from them; bring those responsible for related offenses to justice in fair trials; and protect those who are being accused of links to communist groups,” it added.
On August 28, Gallardo was named in a flyer sent via courier as member of the New People’s Army (NPA) while Corrales was named in another flyer which offered P1 million in reward money for his death.