Remulla Tells UNHRC: Red-Tagging Part Of Democracy
If critics can lambast government policies, the government has a right to criticize them back in the form of red-tagging, the Department of Justice (DOJ) told a United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) session as panel members raised concerns over the perils of red-baiting in a democratic country.
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla fired back at concerns from the UNHRC panel over red-baiting in the Philippines, saying the act is “one of the most disputable terms to come out of the lips of many of our political critics.”
Remulla, who, before becoming part of the Marcos administration, has been accused of red-baiting particularly against supporters of former vice president Leni Robredo during the campaign for the May 9 elections, explained that “red-tagging” as a response is the “essence of democracy.”
“(Red-tagging) is a term that has to be thought about by everyone here. If (critics) can dish it out, then they should be able to take it, especially if they are supporting those who are promoting the death of our people, our policemen, civilian, youth and children,” Remulla said during the 3,919th meeting of the 136th session of the UNHRC, referring to alleged front organizations of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
“So red tagging is a very difficult term to debate on because it is about criticism. It is criticism for people who also criticize,” he added.
Red-tagging has figured prominently in recent years, especially during the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte, whose relations with communists had soured.
Critics have accused the Duterte and Marcos administrations and the military of making use of such means of “propaganda” against individuals and organizations who are critical of the government.
Meanwhile, Remulla assured the UNHRC panel that the Marcos administration would prioritize the prosecution of the perpetrators of summary killings in Duterte’s drug war after the panel raised concerns over human rights violations committed during the Duterte administration.
Remulla said the government continues to investigate these cases and is strengthening mechanisms to protect witnesses, citing the slow progress of investigations due to fears of retaliation from those who might be called to testify.
Aside from this, the DOJ chief also highlighted the administration’s current campaign to decongest jails and prisons in the Philippines.
Cutting CHR’s budget
The panel also raised concerns over the country’s slashing of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR)’s budget in 2022 which, according to Remulla, was not a result of political scheming and was a call made by the government amid debt servicing.
“Right now, 30 percent of our national budget goes to debt servicing or the debt that we incurred during the pandemic,” he said.
“We are now paying for the COVID response that we gave during the (pandemic period). Our country had to borrow money to help people rise through the difficulty in the time of COVID,” he added.