CMFR/PHILIPPINES- A Mindanao-based journalist was accused of being a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) on 22 February 2018.
Although the CPP is not illegal, mere allegations of membership in it have often led to being charged with ordinary crimes like illegal possession of firearms, murder and arson. In some cases some alleged CPP members, though unarmed, have even been killed. Among them are human rights defenders, lawyers, indigenous people's leaders, farmers and workers in addition to journalists.
The name of Leonardo Vicente Cong Corrales, associate editor of Cagayan de Oro City newspaper Mindanao Gold Star Daily, was included in flyers that contained a list of supposed CPP members and recruiters for the New Peoples Army (NPA) who allegedly wanted to seize power from the government. The flyers, written in the Visayan language, were circulated in a human rights assembly held at Philtown Hotel in this city.
According to news reports from local news organizations, an unidentified man handed two brown envelopes each containing 13 copies of the flyers to the hotels security guard. The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that the guard was told to give the envelopes to the organizers of the conference, which was conducted by rights group Karapatan and the Movement Against Tyranny.
Aside from Corrales, his wife, son and more than a dozen religious personalities, human rights defenders and leftist groups were also in the list.
In a statement, Corrales denied that he and his family were members of the CPP. Our credentials are readily available. We denounce this list as it does not only intimidate me in my work as a journalist but has endangered my family, Corrales said.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemned the inclusion of Corrales, its member and former director, in the list.
There is nothing more cowardly and deplorable than to vilify persons and put them in mortal peril behind the cloak of anonymity, the NUJP said in a statement.
The Cagayan de Oro Press Club (COPC) debunked the allegation that Corrales, a member of its board of directors, is associated with the CPP. Karapatan also issued a statement calling for the protection of human rights defenders from lists that have further endangered their lives and security.
Red tagging, particularly those who are vocal against the current administrations policies, has become a new form of harassment against journalists and other regime critics. Recent cases include the branding as pro-communist of Davao-based radio broadcaster Kath Cortez by an unidentified individual who sent her threatening text messages in December 2017. NUJP itself was linked to the CPP-NPA by three tabloids on 7 January 2019. The organization was branded as an enemy of the state by the Armed Forces of the Philippines in a 2006 presentation that is still being used today.
Philippine laws on subversion have long been repealed. In the context of President Rodrigo Dutertes recent directives to destroy the CPP and its legal fronts, arbitrarily linking journalists to the revolutionary movement encourages further attacks and continue the orchestrated harassment of the media that have been happening since December 2018, including the cyber-attacks on alternative news sites and the arrest of Rappler executive editor Maria Ressa, who is free on bail, on a cyber-libel charge last February 13.