Red tagging

By: Modesto P. Sa-onoy

In the Philippines, the term “red-tagging” is understood as the “act of labeling, branding, naming and accusing individuals and/or organizations of being left-leaning, subversives, communists or terrorists”. The word “red” originated from the commonly used color of the communists.  The militants in the Philippines use this same color in their flags, emblems and even placards and kerchiefs. It is understandable that people tend to associate the Philippine militants as communists.

On the other hand, the red color is attractive, forceful and represents the hue of human blood, symbolizing the willingness to shed blood for a cause. Our revolutionary leaders, the Katipunan and the other revolutionary groups used red or in some rare instances, black for their war flags.

The tagging or labeling of today’s militants is not new rather they are the methods used by governments throughout history against perceived enemies. The Spaniards did the same with our revolutionary leaders. It is not a surprise that the Philippine governments from the time after the communist takeover of Russia, had always kept a lookout for those who advocate the “Red” ideology.

This is expected because the communists use a lot of red colors. Russia and China’s emblems are red. Russia had the sickle and hammer while China has the red star or a gold star on a red background.

It is not surprising for the militants to be tagged as “red”. As former President Fidel Ramos used to say, “if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and swims like a duck, then it must be a duck.”

So, if the Filipino militants do not want to be tagged as “red”, meaning communists followers or “fellow travelers” as they used to be called, then they should not imitate the communists in language, symbols, manners and tactics. They should develop their own Filipino identity. They create an image or what in other countries is called a profile.

Red tagging is like the “profiling” method used by the police and security agencies against all kinds of enemies of the state or threats to peace and order.

While profiling is also frowned upon in other countries as an infringement of human rights like tagging or labeling, the method helps the security and police agencies identify potential terrorists or solve crimes.

When a crime is committed or a terrorist attack occurs, the first thing that the security agencies do is to get a profile of a possible suspect. Methods, instruments used, characteristics of the victims, possible motives, etc. help the police track down the perpetrator.

It is therefore understandable that the militants in the Philippines, not only among the non-Muslim population but also those in Mindanao have been tagged as potential enemies or perpetrators. That is an abominable method, but it helps the government not only track down the criminals but also prevent the commission of a crime.

Although the militant groups in the country have raised alarm about this method, the complaint will not cause a national concern. To many citizens, the militants have shown sympathy if not an alliance with the communists particularly with the NPA. Thus, they are called the “legal front” even if they are not. But as ancient wisdom tells us, “by their fruits you will know them”.

In similar manner, the actuation of the militant groups makes people believe that indeed the government is right – they are allies of the communist insurgents.

They are quick to defend those charged of being members of the NPA without clear proof of their assertions. They keep silent when the NPA attacks civilians or private enterprises in the countryside. They carry slogans and banners that are clearly communist. At one time, someone in their march in Bacolod carried the communist red flag with a hammer and sickle. In fact, I wrote about that clear unpatriotic action of unauthorized display of a foreign flag in violation of our laws.

We have seen the negative impact of “red-tagging”. There are many intelligent and passionate leaders among our militants, but they could not generate enough votes because of the perception that they are communists or are inclined to use communist ideology in governance. The few who got elected during the time of Corazon Aquino proved the suspicion right. They introduced socialistic and communistic laws and policies.

During that time, I was asked in Thailand: Is your government communist?