June 17, 2024

Before suspecting an individual or a group of recruiting people into the underground movement, the police or military should first be definite if the activities attended by so-called “activists” in the Baguio City are tantamount to overthrowing the government.

In the July 31 session of the city council, it has advised the local task force to end communist armed conflict to define the specific acts that constitute subversion and not rely solely on the description of “common crimes” as contained in the Revised Penal Code.

Activists in Baguio have recently filed complaints against at the Commission on Human Rights-CAR against members of the local Elcac for unwarranted surveillance on suspicion that they are part of the underground movement.

CHR-CAR Director Romel Daguimol told the city councilinvestigation on the allegations is ongoing.

Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan, Councilors Arthur Allad-iw, Jose Molintas, and Betty Lourdes Tabanda told members of the task force led by Mayor Benjamin Magalong and Col. Christopher Sab-it that expressing grievances against the government do not necessarily translate to rebellion or other crimes that aim to overthrow the government.

“When can an act be considered subversive to warrant an arrest or red tagging so we know if authorities are acting within the bounds of law,” Tabanda said.

Allad-iw, on the other hand, reminded the task force that those who have recently been red-tagged, which included, university students and members of the progressive organizations in the city acted within the bounds of law.

“No one should be red-tagged for exercising their constitutional right,” Allad-iw said referring to the freedom of expression as enshrined in the constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations.

Magalong and Sab-it who both became activists in their youth said activism is not a crime and recognize that major reforms have been achieved worldwide as a result of activism.

The mayor assured that activists in Baguio are safe but reiterated that the approaches being done by the task force such as conducting of information campaigns in schools about the underground movement are proper.

“Tama naman ang approach ng law enforcers. May mga intel reports sila,” Magalong said in defense of the task force.

Sab-it informed the city council that since April, the task force has revised the materials and other paraphernalia the task force has been using to inform the public about the underground movement. The task force has also initiated dialogues with parents and school officials about the government’s campaign to end communism.

Olowan suggested for the task force to continue improving their information and education strategies to prevent similar incidents in the future where they are accused stifling human rights.

“There is nothing wrong in communism as long as they do not promote violence,” Olowan said reminding that as a peace zone, Baguio welcomes varied political points of view. He said progressive countries such those in Europe allow those with communist beliefs to participate in government affairs.

The Anti-Subversion Law which was enacted in 1957 has been repealed in 1992 after then President Fidel Ramos initiated peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines.

However, with the approval of Human Security Act that aims to address terrorism, some groups, including the CPP-New People’s Army and their allied groups have been branded as terrorists.  – Rimaliza A. Opiña