July 14, 2024


A resolution penned by the Regional Law Enforcement Coordinating Council-CAR enjoining law enforcement agencies such as the Philippine National Police to subject supposed left-leaning personalities in the government and other entities such as those in mass media to the controversial tokhang (knock and plea) tactic is anathema to democracy.
Foremost, to pattern the “poorly-crafted” RLECC-CAR Resolution 04-2021 after the controversial Oplan Tokhang in addressing the more than five-decade insurgency waged by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army could be ill-advised, as the strategy is tainted with alleged grave human rights violations and the thousands of killings in the name of the war on drugs. More disconcerting is the statement of Justice Sec. Menardo Guevarra to the United Nations Human Rights Council that more than half of these cases failed to comply with rules of engagement and protocol.
We found it contradictory when the director of the Commission on Human Rights-Cordillera was among the more than 40 regional executives who signed the resolution when his agency is supposed to be at the forefront of protecting human rights, including freedom of the press.
But as an afterthought and having considered matters carefully, the CHR-Cordillera director made a motion to withdraw his signature from the resolution, saying activism is not a crime, and that Filipinos should be free to express valid dissent and grievances for the government to act on.
We initially surmised that the passage of the resolution may be a way to convince the national government to infuse additional funds to some concerned agencies through the well-funded National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), bypassing the matter that such a resolution puts to risk the life of suspected left-leaning personalities. We are having a hard time understanding the wisdom behind the passage of the resolution.
The RLECC resolution does not even have a clear definition of who exactly the left-leaning personalities would be, which means identifying who the left-leaning entities are is entirely left to the discretion of the government through the RLECC. Since the resolution tends to equate dissent with insurgency, it also authorizes government forces, in coordination with local officials, to intrude into the homes of alleged leftists or red-tagged individuals to supposedly convince them not to support the CPP-NPA.
This also means that members of the Fourth Estate who cover, or report on individuals or groups branded by the government as left-leaning personalities or groups could be subjected to tokhang for simply reporting issues and concerns of great public interest.
The resolution likewise runs contrary to the constitutional rights of every Filipino to speak or peacefully assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances, as such acts can be misconstrued as a form of activism.
We commend the sustained government’s campaign to address insurgency only through peaceful means and with high regard to human rights, but the RLECC resolution seems to defy this, as it indirectly conditions members of the media to report only what the government is doing to address insurgency and avoid presenting why the underground movement has been waging a Marxist-Maoist-inspired rebellion for more than five decades, the longest in Asia.
Those behind the crafting of the RLECC resolution could have thought of other best practices to address insurgency in the highlands, without resorting to the unpopular and intimidating Oplan Tokhang. There must be a good reason afterall why the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights wants the Philippine government to scrap tokhang – if only for the fact of the many cases of violations of human rights and “widespread killing with near impunity to offenders.”
With the CHR-Cordillera director setting a precedent, we call on other regional executives who affixed their signatures to the RLECC resolution to ponder and consider withdrawing their signatures and call for the revision of the resolution that tends to criminalize political belief, dissent, freedom of expression, and of the press.
But if RLECC should stand its ground in forwarding the resolution for possible adoption by the Regional Peace and Order Council for its implementation in the Cordillera, it is our hope that it does not add to the piling cases of human rights violations and foster impunity among our armed forces.
If something bad happens such as loss of lives in the implementation of tokhang on individuals tagged by the government as leftists or left-leaning personalities in line with RLECC’s resolve to address insurgency in the highlands, the public will always remember that those who signed the resolution have their hands stained with blood.