June 6, 2023

A local journalist has filed a complaint before the Commission on Human Rights-Cordillera against the La Trinidad Municipal Police Station for alleged red-tagging.

Northern Dispatch reporter Khim Russel Abalos, in his affidavit complaint filed on June 9, stated that on June 1, the La Trinidad MPS Facebook account has red-tagged him, or linked him to the underground movement.

“The Facebook post featured my photo and a portrayal of my daily routine allegedly mobilizing students to join the NPA (New People’s Army),” Abalos said.

He said the description of the post stated: “Babala mga beshy: Hwag magtiwala at magpaloko sa step 1,2,3 ni Khim Abalos!”

Abalos, who contributes and manages the online publications of Northern Displatch in its various social media accounts, said there were several Facebook users that were tagged in the post, which was viewed publicly until it was deleted on June 5.

He added that one of the two social media accounts that red-tagged him is the 1 Philippines Movement for Peace and Development, which also accused him as an NPA recruiter at the University of the Philippines Baguio.

After the post was deleted, the LTMPS, in its Facebook page clarified that the post involving Abalos is a screenshot of a video clip from YouTube warning the public on the recruitment stages of the NPAs, which mentioned Abalos as an alleged recruiter.

“Please be informed that La Trinidad PNP does not have the intention to malign him regarding the issue, (it was an) infographic on terrorism captured from YouTube. Unfortunately, the video clip has been deleted by the person who posted it,” the LTMPS post read.

The LTMPS post also stated that police personnel are willing to have a dialogue with Abalos to clarify the matter.

The Supreme Court defines red-tagging as “the act of labeling, branding, naming, and accusing individuals and/or organizations of being left-leaning, subversives, communists, or terrorists (used as) a strategy by State agents, particularly law enforcement agencies and the military, against those perceived to be ‘threats’ or ‘enemies of the State’.”

Northern Dispatch Editor-in-Chief Kimberlie Quitasol said the LTMPS has opted to wash their hands on the issue by putting the blame on the supposed uploader of the video on YouTube.

“An apology would have been enough. Instead, La Trinidad PNP opted to wash their hands and justify their malicious intent instead of admitting their mistake. Nowhere in the statement did they acknowledge accountability. They conveniently passed the blame to a deleted YouTube video. Copying unverified information and posting it on their official social media accounts and making it look like it was gospel truth is dangerous. We deserve better,” Quitasol said.

Also known as Nordis, the Northern Dispatch is a Baguio-based alternative online news outfit established in September 1989 by progressive journalists and writers in Northern Luzon.

From a news dispatch, it grew into a weekly newspaper in 2002 and became fully digital in January 2019. – Ofelia C. Empian