Press Release
March 25, 2021

Red-tagging punishable by 10 years in prison under proposed Drilon law

Alarmed by the rising cases of red-tagging, Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon proposed a measure that will make red-tagging punishable by up to 10 years in prison and disqualify persons convicted of red-tagging from holding public office.

Senate Bill 2121 or the proposed "Act Defining and Penalizing Red-Tagging" seeks to criminalize red-tagging and provide for penalties as deterrence "in order to fix the legal gaps, address impunity and institutionalize a system of accountability."

Under the measure, the crime of red-tagging is defined as the act of labeling, vilifying, branding, naming, accusing, harassing, persecuting, stereotyping, or caricaturing individuals, groups, or organizations as state enemies, left-leaning, subversives, communists, or terrorists as part of a counter-insurgency or anti-terrorism strategy or program, by any state actor, such as law enforcement agent, paramilitary, or military personnel.

"Any person found guilty of red-tagging shall be imprisoned for 10 years and shall suffer the accessory penalty of perpetual absolute disqualification to hold public office," according to the bill.

"The passage of this bill will reverse the 'increasingly institutionalization and normalization of human rights violations' and put a stop on the attacks against the members of the legal profession," Drilon said in the bill's explanatory note.

The former justice secretary said libel, or grave threats, is not appropriate where a state agent vilifies a person as an enemy of the state thereby impinging on the rights of that individual.

"The measure will likewise serve as a reminder to the government of its primary duty under the Constitution to serve and protect the people," he stressed.

Drilon lamented how the continuing governmental public branding has "threatened" the very life, liberty and security of the vilified men and women.

"It has resulted in serious human rights violations such as harassments, arbitrary arrests, detentions, and enforced disappearances," he said.

He warned: "In some instances, being red-tagged is a prelude to death."

The minority leader cited the case of a certain Zara Alvarez whose name was included in the Department of Justice's terrorist list. Last August 17, 2020, Alvarez was fatally shot by unidentified gunmen in Negros.

He also cited the assassination of Dr. Mary Rose Sancelan, the only doctor in the City of Guihulngan City, who was number one on a list of 15 people accused of being a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines in Negros Oriental. Last December 2020, a lone gunman fatally shot the barrio doctor. She was the 6th person killed off from the said list.

Members of the legal profession were not spared from this systemic and calculated vilification as enemies of the State, according to the former justice secretary, who led his colleagues in the chamber in filing a resolution strongly condemning the killings of and violence against lawyers and judges in the country.

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