Some Filipinos decried Mocha Uson, blogger and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration deputy administrator, for red-tagging young activists who were accused of allegedly harboring firearms, ammunition and explosives.
On her Facebook page, the controversial social media personality reposted a graphic that compiled pictures of a community journalist and members of progressive organizations accused of violating Republic Act 10591 or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act.
“Study now, NPA (New People’s Army) later,” the post reads.
It also appeared on Uson’s Twitter page where she also said that state universities should prioritize enrolling children of overseas Filipino workers instead.
Dapat anak ng mga OFWs ang i-prioritize ng mga State Universities para sa libreng edukasyon!!
The accused are Alexander Abinguna of Katungod Sinirangan Bisayas–Karapatan, Mira Legion of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in Eastern Visayas, Marielle Domequil of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and Frenchie Mae Cumpio of AlterMidya Network.
The blogger’s post earned condemnation from some social media users, who called her out for red-tagging the human rights defenders despite the case being “premeditated,” according to the National Union of People’s Lawyers.
“I’m sure this is a violation of their rights. These young adults are private citizens, not gov’t officials like you who we pay and are subject to ethical practice,” a Twitter user said.
Another Filipino urged the parents of the red-tagged youth to file charges against Uson for the post.
“Parents, sue Uson for this,” the user said as she retweeted the blogger-government official’s post.
An account calling for the freedom of the detained individuals pointed out that education is a right that “should be enjoyed by all citizens,” regardless of whether they are activists or not.
Red-tagging at its finest by no less than the OWWA Deputy Executive Director. Education is a state responsibility– a right that should be enjoyed by all citizens, and need we remind her, a right fought for by ACTIVISTS! https://t.co/EF88wPH1j3
— FreeTacloban5 (@FTacloban5) February 17, 2020
The young activists are part of “Tacloban 5,” the name given to five individuals who were arrested by state forces in the province on two operations on February 7, Friday, on charges of alleged illegal possession of firearms.
Reports noted that Legion and Cabaljao were allowed to post bail amounting to P120,000 each while Cumpio, Domequil and Abinguna were not granted the option.
They are currently detained in the municipal police station in Palo, Leyte.
The other individual excluded from the post Uson has circulated is Marissa Cabaljao of People Surge Network.
Some groups believe that the arrests of the activists renewed fears of the government’s “crackdown” against critics and dissenters.
“All of the arrested are open, legal and peaceful yet militant human rights workers,” the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers said in a statement.
“How can high profile and visible people working in open legal organizations doing perfectly legal and constitutionally-protected advocacy commit or be committing patently criminal acts and yet not be in hiding? This is illegalizing otherwise legal acts, behavior, and individuals,” it added.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines similarly denounced the arrest, particularly that of Cumpio from AlterMidya, and claimed that it is the government’s “attempts to muzzle freedom of the press and of expression.”
This is not the first time that Uson has been caught red-tagging organizations and groups.
The blogger also tagged organizations advocating for indigenous people’s rights as communist rebels in a program held at the University of the Philippines-Diliman in October 2018.
“There is no place in UP for the likes of Mocha Uson, who is a known defender of Duterte’s dictatorship that continue to endanger the lumad in their struggle for their ancestral lands, self-determination and education,” the UP Diliman University Student Council earlier said.
Uson also claimed that actual communist rebels want her “untimely death,” an allegation that has immediately shrugged off by Jose Maria Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
Red-tagging is the act of harassing or persecuting an individual due to “known or suspected communist tendencies,” according to VERA Files.
Being red-tagged could expose the individual to several risks, which include interception and recording of communication, detention without charges, restricted travel and personal liberties, examination of bank records and seizure and sequestration of assets.