“Red-tagging can cost us our lives” — farmers

As the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification, and Reconciliation continue with its hearing on the red-tagging of individuals and groups, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) demand that the Senate also probe the increasing cases of killing and arrests of farmers that happen as a result of state-sponsored red-tagging.

“To us farmers, red-tagging is the equivalent of a death sentence. The perennial red-tagging and vilification against peasant leaders, farmers and land reform advocates often lead to constant harassment, illegal arrest and detention, and worse, extrajudicial killing,” says KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos.

VIDEO. Watch testimony of peasant leader Renato Gameng.

As with the case of peasant leader Renato Gameng of the Danggayan Dagiti Mannalon iti Isabela (DAGAMI-KMP), who experiences constant harassment from authorities. Gameng was also forced to surrender and cooperate with government intelligence operatives from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).

In a video testimony submitted to the Senate, Gameng, a long-time member and leader of San Francisco Farmers Association (SAFARMA), a peasant organization based in Brgy. San Francisco, Alicia, Isabela, narrated the red-tagging against him. In 2019, Gameng was first approached by a certain Leilani Lopez, and he was then being recruited as an informer who will feed information on schedules of meetings and rallies of farmers in Isabela. Early this year, a certain Romeo Cruz again approached Gameng to convince him to be an ‘asset.’ Gameng repeatedly rejected the said proposals. On May 27, 2020, several red-tagging posters were displayed along the highway in Mallig, Isabela. The said posters tagged Gameng and other peasant leaders as alleged ‘recruiter and protectors of the NPA.’ Among the organizations red-tagged were DAGAMI, AMIHAN-Isabela and UMA-Isabela.

In several radio interviews, Lt. Col. Gladiuz Calilan of the 95th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army also openly redtagged DAGAMI-KMP as a ‘front of the NPA.’  The latest harassment against Gameng involved a police officer who interrogated him and threatened him to surrender or else suffer more dangerous consequences. Peasant leaders Benjamin Cardenas of DANGGAYAN-KMP and Rowena Hidalgo of TIMIQ-KMP are also experiencing the same predicament. Many other peasant leaders and rural-based activists are also subjected to continuing red-tagging and harassment and the perpetrators are state forces.  KMP and several of its local chapters were also included in posters and online posts on social media vilifying progressive organizations as ‘communist fronts.’

Many of the 290 peasants killed under the Duterte administration were constantly red-tagged, vilified, and harassed by state forces and intelligence agents before they were eventually killed. Online harassment and red-tagging of legitimate farmers’ organizations also escalated. 
“We condemn and oppose all forms of redtagging. KMP have been a constant target of redtagging by state forces. Redtagging is dangerous and deadly. Redtagging led to rights abuses of activists and civilians who are only exercising their freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and right to self-organization. Redtagging must stop,” Ramos concluded.

KMP appealed to the Senate to also immediately probe the escalating cases of peasant killings, in particular Senate Resolution 548 filed by Senator Leila De Lima. ### 

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