“Don’t follow the path Ka Ella Colmenares took in the underground.” And so began Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Southern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr.’s tirades against those whom he suspects to have communist ties—throwing allegations at opposition figures, arousing suspicion at a sitting mayor, and giving “warnings” to outspoken celebrities.
While his statements alone may be alarming, what makes them so dangerous is that they extend beyond just one man: they are indicative of the overall direction that this government is taking to combat communism and terrorism.
Specifically, they harken back to McCarthyism, or the practice of throwing baseless accusations of subversion and treason toward individuals or groups. One need look no further than Parlade’s pronouncements to see how easily the government can label anyone as a communist or otherwise link them to communist groups. This tactic has had a long history in the country, usually targeted toward critics of the Philippine government and used as a common tool for administrations to shut down and silence those against their ideals.
Although, according to Cabinet officials, red-tagging is not an official policy of the government, it is nonetheless prevalent in practice. After all, it was the Facebook page of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict that amplified Parlade’s irresponsible utterances. And more blatant attacks have also been instigated by some local offices of the Philippine National Police in flagging activists and opposition figures as communists.
From the looks of it, the Duterte administration, just like past presidencies, is stirring up its own “red scare” by arousing widespread fear that communism is supposedly on the rise. But while communist forces obviously do exist in the country, the matter of contention is whether they exist at the scale that the administration claims—whether they actually penetrate deep within civil society and even into government—but with just the mere pronouncements of a few high-ranking officials, these suspicions do not hold weight.
When people in power are red-tagging left and right, regardless of who they are and how much influence they hold over citizens in our country, many Filipinos will now wonder what kind of morals and values are held by those who are supposed to be keeping this country safe. Where Filipinos should be offered a safe and assuring home, they are instead offered a hostile environment wherein they must either shut their mouths or fear for their lives.
We, the Filipino people, cannot allow this dangerous affront to democracy to continue. Perhaps now is the time to take the fight to the courts. In the same way that McCarthyism in the United States met its demise after a number of legal challenges, red-tagging in the Philippines might just see a similar fate. As we continue to be terrorized by the sword of the state, it may just be high time to turn to the power of the pen for solace.