„Red-Baiting is long-term emotional torture!“

Counter-insurgency measures: Creating an atmosphere of suspicion and fear in the communities.

To talk about the dimensions of Red-Baiting and the situation on the ground IPON conducted a workshop about “Red-Baiting: Regional Perspectives and Strategies for Action” in Davao City, Mindanao.

Red-Baiting in the Philippines is the political strategy of members of state institutions such as the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to accuse, denounce and persecute individuals and NGOs as members of communist organizations like the CPP-NDF-NPA in order to obstruct their work. The most forceful and extreme examples of related human rights violations, either tolerated by the state or even secretly commissioned by state authorities, are enforced disappearances, torture and extralegal killings. (more about Red-Baiting: http://verteidiger-verteidigen.de/brandmarkung-als-kommunisten/ )

Red-Baiting is a threat to committed NGO workers, critical groups and rural communities. However, open discussions and local strategies to tackle the problem are still rare.

This being the situation, IPON together with the “Alternate Forum for Research in Mindanao (AFRIM)” offered a platform for Human Rights Defenders (HRD) which experience Red-Baiting and its consequences in their operating areas. The workshop was designed to gather views and recommendations from various civil society groups who are directly affected by Red-Baiting, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The aim was to share perspectives, to find common grounds and to work out practical steps to tackle the issue.

The first day forum brought together civil society representatives from 4 provinces in Mindanao (North Cotabato, Compostella Valley (Tagum) and CARAGA-Region) for a situation analysis and to name potential steps how to improve the situation on the ground. Together, the participants expressed the following concerns:

  • Root causes of conflict are usually due to political and power struggle among community leaders and elders; hence, community members are dragged into the issue, thus involving them in the process and tagging almost all of them as “red” supporters without bases.
  • Military came in the picture and responded to local conflicts based on information received from informers (mostly community members with political agenda).
  • NGOs have also experienced red tagging as they do community work since the community members/beneficiaries are also perceived as leftist or red supporters.
  • Due to lack of proper coordination, info dissemination and their tendency not to determine and acknowledge first the root causes of conflict, the military tend not to listen, but stick to what they believed based on initial information feed to them by their informers; hence, military has the tendency to stereotype and create their own profiles about the community members and NGOs.
  • Red tagging is not solely instigated by state actors but also by “investors” –like those into logging and mining businesses – to ensure security of their businesses.

On the second day the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) responded to the expressed issues and recommendations.

For them the “fear of military,” is a way to stereotype the military. Red-Baiting is used by some people or groups to create misunderstanding, thus resulting to fear and conflict between and amongst stakeholders and state actors.  In fact, Red-Baiting is not in the military parlance, hence is not of military doing. Perhaps there is already stereotyping on both sides based on experiences and historical encounters. But it has to be noted also that there are thousands of publications by certain organizations labeling and identifying themselves with other organizations that are affiliated with the NPAs. These organizations are the ones instilling in the minds of the ordinary people the culture of fear.

In addition the AFP pointed out, that they are addressing the issue through the implementation of the AFP’s Internal Peace and Security Plan “Oplan Bayanihan”. By the word bayanihan, the plan promotes stakeholder’s participation, ownership as well as empowerment following non-traditional military operations. To equip them in the effective implementation of IPSP-Bayanihan, the military personnel are now sent to various non-combat trainings, to be become technically equipped with non-traditional way of military operations.  IPSP is trying its best to complement efforts with the existing programs at the local level. By doing IPSP-Bayanihan, it opens opportunities for the military to understand other organization’s culture, history and tradition and available resources.

Overall, the different entities and organizations have different lenses. They come in different perspective as well as raise different biases.  There is a need to hear and listen to both sides when it comes to report and information, and understand each other’s lenses and perspectives. Red tagging is relative to one’s perspective. The challenge now is how the state and non-state actors will complement each other’s mandate, particularly the efforts of the local government. The main ingredient to address the issues presented is for all concerned to coordinate, cooperate and complement efforts, resolving issues that are common to all.

The workshop in Davao was a first step towards a better coordination on the ground. Both sides, AFP and NGOs, expressed the need for more communication regarding the issues on the community level. It was the first time the actors addressed this specific topic as one of the main origins of human rights violations. The recommendations, concerns and discussion points provide a basis for further discussions – like the upcoming IPON Red-Baiting Conference in October 2012.

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