On Sunday, April 10, elements of the Republic of the Government of the Philippines harassed and red-tagged labor activist Joe Iosbaker in front of his hotel in Manila, Philippines. Iosbaker, from Chicago, was visiting the Philippines for eight days. 

Before 7am that day, members of the Criminal Investigation & Detection Group (CIDG) hung three banners at the fence of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines national office bearing the name and image of Iosbaker. The banners read, “Ally of CTG [Communist-Terrorst Group],” “Don’t meddle with PH affairs. You’re not welcome here!” At around 8:30 am, a small group of people rallied in front of the office of National Council of Churches in the Philippines. Their placards read: “Banyagang Terorista, Alyado ng Komunista, Layas!”(Foreign Terrorist, ally of Communists, Out!”).

The following Monday, April 11, Reverend Cathy Chang, a mission co-worker of the Presbyterian Church (USA), found similar banners and stickers outside of her home in Quezon City. The stickers and tarpaulin, with her photo, mirrored those written about Iosbaker, reading “Supporter of Terrorist CPP-NPA-NDFP” and threatening her to “Get Out of the Country.” Rev Chang and her family have lived in the Philippines for six years where she serves in migrant ministry at the invitation of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP). 

The tagging of Iosbaker and Chang as “supporters of terrorism” is another example of the Philippine government’s counterinsurgency program that increasingly targets overseas Filipinos and solidarity Activists. In recent years Bayan USA, Gabriela USA, Migrante USA, Anakbayan-USA and the Malaya Movement USA have faced online harassment and red tagging. Just weeks prior to the tagging of Iosbaker and Chang, Harry Roque, former spokesperson for President Duterte and current Senatorial candidate, made the preposterous but dangerous claim that the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines is a ‘legal front’ for the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army.

As documented in ICHRP’s recent Bulletin on “Fighting Red-Tagging in Philippine Elections” red-tagging is on the rise in the Philippines as pivotal elections approach. While the country sits on the brink of a potential return of the Marcoses to power, the Duterte camp has red tagged Leni Robredo, the main opposition candidate, accusing her of working with the Communist Party, while also calling for voters to withdraw support from Makabayan Bloc under similar accusations of support for the Community Party. The political situation remains tenuous as the upcoming elections await, and clearly red-tagging continues to be used to intimidate, harass, quell dissent and attempt to discredit opposition. 

In the end, red-tagging does not put to question the credibility of its victims but rather exposes the ineptitude of its perpetrators. In this moment, the need becomes to increase solidarity support, not to quash it from fear of retribution. 

#ActivismIsNotaCrime #ActivismIsNotTerrorism #DefendtheDefenders #PassthePHRA

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