Tuesday, July 23, 2024

#Tagged! Red-Tagging and What to Do When Tagged

When news came to a certain publication that they were tagged as threats to national security, its student-journalists became agitated. Men in uniform once regarded as frontliners of security became threatening figures for the staff, threatening the freedom of expression itself.

Now that they are being “red-tagged,” they must do something to prevent them from being harmed, and to continue at least to live a life as students protected by law.

What is Red-Tagging?

According to human rights advocates, red-tagging is a tactic wherein individuals or groups that the government sees as a potential threat are labelled as communists or terrorists. The said undertaking is spearheaded by the Philippine military through the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). NTF-ELCAC is commanded by Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade of the AFP Southern Luzon Command.

Red-tagging equates left-wing activities into terrorism or communism, hitting NGOs, religious and legal organizations, and even oppositions. Human rights groups said that these tagging sprees have led to unlawful detentions and even killings. Human Rights Watch also added that red-tagging has “constricted further the increasingly diminished democratic space in the Philippines, where activists, rights lawyers, journalists, and even ordinary Filipinos on social media are under threat.”

What to Do if You Are Red-Tagged?

Atty. Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno, founding Dean of the De La Salle University College of Law, and chairman of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), has spoken about the weakening judicial system of the country, as a result of the war on drugs. Adding fuel to the fire are the red-tagging tactics used to “silence the opposition” according to human rights groups.

Diokno had been taking the case of one of the individuals summoned by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), which sparked the ire of President Rodrigo Duterte, calling the human rights lawyer a “lousy lawyer” while virtually accusing him of “giving encouragement for people to violate the law.”

The lawyer then replied with a modest call to focus on the needs of the president’s constituents, who have been facing both fear and hunger, and he never told anyone to break the law.

Diokno’s October 25, 2020 Tweet enumerated the available legal remedies people can use in case of being red-tagged:

  1. Injunction. Victims of red-tagging can file a petition for injunction and temporary restraining order. 
  2. Damages. Victims of red-tagging can also file a civil suit for damages against the person responsible, under Article 32 of the Civil Code, which provides that any public official or private person who directly or indirectly obstructs, violates, or impairs a person’s right to liberty and security of person, right to be a member of organizations for purposes not contrary to law, or right to participate in peaceable assemblies to petition the Government for redress of grievances, among others, shall be liable for damages.
  3. Libel. Victims can also file civil or criminal cases of libel against the person responsible, for damaging their honor and reputation.
  4. Administrative complaints. Complaints for misconduct and other administrative offenses can be filed with the following offices: The Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for the Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices (OMB-MOLEO); the Office of the Chief of Staff and the Office of the Inspector General of the Armed Forces of the Philippines; and The Office of the Inspector General and the Internal Affairs Service of the Philippine National Police. If warranted, the complaints could result in the suspension or removal of the military or law enforcement officer.
  5. Court-martial. As Atty. Ted Te recently pointed out, military officials responsible for red tagging may be held liable by court-martials for violating the following Articles of War: AW 91 (which prohibits anyone subject to military law from using any reproachful or provoking speeches or gestures to another), AW 94 (which provides that anyone subject to military law who commits any crime or breach of law punishable as a criminal offense shall be punished as a court martial may direct), AW 96 (which prohibits conduct unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman and provides that anyone convicted of this offense shall be dismissed from the service), and AW 97 (which states that “all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and military discipline,” and all conduct that brings discredit to the military service, “shall be taken cognizance of by a…court-martial…and punished at the discretion of the court.”)
  6. Writs of habeas data and amparo (legal remedy for protecting one’s right to life and liberty). Victims of red tagging may also file petitions for writs of habeas data and amparo. While previous amparo petitions for red tagging did not prosper, your case might be the one to pierce the veil of litigation.
  7. CHR and United Nations. Victims can also report the red tagging to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and to the select bodies or officials of the United Nations, namely: (i) the Human Rights Council; (ii) the Human Rights Committee and other UN Committees; and (iii) the various Special Rapporteurs (on human rights, torture, extrajudicial executions, violence against women, and indigenous peoples, among others).


Article XIII of the Philippine Constitution gives the highest regard to human rights in enacting laws. Citizens can always fight for their rights while duly following legal practices and concepts. When in spite of being red-tagged, one cannot fight with just advocacy alone, it has to have a legal foundation to give no prejudice to either side. 

In all cases, no one is above the law, not even the ones who make it.


Beltran, M. (2020, December 31). Philippines: The Tactics Behind Red-Tagging. The News Lens. Retrieved April 25, 2021, from https://www.google.com/amp/s/international.thenewslens.com/amparticle/145438

De La Salle University (n.d.). DLSU College of Law Faculty List. Retrieved April 25, 2021, from http://law.dlsu.edu.ph/about/faculty.asp

Diokno, C. [@ChelDiokno]. (2020, October 25). Victims of red tagging can use the law to go after those responsible for vilifying them. They can sue for injunction, damages, libel, amparo, or habeas data. [Tweet]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/ChelDiokno/status/1320322626653286400?s=19

Dizon, N. (2017, February 23). Fight the fear’ under Duterte rule, FLAG’s Diokno urges Filipinos. Inquirer.net. Retrieved April 25, 2021, from https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/874712/fight-the-fear-under-duterte-rule-flags-diokno-urges-filipinos

Gavilan, J. (2020, February 20). Lives in danger as red-tagging campaign intensifies. Rappler. Retrieved April 25, 2021, from https://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/in-depth/lives-in-danger-duterte-government-red-tagging-campaign

Haynes, O. (2021, February 18). Deadly ‘Red-Tagging’ Campaign Ramps Up in Philippines. Voa News. Retrieved April 25, 2021, from https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.voanews.com/east-asia-pacific/deadly-red-tagging-campaign-ramps-philippines%3famp

Lalu, G. (n.d.). Red-tagging, as explained by an AFP top brass and a premier activist. Inquirer.net. Retrieved April 25, 2021, from https://www.google.com/amp/s/newsinfo.inquirer.net/1388097/red-tagging-as-explained-by-an-afp-top-brass-and-a-premier-activist/amp

PH Official Gazette. (n.d.). THE 1987 CONSTITUTION OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES – ARTICLE XIII. Retrieved April 25, 2021, from https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/constitutions/the-1987-constitution-of-the-republic-of-the-philippines/the-1987-constitution-of-the-republic-of-the-philippines-article-xiii/#:~:text=The%20Congress%20shall%20give%20highest,power%20for%20the%20common%20good.

Robertson, P. (2021, February 10). Philippine General Should Answer for ‘Red-Tagging’. Human Rights Watch. Retrieved April 25, 2021, from https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/02/10/philippine-general-should-answer-red-tagging

Tomacruz, S. (2020, April 3). Amid coronavirus outbreak, Duterte lashes out at Chel Diokno for ‘causing disorder’. Rappler. Retrieved April 25, 2021, from https://www.rappler.com/nation/amid-coronavirus-outbreak-duterte-lashes-out-chel-diokno


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