JUSTICE Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra has admitted that the escalation of red-tagging activities by state agents can be linked to a provision in the new anti-terror law that criminalizes recruitment and memberships in terrorist groups.

“There is a provision in the anti-terrorism law about recruitment and membership in terrorist organizations and punishes those acts accordingly, (which may be related) to the percent of what’s happening now that certain persons or group of persons are being tagged as communist or terrorist or subversive or enemies of the state,” Mr. Guevarra said in an interview over ABS-CBN News Channel on Thursday.

He explained that prior to the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, joining or supporting the communist movement was not illegal as the 1957 anti-subversion law that criminalized involvement in such groups was repealed in 1992.

The United States Department designated the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on Aug. 9, 2002. The Philippine government, through a proclamation signed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte in Dec. 2017, also declared the CPP-NPA as a terrorist organization.

University of the Philippines’ College of Law Associate Professor Rowena E.V. Daroy-Morales said while “red-tagging cannot be avoided,” it should not be made normal practice by government representatives as it goes against basic freedoms.

“Why do we need to avoid any kind of tagging? We are proud of being a democratic country, of freedom of speech and freedom of press in our Constitution, so paano natin sasabihin na dapat maging ganyan o dapat hindi maging ganyan (how can we dictate one’s actions),” she said in a phone interview with BusinessWorld on Wednesday.

“There was no such thing as red-tagging until it evolved. It is a moral process more than a legal process,” she added. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago