OPINION: Duterte’s anti-communist task force intensifies red-baiting

Ellen T. Tordesillas

Posted at May 18 2020 11:30 PM | Updated as of May 24 2020 02:03 AM

(UPDATED/CORRECTED*) Red-baiting of government critics has been the convenient cover-up weapon of an incompetent administration.

At this time when the people are still preoccupied with the dreaded Covid-19, President Duterte’s anti-communist insurgency group, National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), is adding to the fear and confusion with red-baiting.

Its latest victim is Rowena “Weng” Paraan, head of ABS-CBN’s News Public Service and Bayan Mo, Ipatrol Mo.

Thursday last week, MindaNews condemned the use of a photo from their site by a certain Aram de la Cruz to red-tag Paraan.

Here’s excerpts from the MindaNews report written by Carol Arguillas:

“A certain Aram dela Cruz posted on social media on Wednesday, May 13, a 2013 photograph lifted from the MindaNews website showing Rowena Carranza Paraan, head of ABS-CBN’s News Public Service and Bayan Mo, Ipatrol Mo in what may seem like a forest setting, with ten other women and what looks like an injured man on the foreground, and captioned it: ‘Ano ang tunay na ugnayan ni Rowena Paraan (NUJP, Head ng Bayan Mo Ipatrol Mo, ng ABS-CBN at ng CPP-NPA-NDF. Alam ba ito ng ABS-CBN?’ (What is the real connection between Paraan and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front. Does ABS-CBN know this?)” On the same page, Dela Cruz also posted a solo photo of Paraan.

“The group photograph was taken by photojournalist Vic Kintanar at the Malasag Eco-Tourism Village in Cagayan de Oro City, venue of the March 16-17, 2013 ‘1st All-Women Risk Awareness and Media Safety Training,’ during a simulation exercise on administering first aid to an injured person. The first aid module was facilitated by Paraan, then chair of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and herself a media safety trainer certified by the International News Safety Institute.

“Kintanar’s photo was featured in the March 17, 2013 MindaNews article ‘Women journalists, media workers gather for 1st all-women safety training.’

“The ten women around Paraan were fellow journalists from various parts of Mindanao who attended the training on how to keep safe during hostile situations, while the person who acted ‘injured,’ the lone male in the photograph, was a reporter who attended a trainer’s training that preceded the all-women safety training.

“The historic all-women safety training was organized by NUJP in coordination with the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division, which handled two sessions.”

MindaNews said it “condemns the malicious use of the 2013 photograph as it endangers the lives of Paraan, the 10 Mindanao-based women journalists in the photograph, and the lone male reporter who acted as the ‘injured’ person."

Also last week, the NTF-ELCAC came out with social media posts saying that the shutdown order of the Duterte government of ABS-CBN is being exploited by groups which they branded as communist fronts.

Media groups, news outfits, journalists, and academics lashed out at NTF-ELCAC for a black propaganda offensive on social media against ABS-CBN and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa.

“These Facebook posts, while they have been taken down, are a brazenly criminal abuse of authority on the part of the NTF-ELCAC, replete with half-truths and outright lies that willfully endanger Ressa and the management and personnel of ABS-CBN, the network that government shut down.

“The only reason we can think of why a government entity tasked to combat the communist insurgency would wage a propaganda offensive against media persons and outfits is if government now considers us the enemy,” the group’s statement said.

The University of the Philippines College Of Mass Communication (UP CMC) deplored the tagging of one of its student organizations, the Union of Journalists of the Philippines (UJP), as a communist front: ”If something happens to any of our students. the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC), particularly Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade_ Jr., shall be held responsible.”

“Let this be final warning to the NTF ELCAC and Parlade: We take red-baiting of our students seriously. An attack on our students is an attack on our College,” the UP CMC said.

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon’s defense of NTF-ELCAC action shows the dangerous mindset of the people that compose the task force.

In a text message to the Manila Bulletin, Esperon said, “If the left is exploiting the issue, which it is, then NTF-ELCAC must come in and at the least warn and inform the people about the issues. Freedom of the press is not the issue here. I go for law and order.”

Given the distorted sense law and order of law enforcement authorities, those who have been red-tagged risk being subjected to warrantless arrest, torture, enforced disappearance or worst, extrajudicial killings.

This is worse than the menace of Covid-19.

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Email: ellentordesillas@gmail.com

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.