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Bayan to UN Special Rapporteur: Police interference in peaceful assemblies continues under Marcos Jr administration

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan joined civil society groups and human rights advocates in urging UN Special Rapporteur Irene Khan to look into the systematic violations of the people’s freedom of expression under the government of Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Among the issues highlighted in Bayan’s submission is the continuing police interference in peaceful protest actions and police harassment of activists.

Bayan pointed out that red-tagged groups are prohibited from freely exercising the right to organize and the right express discontent against oppressive government policies.

Redtagging is more than just name-calling since police forces interpret it as a justification to suppress dissent.

Through redtagging and terror-tagging, activists are labeled by state forces as enemies of the state. This rhetoric enables the police to brutally harass peaceful protesters and to weaponize laws and judicial processes to persecute critics and activists.

Bayan cited the filing of three complaints by the police against those who joined the protest during the State of the Nation Address in July 2023. Two cases against Bayan President Renato Reyes, Jr and artist Max Santiago have been dismissed already, but another case involving members of Bayan Southern Tagalog is still awaiting resolution. Bayan secured a permit to hold a protest during the SONA but this didn’t stop the police from filing harassment charges against activists. The police wanted to instill fear and deter people from protesting.

Bayan also mentioned the police objection to the November 25 Peace March in solidarity with the Palestine people even if the Manila LGU has already approved the activity. Police also violently prevented religious groups from holding a candlelighting event for Palestine on November 17 in Plaza Miranda, a designated freedom park.

In separate submissions to the UN Special Rapporteur, Bayan’s allied organization in Baguio, Cebu, and Panay reported a similar pattern of police intolerance against protest actions organized by activists who are redtagged by the government.

This violence stems from the perverse upholding of redtagging as a policy in dealing with critics and dissenters.

Bayan warns against the duplicity of the Marcos officials who claim to uphold free speech but continue to enforce redtagging which leads to flagrant human rights violations.

Bayan calls for the dropping of police complaints against protesters, the repeal of laws that restrict the people’s right to freedom of expression and assembly, and the withdrawal of redtagging as a policy and holding officials and state forces accountable for inciting hate and violence against activists.