By: Vincent Cabreza – Reporter / Philippine Daily Inquirer /March 23, 2022
BAGUIO CITY—Youth activists here have rallied behind Mayor Benjamin Magalong who promised to shield them from Red-tagging after he was accused by a government task force of “protecting communist rebels.”
Magalong had directed the police to take down tarpaulins and other materials put up in public areas that label Baguio activists, students and other residents as sympathizers or members of the New People’s Army.
He gave the order during a March 12 dialogue with students and other groups who said they no longer felt safe in Baguio because of online bullying, sexual harassment and death threats after being wrongfully linked to the armed rebellion.
During the recent dialogue with local activists, Magalong, a retired police general, said he shared their desire to “right the wrong.”
But the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) on Monday denounced Magalong for reportedly protecting individuals and organizations it described as communist front groups.
In a statement, it claimed that Magalong’s supposed “betrayal” shows how politicians have abetted “the tenacious deceit of the terrorist CPP-NPA-NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines) … which would put our children in harm’s way.”
Kabataan and Youth Act Now Against Tyranny backed Magalong.
In statements on Monday, they said, “Red-tagging is harmful to our democracy in a way that it undermines the people’s constitutional right to speak up against injustices, corruption, and express dissent [by] immediately branding them as terrorists.”
At a press briefing on Tuesday, Magalong said he supported the programs of the NTF-Elcac, which he described as effective counterinsurgency measures.
He said he was surprised by the intensity of his condemnation, boosted by social media posts showing a photo of him alongside Kabataan members.
“I did not expect to be exposed to this kind of attack without any basis at all—without due process,” the mayor said.