By Wilnard Bacelonia

Supreme Court (PNA photo by Benjamin Pulta)

MANILA – The recent Supreme Court (SC) ruling on red-tagging is a significant step toward protecting fundamental freedoms and promoting accountability, Senate Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros said on Friday.

In a recent ruling, the SC cited red-tagging, vilification, labeling, and guilt by association as a “threat to right to life, liberty, and security.”

Patunay ito na binibigyang halaga ng gobyerno ang demokrasya sa pamamagitan ng pagprotekta sa mga indibidwal na patuloy na nagsasabi ng totoo sa mapang-abusong kapangyarihan, at papanagutin ang mga taong gumagamit ng red-tagging para sikilin ang malayang pamamahayag (This is proof that the government values democracy by protecting individuals who continue to speak truth to abusive power, and holding accountable those who use red-tagging to stifle freedom of expression),” Hontiveros said in a news release.

Last year, Hontiveros filed Senate Bill No. 2447 seeking to define and protect the rights and fundamental freedoms of human rights defenders (HRDs), who are often the targets and victims of harassment and persecution.

With the SC ruling, she is optimistic that HRDs will no longer feel threatened when they speak out and justice will be served to red-tagging victims.

“Umaasa ako na mababasag na ang kultura ng paninikil na dulot ng red-tagging, at maging hudyat ng pagkamit ng katarungan ng mga nakaraang biktima nito (I hope that the culture of suppression caused by red-tagging will be broken, and begin the process of attaining justice for its past victims),” Hontiveros said.

Meanwhile, officials of the development and advocacy arm of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said the SC ruling could be considered a major change for human rights defenders and an important step towards a safer country.

“Red-tagging has instilled fear and silenced dissent for far too long. The Supreme Court’s ruling sends a clear message that such tactics will not be tolerated,” Caritas Philippines’ president Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo said in a statement.

“We call on all sectors of society to work together to foster a more tolerant and respectful environment where open discourse and dissent are encouraged.” (with a report from Ferdinand Patinio/PNA)