COMMENT: Red-tagging kills. Stop making jokes about it.

This photo taken on December 10, 2020 shows a protester holding up a placard against
This photo taken on December 10, 2020 shows a protester holding up a placard against "red-tagging" during a protest to commemorate International Human Rights Day near the presidential palace in Manila. (Photo: MARIA TAN/AFP via Getty Images)

For a few days now, especially since it became apparent that Bongbong Marcos and Sara Duterte are the presumptive president and vice president, I’ve been trying to avoid social media. I just couldn’t stomach some jokes content creators and others make about red-tagging, torture, and intimidation of state forces.

I understand that some of us, as part of coping up with the results of the election, is to make fun of the theatrics of it all. And to be honest, some are genuinely funny – like the Twitter Space discussion impersonating some of our highest officials and personalities. I couldn’t stop laughing on the exchange of Vice President Leni Labrador and Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte, and President Dugong singing Kay Leni Tayo and Gab Valenciano’s Ang President Bise Presidente, some of the Leni-Kiko tandem’s campaign jingles.

But at some point, we have to draw the line on which jokes are funny and not. And good thing the Robredos – particularly Dr. Tricia and Aika – get it. In a tweet, Doc Tricia, which her elder sister Aika retweeted, said that it’s bothersome that some are impersonating them in the livestream of her sister Jillian’s graduation, and is poking fun about them turning into a nutribun. She also added:

“You’re concerned about historical revisionism but you joke about nutribun and red-tagging, as if these are things to be taken lightly. I will never reduce the atrocities of Martial Law for clout and entertainment. Neither should you.”

I wholeheartedly agree, and props to them for finally speaking up on what I, and many others, feel so strongly about. Like many other violent things such as the drug war, persecution of progressives and government critics, killings and forced disappearance, nobody should be joking about red-tagging.

Just a few months ago, Lumad School teachers like Chad Booc and Jurain Ngujo were killed in what would be known as the New Bataan 5 massacre. Before their killing, they were red-tagged and detained for supposedly teaching Lumad children to become rebels, a claim amplified by the notorious National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

In a preliminary autopsy findings of Dr. Raquel B. Del Rosario-Fortun, Booc suffered multiple gunshot wounds of the trunk, which caused his death, and internal lacerations and hemorrhages were found in his lungs, diaphragm, liver, spleen, stomach, intestines, and other internal organs. There were also fractures in some of his ribs, and his spinal cord was transected.

This is the price some of us pay for standing up for justice and the right to self-determination – a heavy price indeed because in a healthy democratic society, no person should be threatened, let alone be killed, for speaking up. And what we should be doing to honor their sacrifices is by standing up against all forms of repression and malicious tagging, not joking, or making fun out of it.

This is what red-tagging looks like – and it’s something we should be making a stand against.

Marvin Joseph Ang is a news and creative writer who follows developments in politics, democracy, and popular culture. He advocates for a free press and national democracy. The views expressed are his own.

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