Red-tagging at its worst | Inquirer Opinion
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Red-tagging at its worst

/ 05:06 AM January 19, 2023

Red-tagging at its worstOne of the most professional military officers turned model politician has come under attack by Red-tagging personalities. Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong has threatened legal action against former anti-insurgency task force spokesperson Lorraine Badoy for linking him to the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).

Badoy and a certain Jeffrey Celiz, a self-proclaimed former rebel, labeled Magalong a “traitor,” a “person of no principles,” and “a friend of the CPP-NPA,” according to news reports. The accusation was reportedly aired in Pastor Apollo Quiboloy’s Sonshine Media Network International’s news channel. It was the second time that Badoy has Red-tagged Magalong for “protecting communists.” The first time was when Magalong ordered the removal of all Red-tagging posters and tarpaulins in Baguio to protect youth activists from harassment.

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Badoy and Celiz Red-tagged Magalong as their means of questioning the latter’s appointment to a powerful five-person committee that has been tasked to review the careers and lifestyles of senior police officers aimed at weeding out cops involved in the drug trade. The Marcos Jr. administration previously directed all police colonels and generals to submit their courtesy resignations. The committee will virtually play god on the fate of police officers, as they will recommend who will be retained in the police officers corps. Essentially, Magalong’s committee will determine who is “clean” or “dirty” in the drug trade in the ranks of police officers.

Magalong’s appointment to the very powerful committee speaks volumes on his integrity and the level of trust bestowed on him by the current administration. The inclusion of Magalong was even touted by Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos as the administration’s assurance to the affected police officers that the committee will function with fairness, emphasizing that the city mayor has an “untarnished reputation.”

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It is very rare for a local government official to be appointed to any governmental body that’s created to perform a nationally urgent undertaking. Magalong has managed to be appointed twice to such a body. The first time was when former president Rodrigo Duterte (Badoy’s idol) appointed Magalong as “contact tracing czar” during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, even while he was city mayor.

During the Aquino III administration, then Police Gen. Magalong led a board of inquiry that found both President Noynoy Aquino and police chief Alan Purisima liable for their act of bypassing the chain of command, which became a contributory factor that led to the Mamasapano massacre. In a 2019 Senate inquiry, Magalong testified by accusing PNP chief Oscar Albayalde of protecting police officers involved in the drug trade.

The Red-tagging of Magalong by Badoy and Celiz amounts to multiple virtual accusations: that the Marcos Jr. administration has been incompetent in its intelligence work; that the police and military organizations are inept on intelligence matters because the current administration is assumed to have obtained security clearance for Magalong’s appointment; and that the Duterte administration (of which Badoy was very much a part of) was clueless for previously reposing trust in Magalong.

The Red-tagging of Magalong bolsters claims that the widespread Red-tagging that Badoy and company has engaged in amounts to an irresponsible witch hunt aimed at stifling all forms of dissent, inclusive of those raised by purely activist individuals and organizations.

I don’t know Magalong personally, but in my book, he is among the very few local government officials who have been showing outstanding performance as local chief executives. The public must look at officials like him, together with Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas and Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto, as exemplary public servants worthy of being considered for higher position in the future because our clique of national officials desperately needs an infusion of fresh blood.

The public must condemn this Red-tagging at its worst, and all the other reckless Red-labeling made by the same dubious sources. If they can do it to someone like Magalong who is trusted by presidents, it can happen to anyone else.

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