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Caritas Philippines echoed its strong support for the Supreme Court’s landmark decision recognizing red-tagging as a threat to Filipinos’ fundamental rights.

Caritas Philippines President Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo hailed the ruling as a game-changer for human rights defenders and a crucial step towards a safer Philippines. “This decision is a victory for justice and a crucial step for a safer Philippines,” Bishop Bagaforo said in a statement released on Thursday, May 9. “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 Vice President Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, who has himself been red-tagged, spoke from personal experience about the dangers of this practice. “Red-tagging creates a climate of fear and intimidation,” he said. “In my own diocese of San Carlos, I’ve seen how it can discourage people from speaking out on issues affecting the marginalized.  The Court’s decision is a vital step towards protecting Filipinos who advocate for peace and justice.”

Bishop Alminaza elaborated on his experience, referencing a recent interview with Bulatlat: “Being red-tagged can have serious consequences.  But as a follower of Christ, I find inspiration in His teachings to love one another and fight for justice.  ‘Sicut Christus vivit’ – ‘As Christ lives’ – is my motto.  It guides me to continue serving the most vulnerable, even in the face of threats.”

Caritas Philippines emphasized that the Supreme Court’s decision is a vindication for the victims of red-tagging. “For too long, individuals and communities have been silenced and ostracized based on mere accusations,” said Bishop Alminaza. “This ruling offers a glimmer of hope and a chance for healing. We urge those who have been red-tagged to seek support and know that they are not alone,” he added.

Caritas Philippines urged the government and the military to uphold the Supreme Court’s decision and ensure the safety of all Filipinos, regardless of their political beliefs. “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,” Bishop Bagaforo concluded.

The High Court’s decision is seen as a significant development in the fight for human rights in the Philippines. It is expected to serve as a deterrent against red-tagging and promote a safer space for Filipinos to exercise their right to free expression.