Woman educator and church leader red-tagged in Cagayan de Oro

A Cagayan de Oro public school teacher and woman leader of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente was among the victims of renewed red-tagging under martial law in Mindanao.

Ophelia Tabacon, vice-president of the church organization Women of the Philippine Independent Church (WOPIC) in Canitoan parish, Diocese of Cagayan de Oro, was labelled “communist” and “supporter and recruiter of the New People’s Army” (NPA) in flyers distributed around Cagayan de Oro City on September 12.

The flyers contained the names of several other human rights defenders and political activists with alleged links to the communist NPA. Tabacon’s son Sigfyl was also named as an NPA leader.

Posters carrying Tabacon’s photos also appeared on a wall outside Camaman-an Elementary School where she was branded as “maestro komunista” (communist teacher), accused of indoctrinating students to become communists.

Tabacon is the current regional chairperson of the progressive Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) in Northern Mindanao.

Tabacon claimed state agents placed her under surveillance and were monitoring her activities since she joined the organization in 2014. “They kept on tailing me around, invading my personal life, and stalked even my social media account,” she said.

Flyers red-tagging Tabacon first circulated in February 22. In March, Tabacon received a subpoena that implicates her over a raid conducted by the NPA at a military camp in Surigao del Sur.

Tabacon has also been receiving death threats. In April, a message sent through her social media account told her her days are already numbered. The poster with her picture found near the school on September 12 was printed with the words “Stop what you are doing before it is too late!”

Tabacon said she is unmoved by the attacks. “Despite all of these threats, red tagging, and other malicious acts committed against my name and ACT, I will never stop from advancing my fellow teachers’ rights and welfare through unionism,” she said.

In a statement issued on the same day, ACT Union Region 10 condemned the attacks on Tabacon and the teachers’ union movement. The organization strongly believes the harassment and red-tagging of Tabacon and ACT were the works of state agents.

“Ophelia Tabacon, her family, and all the names in the flyers are in grave danger due to the irresponsible, cowardly, and malicious red-tagging of the perpetrators. Accusing Ophelia of being an NPA combatant puts her at risk of extrajudicial killings and other forms of violations on her right to life and liberty,” the statement read.

ACT Teachers party-list representative France Castro has also strongly denounced the attacks against Tabacon. “The terrorist tagging of Ophelia Tabacon is again an endangerment of our coordinator and the teachers she serves and an attack on union rights,” Castro said.

ACT Teachers party-list filed a resolution at the House of Representative, condemning the threats and harassment against Tabacon.

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