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Editor’s Note: This is a brief autobiography of the writer and editor of the Philippine Pundit, Regel Javines, former editor-in-chief of an official student publication of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), Taguig Campus as what he perceived he was red-tagged in his job hunting journey lately. If in any case, this story bears some resemblance, similarities, or likeness to one’s story be it as it is or it might be just coincidental. You may also read more about him here: “Iskolar ng bayan in PUP: Activist-journalist, Part 1” and “Iskolar ng bayan in PUP: Activist-journalist, Part 2

Carlos Conde, a senior Philippines researcher at Human Rights Watch said, “Red-tagging is a pernicious practice that targets people who often end up being harassed or even killed.”

Wikipedia defines red-tagging as a “malicious blacklisting of individuals or organizations critical of the actions of the sitting government.”

To be red-tagged is definitely uncomfortable and alarming. To be mistakenly red-tagged is solitary.

Red-tagged: 7 years and counting as HIV positive: Does anybody care?
To be mistakenly red-tagged is solitary.

“Sir Javines, you are temporarily excused from this virtual meeting, Sir,” Sergeant X politely advised me implying my logout from the virtual meeting that early afternoon. I thought it was normal as there might be something confidential beyond my duty and responsibility. I waited for about a few minutes expecting Sergeant X to call me back through my mobile the soonest to explain, at least, a thing or two.

Before I was accepted for a job as a research analyst for the intelligence unit in one of the three main service branches of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, I had worked lately as a security officer in a posh casino resort and hotel complex and as a deskman for business news in the oldest existing English language daily newspaper in the country.

Then came the late first quarter of 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. Throughout the year I kept on looking for a job until the late first quarter of 2021 when the head of an intelligence unit called me as someone referred my application to his office. Not only did I accept the job out of necessity but also out of feeling I was “at home” because simply that’s how I felt.

I grappled to finish all my job requirements despite financial setbacks so I could submit them the soonest. Then, I received job assignments—paperwork—research, analysis, and manual revision.

I understand full well that the nature of my work is highly confidential as it concerns national security so to speak.

It was nearly two weeks since I have been working for the unit. A virtual meeting was set up to finalize things that concerned the tasks we were doing at that time for the incoming event that will take on issues about national security. I was assigned to issues on foreign development.

Red-tagged student activist

Sergeant X advised me to log out from the virtual meeting. I followed. A few minutes, Officer X from the unit I worked for called me over my mobile phone and asked me about my background when I was a student at the PUP—the inquiry that made me wonder why it happened seemed to me like I was interrogated. I felt red-tagged.

Officer X asked me about who’s who I connected with, what did I do, and for what purpose the actions I did. I honestly told him that I worked for the studentry as a student leader, as a campus journalist. In some circumstances, I joined other students from various schools for campus journalism issues, national situations on human rights violations, and updates about national well-being as part of our press work as members of the Fourth Estate—press.

Later on in our “phone interrogation” Officer X asked me to put in writing all that I told him and all the things I knew or did when I was a student. I followed.

That very same day while Officer X and I talked over the phone, I got fired. Politely he advised me that my employment with the unit is done. And I would be receiving full compensation good for the entire cut-off—no deductions, no pay slips. At that moment, I felt I was denied, entirely robbed.

On the following day, Officer Y went to my house and asked me to delete all the files related to my work with them that were stored on my computer. He also asked to delete all the emails and online correspondences I had with them and privy to the team of the unit I worked for. That’s how the nature of my job is so important that they bother to personally come inside my room to make sure that all information and documents are safe and sound and under control. I understood though I felt harassed as I was mistakenly mislabeled as such—a national security threat.

Campus activism is not terrorism

Campus journalism and student activism aren’t terrorism, nor communism at all. Education isn’t only about learning to read the ABCs and count the 123s but also molding the learners’ minds to think critically and train them to act responsively to the demands of time.

Not all works of student activism are associated with left-wing politics and concepts. The same holds true for all political movements’ goals that are not at all associated with working toward the collective goal. Often, self-interest prevails—be it for self-improvement, self-destruction, or be it otherwise uncommon to most of us.

“A scholar of the Communist Party of the Philippines”

“Javines, it appears you are one of the scholars of the Communist Party of the Philippines,” Sergeant X declared. “What did you do as a security officer in Okada?” he asked. I was kind of like shocked or perplexed, the most certain. I said, “I don’t know about it, Sir. It never came to my knowledge even then.”

Perhaps, I was mistakenly red-tagged, wrongfully misinterpreted. I got fired without any acceptable and valid reason on my end. Although I was not employed yet formally as I need first to undergo background assessments, I believed and I just felt I was denied and robbed. I was denied an opportunity to work in government service as a way to pay the government back for being iskolar ng bayan. I was robbed of a chance to grow and either to take part or take the lead in any means possible and doable.

I am one of those Career Service Professional Eligibility passers who have the same fate I have—denied an opportunity to work in the government service. I was not one of the scholars of the Communist Party of the Philippines if there was such a thing. Neither had I legitimately connected to any communist and terrorist networks, which the Duterte government simplistically associated civil society groups and student activism with terrorism and communism indiscriminately. Rather, I am a legitimate iskolar ng bayan with an open mind and with high regard for free will, self-cultivation, and loyal to the blood I bleed. –RQJ

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