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 and got fired. 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 the writer here: Of Full Iskolar ng Bayan in PUP. Of Marxist-Leninist-Maoist Ideology. [Part 1] and Of Full Iskolar ng Bayan in PUP. Of Marxist-Leninist-Maoist Ideology. [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.” On the other hand, 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 uncomfortable and alarming. To be mistakenly red-tagged is solitary. This is how I felt when I was seemingly red-tagged in my workplace.
“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 through my mobile phone to further explain, at least, a thing or two.
On the late second week of March 2021, an officer of an intelligence unit in one of the three main service branches of the Armed Forces of the Philippines called me through my mobile phone at around 11AM. He said that someone referred my application to his office for a Research Analyst position. He interviewed me over the phone and offered the job which I accepted not only for out of necessity amid the COVID-19 pandemic but also for the feeling that “I was at home, at last.” That was how I simply felt.
Before I joined the intelligence unit as a Research Analyst focusing on the area of foreign development, I worked, in most recent, as a security officer at Okada Manila and then as a Deskman for business news at The Manila Times.
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 I was hired by an intelligence unit.
I grappled to finish all my job requirements despite financial setbacks so I could submit them the soonest. Soon after, I received job assignments: paperwork, national security and foreign development research and analysis, and military operation manual review for necessary revisions or modifications.
I understand full well that the nature of my work is highly confidential as it concerns national security so to speak. And I must comply with all requirements needed and dispose of all delegated responsibilities.
It was nearly two weeks since I have been working for the intelligence unit when a virtual meeting was scheduled to consolidate and finalize national security reports and foreign development updates needed for the upcoming national conference.
The virtual meeting started and roughly 10 minutes past, Sergeant X advised me to leave the meeting. I followed. A few minutes past, the officer of the intelligence unit who hired me called. We talked over the phone asking information as what he referred to as an “additional background” about me when I was a student at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines – Taguig Campus.
This time I felt uncomfortable as I felt there was a problem being a student leader before. This conversation over the phone made me wonder why it happened and it seemed to me like I was interrogated. I felt I was red-tagged.
While over the phone, and I expected it was recorded, the officer asked me about the “who’s who” I connected with, what did I do, and what was the purpose of those things—what he referred to was my involvement with student activism and my connection to those who’s who.
As honestly as I could for I did not know what “bugs” or devices he had while “interrogating” me over the phone, I told him that I worked for the students as a student leader and as a campus journalist that time when I was in college. I told him that in some circumstances, I joined other students from various schools for campus journalism issues, national situations on human rights violations, and developments about national issues and interests of concern as part of our press work being members of the so-called Fourth Estate, the press.
Furthermore, I told him that the official student publication in which I was the editor at that time is a member of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP). I told it despite knowing about the CEGP reportedly identified by the Philippine government’s National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict in 2020 as a “communist-front organization.” I had no hesitation telling it because I knew I was not the “who” they thought I was.
“Why did you work as a security officer in Okada? What did you do in The Manila Times,” he asked.
I was kind of shocked or perplexed, the most certain. Because I could not imagine the relevance of my previous work as a security guard and as a business news researcher and copy editor to connect them to those absurd accusations implying to declare me as a threat to national security.
Later on, the officer 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 his order and submitted it that very same day roughly 30 minutes after we talked.
Moments later, the officer called me again over the phone and got me fired.
Politely, he advised me that my employment with the intelligence unit is done. He said that I would be receiving the full compensation good for the entire cut-off—no deductions, no pay slips. Simply put, no paper trail. I learned it from the manual, of course.
At that moment, I felt I was denied and entirely robbed.
Flagged as a ‘CPP Scholar’
Later that same day, Sergeant X called me and explained further to me about what happened.
“Javines, accordingly, you are one of the scholars of the Communist Party of the Philippines [CPP],” Sergeant X declared. “The intelligence report shows your name in the list as one of those scholars of the terrorist group,” he added.
I was confused but not nervous. Instead, I was disappointed. “Your intelligence failed,” I told Sergeant X. “I don’t know about it, Sir. It never came to my knowledge even then that I was with those people [terrorists]. I paid my tuition on my own; I even worked full-time on weekends and some part-time work during weekdays so I could support not only for the entire course of my study but also for my filial obligation and my daily needs,” I further said.
On the following day, another officer of the intelligence unit went to my house, got inside, and asked me to delete all the files related to my work with them that were stored on my computer. He also asked me to delete all the emails and online correspondences I had with them and privy to the intelligence unit I worked with for almost two weeks.
We both knew that what he did to come inside my house was alarming. It clearly overstepped the limits of being a private citizen inside my private abode. But I had to cooperate with them as I was not guilty of its intelligence’s weird accusations. I even quipped to poke fun at saying, “Sir, I should expect that you will bug my room from now on or has it bugged already?” The officer just slyly smiled.
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 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 or 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 activities of student activism are associated with left-wing politics and concepts. The same holds true for all political movements’ goals. They 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.
Perhaps, I was mistakenly red-tagged, wrongfully misinterpreted. I got fired without any acceptable and valid reason on my end.
I 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 an iskolar ng bayan. I was robbed of a chance to grow and either take part or take the lead by 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 even one of the “scholars” of the Communist Party of the Philippines if there was such a thing.
Moreover, neither had I knowingly connected to any communist and terrorist networks that 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 high regard for free will, self-cultivation, and loyal to the blood I bleed. ▲
Regel Javines is, at present, working on his M.A. in Philosophy at the University of San Carlos attempting to understand life and existence through the lens of Gnosticism, spirituality, and ontological mathematics. He has been writing since 2011 publishing news, commentary, and opinion about politics, law, and various pressing social issues of interest. More >>