Days before the new Anti-Terrorism Law takes effect, the Duterte administration continues to spread disinformation about IBON that suspiciously makes it fit into the law’s definition of terrorism. The government propaganda outfit Philippine News Agency (PNA) and National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) both recently claimed that an alleged New People’s Army (NPA) fighter killed in Iloilo was an “active member” of IBON Foundation and insinuated that IBON recruited him into the NPA. These are obviously false, said the group.
The PNA reported on July 6, 2020 that an alleged 21-year old NPA fighter killed in Iloilo at the end of June was an “active member” of IBON Foundation “prior to joining the rebel movement”. On July 9, 2020, in its official Facebook page, the NTF-ELCAC posted a graphic saying that the same alleged NPA fighter was an “active member [of] IBON Foundation-turned-NPA terrorist”. The same claim was made in the official Facebook page of the 61st Infantry Hunter Battalion of the Philippine Army.
The allegations are not just a failure of so-called military intelligence, said IBON, but maliciously fabricated. The claim is on the face of it implausible. The PNA claims that the alleged NPA rebel was 17 years old and enrolled in an undergraduate course in Iloilo when he was “recruited into the communist-terrorist group” during school year 2015-2016.
IBON Foundation does not hire students and much less a student who is based over 600 kilometers away from its Quezon City office, said the group. A diligent search of staffing records and members of IBON Foundation also did not show the name of, or even a similar name to, the alleged NPA rebel.
IBON said that the recent allegations are only the most recent in a pattern of falsehoods intentionally and maliciously promoted by the Duterte administration. Among others, in February 2019, IBON was accused of fabricating reports to the United Nations (UN) and European Union (EU) and producing textbooks to “radicalize” youth. In March, IBON was accused of funding and being a “legal front” of the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).
By February 2020, PCOO undersecretary and NTF-ELCAC spokesperson Lorraine T. Marie Badoy was implicating IBON in the “rape and sexual molestation of children” and “[teaching] 5-year-olds to be child warriors [and] 8-year-old killing machines”.
These were enough for the group to file a historic first administrative complaint of red-tagging with the Ombudsman against officials of the Armed Forces of The Philippines (AFP), Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO, which the PNA falls under), and National Security Council (NSC).
IBON said that such persistent falsehoods and malicious accusations spread by the PNA and NTF-ELCAC appear to be laying the groundwork for the Anti-Terrorism Law to be used against the institution and its research and education work. These accusations are however baseless and IBON will continue to explain socioeconomic and political issues, uphold the interest of the marginalized majority of Filipinos, and advocate against unjust and inequitable economic structures.