The Office of the Ombudsman is reinforcing the culture of impunity by turning a cold shoulder to mounting criminal complaints against government officials red-tagging activists, research group IBON said. The group supported petitioners urging the Ombudsman to suspend National Task Force to End Local Communism and Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) officials who persistently red-tag individuals and institutions that are critical of the Duterte administration. Most recently, they accused Vice President Leni Robredo of conspiring with communists for her election bid.
Twenty-six individuals coming from the ranks of teachers, progressive organizations and youth groups represented by lawyers Antonio La Viña and Rico Domingo filed three complaints asking the Ombudsman to suspend NTF-ELCAC spokesperson Lorraine Badoy for violating the anti-graft law and the code of conduct for public officials. The filing has been followed by protest actions in Metro Manila. The complaints cited Badoy’s recent malicious vilification and red-tagging of activists, development workers, church people, artists, and even media on government shows, interviews and Facebook.
IBON filed the first complaint against NTF-ELCAC officials Badoy, retired Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. in February 2020 after a year of being constantly vilified by the task force spokespersons. A year later, the group lamented the Ombudsman’s inaction.
Now, over two years since filing , the group said that the Ombudsman’s passivity appears deliberate and intended to enable non-stop red-tagging by the Duterte administration for its own self-serving ends. Despite repeated visits and emails to follow up the complaint, the Ombudsman merely keeps saying that it is “active to date and is currently under evaluation”. There has not yet been any response to IBON’s most recent request for an update in November 2021.
IBON already reminded the Ombudsman that Section 12 of the Constitution mandates the Office of the Ombudsman to “act promptly” on complaints filed before it: “The Ombudsman and his Deputies, as protectors of the people, shall act promptly on complaints filed in any form or manner against public officials or employees of the Government, or any subdivision, agency or instrumentality thereof, including government-owned or controlled corporations, and shall, in appropriate cases, notify the complainants of the action taken and result thereof.”
This is repeated in Section 13 of The Ombudsman Act of 1989 or Republic Act No. 6670 which provides for the functional and structural organization of the office of the Ombudsman. The group pointed out that two years and two months of inaction on its red-tagging complaint against relentlessly malicious NTF-ELCAC officials fuels not just gross disinformation but also human rights violations.
IBON stressed that the Ombudsman should waste no more time in holding Badoy and the other NTF-ELCAC officials accountable for their misconduct and violations, and also supported calls that they be stripped of their positions.