With the Anti-Terrorism Law (ATL) soon coming into effect, research group IBON opened their office for inspection by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and Bgy. Sacred Heart officials. The group said they requested the ocular inspection to show their transparency and prove the absence of illegal materials and equipment on the premises.
“This is an important contribution to IBON asserting its character as a legitimate organization that does not, never has, and never will have the guns, explosives, and other illegal items that are wont to be planted to justify spurious search warrants and bogus charges against activists and human rights defenders,” the group’s executive director Sonny Africa said. The group said that it also wants to protect the rights and ensure the safety of IBON staff and tenants.
IBON Foundation said the inspection is in anticipation of the ATL which is presumed to become effective on July 18. The group recalled the Duterte administration’s continued disinformation drive about IBON which appears to be laying the groundwork for using the ATL against it. Africa expressed concern that the draconian and oppressive law will be used to try and hinder IBON’s research, education and advocacy work.
The CHR first inspected IBON premises in November 2019 after a reported imminent police operation on its building. It confirmed the absence of anything illegal, irregular, or prohibited on the premises.
IBON is among many non-government organizations actively red-tagged by the National Task Force to End Local Communism and Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) since late 2018. The group has repeatedly refuted allegations by the government task force that it supports terrorism. The IBON building also houses AlterMidya and IBON International who are also targets of government harassment and red-tagging.
Last February, IBON lodged a complaint at the Office of the Ombudsman against NTF-ELCAC officials: National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon; Armed Forces of the Philippines Deputy Chief of Operations Brigadier General Antonio Parlade; and Presidential Communications and Operations Office secretary Lorraine Badoy. This was for their malicious and baseless red-tagging of IBON since 2018.
IBON said that it supports petitions against the Anti-Terrorism Law filed at the Supreme Court. The law must be declared unconstitutional for being overly vague in its definition of terrorism. It gives room to target economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights defenders and in doing so undermines prospects for economic democracy, human rights and social justice. These are if anything more crucial than ever at this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, said the group.