One year has come and gone but the Ombudsman is still sitting on IBON’s administrative complaint filed versus certain government officials for red-tagging, said the research group. IBON said that the Ombudsman’s inaction is enabling red-taggers to continue their baseless and malicious vilification against them. IBON challenged the Ombudsman to live up to its mandate and take immediate steps to hold red-tagging government officials accountable.
Since it filed a historic first red-tagging complaint in February 2020, IBON said that the red-tagging has been non-stop. The complaint was filed against Southern Luzon Command chief Lt. General Antonio Parlade, Jr., Presidential Communications and Operations Office (PCOO) Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy, and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon.
The respondents and the National Task Force to End Local Communism and Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) continue to aggressively vilify IBON through public interviews, written statements, and their social media accounts. Badoy and Parlade, for instance, continue to accuse IBON of being a “legal front” and its staff as members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) through their Facebook posts and tweets. Both officials have a significant following – Badoy has 115,007 Facebook followers, while Parlade has 8,561 Facebook and 3,405 Twitter followers.
Also, during a November 3 Senate hearing on red-tagging, the NTF-ELCAC through interior and local government secretary Eduardo M. Año, presented a video claiming that an alleged NPA fighter killed in Iloilo at the end of June 2020 was a member of IBON. More recently, Parlade wrote an op-ed column in The Manila Times accusing IBON and other organizations of being front organizations and colluding with the CPP to “control the narrative at the UN and Europe, mostly with negative reports and fabricated lies”.
The group said that the persistent red-tagging and harassment aims to disrupt IBON’s research and advocacy work. This is causing various levels of anxiety among staff now concerned about their security. IBON’s executive director and research head in particular have been repeatedly named and vilified by Badoy and Parlade since the complaint filed with the Ombudsman.
IBON said that the Ombudsman is becoming an enabler of the non-stop red-tagging by its failure to take action on IBON’s complaint. IBON’s staff and legal counsel have followed up on this but the Ombudsman has not reported any progress to date.
The group noted however that, even before the pandemic, the Ombudsman has had a passive record in fulfilling its mandate to protect Filipinos from abusive and corrupt government officials. Since Duterte appointed former Supreme Court Justice Samuel Martires in 2018, the Ombudsman’s filing rate fell from 2,513 cases in 2017 to 739 cases in 2018, 198 in 2019 and 117 in 2020 – the lowest in 13 years. Even the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has gone ahead of the Ombudsman and launched an investigation against Parlade on his red-tagging of a journalist, said the group.
IBON said that one year is too long for the Ombudsman to remain idle on IBON’s administrative complaint. The Ombudsman should uphold its mandate and take immediate steps to hold government officials like Badoy, Parlade and Esperon accountable for their misconduct. They should not just be given a mere slap on the wrist but stripped from their positions, said the group.