Gov’t creating pretext to use Anti-Terrorism Law against IBON?

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
offices, 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.

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