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Saturday, May 8, 2021

IBON opens to gov’t inspection days before anti-terrorism law effectivity

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 The law must be repealed because it targets economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights defenders and in doing so undermines prospects for economic democracy, human rights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.

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