Ombudsman reprimands Badoy, Parlade
Lorraine Badoy and retired Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., former spokespersons for the government’s anticommunist task force, have been reprimanded by the Ombudsman for bad behavior in baselessly branding a human rights lawyers’ group and their members as fronts for the underground communist movement.
In his Aug. 9 decision on a complaint filed by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), which was made public on Thursday, Ombudsman Samuel Martires “sternly warned” the two former officials that they “would be dealt with more severely” if they repeated a similar offense.
Assistant Ombudsman Pilarita Lapitan found the former spokespersons for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) guilty of conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service on March 23. She recommended a “reprimand,” the lightest punishment for such an offense under Administrative Order No. 7 of the Office of the Ombudsman.
The other penalties under AO No. 7 include suspension without pay for one month up to a maximum of one year, demotion or dismissal from the service, or a fine equivalent to one month’s salary or up to a year. The Ombudsman can also cancel the erring officials’ eligibility, forfeit their retirement benefits, and perpetually disqualify them from government service.
Edre Olalia, who was the NUPL president at the time, likened the reprimand to a mere “pyrrhic victory” that did not give his group “full legal redress” which they had desired for being Red-tagged. Nevertheless, he said the decision against the former NTF-Elcac officials was a “loud warning shot.”
“The decision implies that any reckless innuendo and gratuitous vitriol against human rights lawyers (and by extension, against activists and human rights defenders for that matter) to silence dissent, opposition or rights awareness, will not be countenanced and will be sanctioned one way or the other, sooner or later, in time,” he said in a statement on Thursday.
Badoy is now a host of a television program on Sonshine Media Network International where she continues her anticommunist tirades. Parlade is active on Facebook.
The NUPL accused Badoy, Parlade and then National Security Adviser and NTF-Elcac Vice Chair Hermogenes Esperon Jr. of “identifying progressive organizations and their members as communist terrorist being mere fronts” of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the New People’s Army (NPA) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
In their defense, the former officials said their statements on the NUPL were part of their duties and responsibilities to “educate the public” on the presence of “communist terrorist groups.”
They said that labeling the NUPL and its members as legal fronts of the CPP-NPA did not pose “an actual threat” to their lives, liberty and security.
Parlade and Badoy said their statements were “made in the discharge of their functions as members of the NTF-Elcac particularly their role to combat the [communist] propaganda.”
Vital in a democracy
But the Ombudsman indicated that they went overboard.
“[T]his Office finds that some of these statements appear to criticize the NUPL, activists and other progressive groups over activities which do not in itself constitute or amount to what a reasonable person would conceive as ‘communist propaganda,’” the Ombudsman said.
“In particular they both issued statements critical on the NUPL’s forum on dissent and its information drive to educate the public about their rights amidst growing concerns of rights violations during the [pandemic] lockdown,” Martires added. “These matters are not communist propaganda as dissent and upholding of individual rights are vital in a vibrant democracy.”
The Ombudsman said that the statement by Badoy and Parlade against NUPL “unduly tarnishes” the image of NTF-Elcac “as it perpetuates the notion that it is being used as a governmental tool to silence dissent or opposition instead of legitimately pursuing its ultimate goal of lasting peace and ending the armed conflict with the communist rebels.”
The Ombudsman dismissed the complaint against Esperon, finding no reason to hold him administratively liable.
Martires said that Esperon only publicly defended Parlade and Badoy and “he was not concluding that the NUPL is part of the CPP but that some of its members are allegedly part of these organizations working for the CPP.”
The NUPL case against the three NTF-Elcac officials is just one in a string of Red-tagging cases filed by progressive groups and individuals in the Office of the Ombudsman during the Duterte administration. Martires last week said there was no specific law against Red-tagging.