By EMILY VITAL
MANILA — The Office of the Ombudsman found red-taggers Lorraine Badoy and Antonio Parlade Jr. guilty of conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service and imposed upon them the penalty of reprimand.
In a decision dated March 23, 2023 on the complaint filed by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), the Ombudsman states that the respondents “are sternly warned that a repetition of a similar offense would be dealt with more severely.”
The Ombudsman, however, exonerates Hermogenes Esperon Jr. from administrative liability, saying the former national security adviser only defended Parlade and Badoy.
The Ombudsman said that while Esperon “agreed that the CPP-NPA [Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army] had underground operation with legal fronts, 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.”
Reacting to the decision, NUPL Chairperson Edre Olalia said that while they did not achieve full legal redress, the decision “can be viewed as a loud warning shot, as it were.”
“The Decision implies that any reckless innuendo & 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,” Olalia said further.
The decision came nearly three years after the complaint was filed on Dec. 9, 2020. At that time, Badoy was then undersecretary of the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) while Parlade was its spokesperson.
‘No law on red-tagging’
In its decision, the Ombudsman found no reason to hold the respondents liable for grave misconduct and grave abuse of authority, saying that there is no law or legal basis which defines and penalizes “red-tagging” or “red-baiting”.
“The NUPL argued that the statements and public utterances constitute red-tagging or red-baiting, and, as such, should make them liable for grave misconduct. However, even assuming that the statements made by the respondents can be categorized as a form of red-tagging or red-baiting as the NUPL defined it, they do not constitute misconduct as there is no intentional wrongdoing or deliberate violation of law or standard behavior,” the decision read.
NUPL has maintained that red-tagging has put their members’ lives at risk. Under the Duterte administration, three of their members were killed.
In 2019, NUPL sought protection from the Supreme Court but the Court of Appeals denied their petition for writ of amparo and habeas data.