MANILA — Incumbent and former members of the Makabayan bloc in Congress on Friday filed before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) a complaint against various officials of the controversial anti-communist task force over alleged election offenses.
Complainants are Kabataan Rep. Sarah Jane Elago, Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas, ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro, Makabayan Deputy Secretary General Roberto De Castro, Bayan Muna president Saturnino Ocampo, Bayan Muna 1st nominee Teodoro Casiño, and former Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao.
Impleaded in the case are officials of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) led by its spokesperson Lorraine Badoy.
Respondents are accused of violating sections 261-E, 261-I, and 261-O of the Omnibus Election Code.
Section 261-E refers to threats, intimidation, terrorism, use of fraudulent device or other forms of coercion; Section 261 refers to Intervention of public officers and employees; while 261-O refers to use of public funds, money deposited in trust, equipment, facilities owned or controlled by the government for an election campaign.
The complaint stemmed from several statements of the NTF-ELCAC purporting to an alleged alliance between the Communist Party of the Philippines-News People’s Army and presidential candidate Vice President Leni Robredo.
"Respondents, through Respondent Badoy, deliberately, willfully, and willingly issued and released the statement—which is in the nature of a fake news—not only to campaign against the various candidates mentioned, but to intimidate the general public for them to refrain or desist from participating in campaign rallies of the said targeted candidates or from casting of votes in favor of said candidates. To do so, they used equipment and other resources owned by the government," the complaint read.
The complaint alleged that the statements fall under the definition of political advertisement or election propaganda and election campaign or partisan political activity under Comelec Resolution 10730.
The complaint also pointed out that the statements were published after the period of official campaign for senators and party-list lawmakers began, making them candidates under jurisprudence.
“Under the context that Complainants are already candidates, it is obvious that the publication of the subject statement has an unavoidable effect of promoting the defeat of the candidates mentioned, directly or at the very least indirectly. Accusing them of direct links to terrorists and the revolutionary overthrow of the government is to dissuade and discourage the general public from supporting and voting for them," it said.
The complaint likewise noted that the release of the statement, its posting on social media, and dissemination to media outfits indicate that respondents made use of public equipment and other resources owned by the government, including the official accounts of the NTF-ELCAC and its officials.
“The use of the machinery of state media to disseminate electorally-motivated fake news is a glaring violation of the laws and the Constitution," the complaint said.
The complaint was lodged before the Comelec’s Law Department.
"Bawal na ang isang public official ay nag-e-electioneering," Casiño said.
Badoy and the NTF-ELCAC has yet to issue statements regarding the allegations, as of posting.
The Makabayan bloc has repeatedly accused the NTF-ELCAC of red tagging its members.