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Lorraine Badoy's threat of raps over fact-check an affront to people's right to know — groups

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Lorraine Badoy's threat of raps over fact-check an affront to people's right to know � groups
Sreengrab shows PCOO Usec. Lorraine Badoy.
News5 YouTube Channel, Screen grab

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 4:06 p.m.) — Groups under the Movement Against Disinformation on Tuesday called Presidential Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Marie Badoy's announcement of a government plan to sue Facebook and Rappler over a fact-check piece on her statement a form of intimidation and harassment.

MAD, which comprises lawyers' groups and NGOS, said that legal action planned by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict is "clearly an affront to the freedom of expression and the people’s right to know."

MAD members include the Philippine Bar Association, Alternative Law Groups, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, Karapatan and iDefend Philippines.

"By attacking the fact-checkers, [Undersecretary] Badoy made it clear which sides she stands on the battle for truth. We denounce her action and all forms of intimidation and harassment against fact-checkers and independent media," they added.

Karapatan, which the NTF-ELCAC has in the past accused of links to communist rebels, issued a separate statement calling Badoy's statement "yet another unhinged but dangerous threat."

Badoy last week wrote on a Facebook post that the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, of which she is a member and is one of the spokespersons, is "taking legal action against Rappler for its spread its disinformation that has brought and continues to bring great harm on our people and our beloved country."

The official, who has long been accused of red-tagging — or accusing people and groups of being supporters or members of the communist insurgency — took offense at the fact-check Rappler wrote on her statement that Makabayan lawmakers are "urban operatives" of communist guerrillas.

Government has long insisted that the Makabayan party-lists, which has representation at the House, are communist front organizations, an allegation that the groups and others red-tagged by government have rejected and denied.

Red-tagging, which puts the subjects of the accusations in danger, is also considered a form of disinformation by experts like journalism professor Danilo Arao.

In March 2021, Badoy also red-tagged Rappler and called them “a friend and ally” and “mouthpiece” of communist rebels after she aired grievances over two fact-check articles by the online news outlet.

"We should never allow this public official to abuse the powers of her office in the guise of protecting the interests of the citizens. This kind of behavior shatters public trust in fact-checkers and creates an enabling environment for their persecution and prosecution," MAD added.

"Rappler’s credibility as a media organization and as a fact-checking institution is certainly the direct opposite of [Badoy] and the NTF-ELCAC’s widely-known notoriety for spreading lies that have incited and directed violence and great harm against human rights defenders, journalists, and their communities," Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay meanwhile said.

"All freedom-loving Filipinos should condemn this abominable stunt of abominable Badoy. Such acts further validate the need for the dangerous and despicable NTF-ELCAC to be abolished," she also said.

Elections fact-checking

Badoy said the NTF-ELCAC will also sue Facebook for allowing Rappler and VERA Files "to abuse the immense powers" of their designation as fact-checkers.

But MAD pointed out that the two media organizations are signatories of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter in the United States. The two media organizations also part of coalitions FactsFirstPH and Tsek.Ph, separate efforts that gather media, the academe and NGOs to combat disinformation in the lead up to the elections. 

Philstar.com is part of the Philippine Fact-check Incubator —  an Internews project to build up the fact-checking capacity of news organizations in the Philippines and encourage participation in global fact-checking efforts. It is also a member of Tsek.ph.

Philstar Global Corp. property InterAksyon is a member of FactsFirstPH.

"Fact-checking aims to combat the spread of demonstrably false disinformation that can confuse the potentially immobilize and harm the public. Fact-checking is part of journalism’s commitment to provide the public with accurate information they need to become informed citizens, especially during elections," MAD also said.

University of the Philippines associate professor Yvonne Chua, among the members of Tsek.Ph, said last week that their election fact checks showed that Vice President Leni Robredo is the "biggest victim of disinformation or negative messaging."

Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., Robredo’s archrival, meanwhile has been a subject of misleading claims that are “largely positive, in his favor.”

Marcos has repeatedly denied he employs a “troll farm,” and agreed that “those who spread fake news, some of it is dangerous, that I think we have to do something about.”

In a recent interview with Korina Sanchez, Marcos added: “The whole nature of the internet is it is open. Open-sourced ang tawag nila, so hindi mo naman pwedeng pigilan where we draw the line. That's what we're wrestling with now.”

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