NTF-ELCAC's Lorraine Badoy sued at Ombudsman over red-tagging spree

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
NTF-ELCAC's Lorraine Badoy sued at Ombudsman over red-tagging spree
Sreengrab shows PCOO Usec. Lorraine Badoy.
News5 YouTube Channel, Screen grab

MANILA, Philippines — Presidential Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy, also a spokesperson for the government's anti-communist task force, could be suspended after three separate administrative complaints were filed against her before the Office of the Ombudsman on Wednesday.

The complaints filed by 26 activists, religious groups, teachers, and student leaders accuse Badoy — a medical doctor by training but who now speaks for the government's National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict — of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

"By utilizing the infrastructure of state media for purposes of influencing the minds of voters vis-a-vis the May 9, 2022 elections, Undersecretary Badoy has besmirched the reputation of her fellow public servant in the process," the petitions read. 

"We are collectively shocked at such behavior, which we believe is unbecoming of Undersecretary Badoy's office...we believe that she should be disciplined for such breach of the public's trust." 

Badoy claims communist conspiracy

This comes after Badoy baselessly accused Vice President Leni Robredo of entering into an alliance with the Communist Party of the Philippines, pointing to the endorsement she received from the progressive Makabayan bloc, which has long been accused by the government of being a communist front group.

Lawyer Tony La Viña, spokesperson for the petitioners, said that the three complaints were "only the first in a series of complaints and legal action" that the group is preparing against disinformation. He said there were more to come in the coming weeks.

Former Rep. Mong Palatino (Kabataan party-list), among the petitioners, pointed out that the party-lists under the Makabayan bloc have always been registered and duly-elected groups. He said that red-tagging during campaign season is meant to "derail the surging popularity of opposition groups and candidates."

Palatino added that the complaints were meant to "highlight the culture of red-tagging" rather than just a specific instance. 

Why does this matter?

Activists and human rights workers have long been the target of 'red-tagging', which Philippine jurisprudence defines as "the act of labeling, branding, naming and accusing individuals and/or organizations of being left-leaning, subversives, communists or terrorists (used as) a strategy… by state agents, particularly law enforcement agencies and the military, against those perceived to be ‘threats’ or ‘enemies’ of the state."

The Commission on Human Rights has warned that the practice of red-tagging, which has increased in 2020, "violates the constitutional guarantee of presumption of innocence and may have serious implications on the security and movement of individuals and groups involved."

Activists and human rights advocates like Zara Alvarez, Ryan Hubilla, Jory Porquia, and most recently, Chad Booc, were eventually gunned down after they had previously been accused of being communist rebels.

Badoy has denied that her task force practices red-tagging, preferring to call its conflating activists with armed combatants as "truth-tagging."

The NTF-ELCAC has also been caught spreading false information on more than one occasion in order to justify its red-tagging. 

The government's Anti-Terrorism Council has designated the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People's Army and the National Democratic Front as terrorist organizations, proscription or declarinfg membership in them a crime lies with the courts.

La Viña, at the press conference Wednesday, said that the recent red-tagging of Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, a former general, "says a lot about the intolerance, the carelessness, and the recklessness" of the practice.

This is not the first time complaints have been filed against Badoy as similar petitions have already been lodged by groups like the IBON Foundation, human rights group Karapatan, and the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers.

READ: Labeling dissent as rebellion 'institutionalized, normalized' in Philippines — UN report

NTF-ELCAC's history of red-tagging

  • Earlier in the coronavirus pandemic, the NTF-ELCAC admitted to "monitoring" the community pantries that had sprouted all over the country "but not profiling" them. 
  • Its former spokesperson, retired general Antonio Parlade has also accused Inquirer.net reporter Tetch Torres-Tupas, over her story on Aetas who said they endured torture from the military.
  • Parlade also implied that actresses Angel Locsin and Liza Soberano were linked to the communist insurgency. A similar complaint was eventually filed against him at the Office of the Ombudsman. 
  • When its claims were fact-checked by online news site Rappler, the task force labeled Rappler “a friend and ally” and “mouthpiece” of communist rebels.
  • During the hearings on broadcast giant ABS-CBN Corp.'s franchise application, the NTF-ELCAC published a series of infographics accusing the company of franchise violations that government agencies said at House hearings did not exist or had already been addressed.

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