Atom Araullo files P2-million damage suit vs red-taggers Badoy, Celiz

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Atom Araullo files P2-million damage suit vs red-taggers Badoy, Celiz
Journalist Atom Araullo files a P2-million civil suit against red-taggers Lorraine Badoy and Jeffrey Celiz for “maliciously” disseminating defamatory statements on September 11, 2023.
National Union of Journalists of the Philippines

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 2: 44 p.m.) — Journalist Atom Araullo filed a P2-million civil suit against Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) hosts and red-taggers Lorraine Badoy and Jeffrey Celiz for “maliciously” disseminating defamatory statements.

Araullo filed a civil complaint Monday at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court to seek redress for damages and injury he has suffered as a result of the malicious dissemination of defamatory statements by the former spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and an individual who claims to be a former New People’s Army rebel. 

Badoy and Celiz are hosts of the show “Laban Kasama ang Bayan” on SMNI, which is owned by controversial televangelist Apollo Quiboloy, who is facing sex trafficking and money smuggling charges in the United States. 

The multi-awarded journalist, television anchor and documentary filmmaker stressed that Badoy and Celiz have have committed acts contrary Articles 19, 20, 21, 26, and 33 of the New Civil Code of the Philippines, which safeguard every individual's personal rights, human relations and dignity, leading to serious damage and injury to his reputation, peace of mind, and personal relations.

In a statement, Araullo said that he filed the case for the "safety and well-being" of his family.

“I initially chose to ignore their attacks owing to their apparent absurdity. But because I've seen how treacherous, persuasive, and harmful disinformation can be, especially when left unchecked, I have resolved to push back,” the broadcast journalist said.

“I am doing this for the safety and well-being of my family, but I also hope it contributes in a modest way to protecting press freedom in general,” he added.

Araullo did not file a criminal case against Badoy and Celiz as he is against the criminalization of libel.

“[I] would prefer not to invoke it because it also endangers legitimate journalism. Still, malicious perpetrators of disinformation must be stopped and held accountable,” he said.

In July, Araullo’s mother Carol, the chair emeritus of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), also filed a similar complaint against Badoy and Celiz for “incessantly and wantonly” vilifying her organization.

The SMNI hosts accused Atom of being a “spawn” of an “active CPP Central Committee leader” and vilified him as a journalist who produces contents that align with the propaganda of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front.

Red-tagging of journalists

Human rights organizations have warned that red-tagging poses serious risks to the safety and security of individuals and groups falsely labeled as communists or terrorists. 

“This dangerous narrative is used to justify arrests, trumped-up charges, surveillance and other forms of harassment against human rights defenders, including journalists,” the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said. NUJP has recorded 19 incidents of red-tagging under the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio, who had been red-tagged and subjected to surveillance, was arrested in Tacloban City in 2020 and remains in jail over fabricated charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives and financing terrorism.

Independent media organizations Altermidya, Bulatlat, Kodao and Pinoy Weekly and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa previously filed separate administrative charges against Badoy over her baseless labeling.

Cagayan de Oro-based journalist Cong Corrales also filed a petition before the Data Privacy Commission earlier this year, seeking to unmask anonymous Facebook accounts that have persistently targeted him.

NUJP and several of its officers have also been repeatedly red-tagged for their defense of press freedom and the right to free expression.

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