SC defends judiciary from online abuse

AT GROUND LEVEL - Satur C. Ocampo - The Philippine Star

“By merely having access to social media, private individuals could publish their thoughts without need of self-policing or adhering to the ethical standard required of the press. As a result, content could be created and shared with abandon, purely for clout for ‘likes’ and even disregard for the truth.”

That rebuke came from no less than the Supreme Court, in a unanimous verdict finding Lorraine Badoy-Partosa guilty of indirect contempt of court for statements she made online in September 2022 attacking Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 19 Judge Marlo Magdoza-Malagar. Senior Associate Justice Marvic Leonen wrote the 52-page decision.

Badoy-Partosa, former NTF-ELCAC spokesperson, posted her attacks on Facebook after Judge Magdoza-Malagar, on Sept. 21, 2022, dismissed the Department of Justice’s petition to proscribe the CPP-NPA as a terrorist group under the Human Security Act of 2007.

Among others, the high court took note of the following: Badoy claimed that the judge was friendly with the CPP-NPA, “weaponiz[ing] the court to further inflict harm on the people” allegedly caused by the latter. She threatened to kill Judge Magdoza-Malagar (“… if I kill this judge…out of my political belief that all allies of the CPP-NPA must be killed… please be lenient with me”). She threatened to bomb the offices of judges whom she considered to be “friends of terrorists.” She called the judge “unprincipled and rotten” and claimed the latter’s husband was a CPP-NPA member.

Her attacks online, the ruling noted, generated comments and responses filled with the same vitriol as her posts, openly supporting and even offering assistance. 

The petition asking the SC to cite Badoy for indirect contempt was filed by a group of lawyers led by the Movement Against Disinformation (MAD), organized by the activist Antonio La Vina.

In resolving the petition, the SC stressed the need to balance the exercise of free speech and the protection of judicial independence. While the freedom of expression must be as fully protected as possible, “its exercise must never transgress the equally important aspects of democracy, not least of all the Judiciary’s dignity and authority.”

To ensure judicial independence, courts possess the inherent power to punish for contempt, the ruling said. This power is essential to preserve order in judicial proceedings, and for courts to enforce their judgments, orders and mandates and ensure the due administration of justice. This also prevents “the proliferation of untruths which, if unrefuted, would gain an undue influence in the public discourse.”

In sum, the SC found that Badoy’s Facebook posts constitute improper conduct which tends, directly or indirectly, to impede, distrust or degrade the administration of justice – which equates to indirect contempt.

“(Badoy’s) clear threats…leave no doubt that she was imbued with bad faith in making her posts,” said the court. She thus “jeopardized the Judiciary by sowing distrust and impairing the public’s confidence in the honesty, integrity and impartiality of those donning judicial robes.

“She was not merely advancing her advocacy when she made those incendiary statements on social media; she effectively made a call to action against Judge Magdoza-Malagar and the entire Judiciary. This, we cannot allow.”

Because of all that, the Supreme Court fined Badoy P30,000 and warned that a repetition of the same or similar acts shall merit more severe sanction. The ruling also reminded online personalities of their “duty to verify the truthfulness of the content they put out in the internet.”

 Human rights alliance Karapatan welcomed the decision, saying it “(brought) to the fore the very real dangers posed by the terrorist- and red-tagging being done by Badoy and the NTF-ELCAC and their ilk.”

“At the minimum, victims of red- and terrorist-tagging suffer mental and psychological torture. Some were forced to relocate to avoid further persecution, as red/terrorist-tagging is often accompanied by more serious forms of harassment. It has led to the illegal arrest and detention, enforced disappearance or even extrajudicial killing of the victims,” Karapatan pointed out.

The SC ruling is “one legal victory earned by the people’s continuing struggle to expose and oppose human rights violations like Badoy’s and her coterie of fascists and liars in the NTF-ELCAC,” it concluded.

Meantime, Karapatan condemned the apparent escalation of military operations against the NPA in Panay and Negros islands, where the AFP has been resorting to artillery strikes and aerial bombings that have terrorized the civilian population there.

In Escalante, Negros Occidental, the  Philippine Army’s 79th  Infantry Battalion concocted stories, said Karapatan, about “numerous” encounters with the NPA to justify its “indiscriminate firing, strafing and bombing” that has caused the forced evacuation of 300 families from nine barangays in Escalante and the town of Toboso.

Reports from the locality, however, show that there was only one encounter on Feb. 21. According to the human rights watchdog, the Philippine Army exaggerated the number of firefights to justify its use of “disproportionate force, in apparent violation of international humanitarian law.”

The military reportedly used its newly-purchased T-129 attack helicopters to test their capability to terrorize the people in the area of operation. The attacks have resulted in the deaths of two alleged NPA fighters and of a local farmer, Jose Caramahan, who was hit while tending his ricefield. The military allegedly reported him as the third “NPA casualty.”

On Feb. 28, in San Joaquin, Iloilo troops of the Army’s 301st Infantry Brigade attacked some 20 NPA fighters in the boundary of Brgys. Torocadan and Lombayan, after the latter fired at the approaching state forces. 

Brig. Gen. Michael Samson, 301st IB commander, disclosed interesting details to describe their operations using modern, sophisticated weapons.

The brigade, he said, provided artillery fire support to the ground troops through its Israeli-made Autonomous Truck-mounted Howitzer System’s 155-mm self-propelled guns. Surveillance planes monitored the artillery firing and provided guidance to ensure the accuracy of their targeting.

He didn’t say whether the NPA was indeed prevented from conducting further tactical offensives against state forces, the operation’s purported objective. Clearly, the negative impact was more on the civilian side.

vuukle comment


  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with