MANILA, Philippines – Rappler CEO and Nobel laureate Maria Ressa filed on Tuesday, April 19, an administrative complaint against communications undersecretary Lorraine Badoy over “malicious and defamatory” posts and articles against the journalist, adding to mounting calls for the Office of the Ombudsman to sanction the official.
In a complaint filed Tuesday with the Ombudsman through her lawyer, Ressa listed at least nine instances when Badoy published content – either on her verified Facebook page or through official websites – that branded the journalist as an “enemy of the state.” In one post, Badoy upped her red-tagging by falsely declaring that Rappler is an “ally and mouthpiece” of the communist party and its military arm, the New People’s Army.
Red-tagging is the act of linking someone to the armed communist rebels, which is not strictly criminalized by existing laws. There is also no law criminalizing membership in the communist party also, but red-tagging is feared to be a weapon for legal warfare, particularly under the anti-terror law, and worse, that it may be used as justification for executions.
The complaint described as “malicious and defamatory” Badoy’s posts that called Ressa a “sociopath” and “rotten soul,” among others. Badoy also referred to the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize as “Nobel Piss Prize.” The Rappler CEO made history last year as the Philippines’ first Nobel laureate.
These attacks “transgress boundaries of professional decorum and protocol” and “have also emboldened others to join in their vicious attacks against me,” Ressa said.
Ressa asserted that Badoy’s disparaging claims against her are “highly improper” considering that the official “is expected to observe ‘the highest degree of excellence, professionalism, intelligence and skill’ as required by Section 4(A) of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards.”
“Badoy’s accusation endangers my safety and welfare which falls below the required standards expected of public officers like Respondent Badoy under Section 4(A) of R.A. No. 6713,” Ressa added.
“Clearly, the acts of Respondent Badoy which constitute conduct prejudicial to the best interests of the government, insubordination, and misconduct are sufficiently proven. The acts are documented not only in the 28 October 2021 and 29 October 2021 Facebook posts published in her respective verified account, but also the official websites of the Philippine News Agency and NTF-ELCAC [National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict],” she said in her complaint.
Calls for Ombudsman action
The punishment for administrative charges is suspension and/or dismissal. The Office of the Ombudsman also has the power to preventively suspend an official facing a complaint to preserve evidence and make sure witnesses within the office are not unduly influenced.
Ressa’s complaint adds to mounting calls for the Ombudsman to sanction Badoy, who serves concurrent functions as undersecretary of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, and a spokesperson of the government’s counter-insurgency task force.
Dozens of groups earlier filed similar complaints against Badoy before the Office of the Ombudsman in three separate occasions from March to April. The earlier complaints were for criminal actions, accusing Badoy of also violating the anti-graft law, the Data Privacy Act, and the International Humanitarian Law which prohibits persecution of a specific group of people.
Before this, there have also been a slew of criminal complaints against Badoy and retired general Antonio Parlade, who continues to red-tag activists and journalists through his Facebook page.
Because there is no law criminalizing red-tagging per se, victims of red-tagging have resorted to creative ways to launch a legal offensive against officials of the Duterte government, including Badoy.
Lower threshold to sanction Badoy
Ressa’s complaint points out that “the quantum of evidence required in administrative proceedings is only substantial evidence,” which it defined as “reasonable evidence which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to justify a conclusion.”
It makes the argument that sanctioning Badoy in this case does not need guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
“It is respectfully prayed that after due proceedings, the Honorable Office issue Formal Charges against Respondent Badoy for Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interests of the Government, Insubordination, and Misconduct, and such other charges as may be deemed appropriate by the Honorable Office,” said the complaint.
The Department of Justice under Secretary Menardo Guevarra, which sits as member of the NTF-ELCAC, has been trying to distance itself from the red-tagging spree of the Duterte government, disowning a human rights report that red-tagged human rights groups, and sidestepping questions about the task force.
Guevarra has also publicly backed the enactment of a law against red-tagging. – Rappler.com