2022 Philippine Elections

Red-tagging Badoy, ex-rebel soldier back Calida petition vs. Comelec-Rappler MOA

Pia Ranada

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Red-tagging Badoy, ex-rebel soldier back Calida petition vs. Comelec-Rappler MOA

BACKING CALIDA. NTF-ELCAC spokesperson Lorraine Badoy speaks at a press conference about their opposition to the Rappler-Comelec fact-checking agreement. Screenshot from NTF-ELCAC video

Screenshot from NTF-ELCAC video

President Duterte's anti-insurgency task force jumps into the fray, backing up views expressed by Solicitor General Calida and the Marcos camp

MANILA, Philippines – An hour after staff from the Office of the Solicitor General filed a motion to void Rappler’s fact-check and voter education partnership with the Commission on Elections (Comelec), the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) swung into action, holding a press conference in support of the move.

The online press conference, held at 10:30 am on Monday, March 7, was hosted by Presidential Communications Undersecretary Joel Sy-Egco, who heads a government office that claims to protect media workers’ rights (Presidential Task Force on Media Security).

Those who spoke to express support for Calida’s petition were Presidential Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy, ex-rebel soldier and former undersecretary Abraham Purugganan, and National Press Club president Paul Gutierrez.

Badoy has been repeatedly called out by lawmakers, law groups, and civil society groups for her baseless red-tagging of various personalities, including media outlets like Rappler and CNN Philippines.

After Rappler published fact-checks of her misleading Facebook posts, Badoy accused Rappler of being a “friend and ally” of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), New People’s Army (NPA), and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF). 

Long retired from the Army, Purugganan was once jailed for his involvement in the bloody December 1989 coup that nearly brought down the Cory Aquino administration. He was granted amnesty by the administration of former president Fidel V. Ramos and served as a task force undersecretary under former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Gutierrez, meanwhile, had received flak from fellow journalists in 2020 for introducing Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as the rightful “sitting vice president of the country” during an NPC forum; the Supreme Court ruled in early 2021 that Robredo won the race. Gutierrez was back then the group’s vice president; he works for the Philippine Journal group of publications that is owned by the family of Marcos’ cousin, Representative Martin Romualdez.

The Marcos camp and Solicitor General Calida have been acting in sync in opposing the Rappler deal with Comelec. Read Rappler’s comment on Calida’s petition here.

Anti-insurgency and elections

Why is an anti-communism task force holding a press conference about a media group’s deal with the Comelec related to fact-checking?

Badoy, in response to the question, repeated her false claim that Rappler is boosting communist propaganda.

“Because Rappler has this track record with the NTF-ELCAC where they time and again have really mouthed the propaganda lines of the CPP-NPA-NDF,” she said.

Badoy also said Comelec was wrong to partner with Rappler because supposedly “when it comes to credibility Rappler, is at the bottom heap with Filipinos.”

She later on flashed graphics from the 2021 Digital News Report by Reuters Institute and Oxford University and highlighted how Rappler was in the bottom portion in the list of trusted news outlets.

What Badoy did not say is that Rappler was still considered trustworthy by 45% of respondents and is in the top five most-used online news platforms according to the same report, which was made when Rappler was battling disinformation attacks, some from NTF-ELCAC itself.

Meanwhile, Purugganan was asked to read a manifesto supposedly signed by “229” retired officers and enlisted officers of the military, police, and Coast Guard, calling on the cancellation of the Rappler-Comelec agreement.

Calling themselves “Warriors for Unity, Peaceful and Honest Elections,” the group said the agreement “endangers the credibility and integrity of the electoral process and puts the will of the people at risk.” He did not name them.

NPC’s Gutierrez also sought to lend credence to Calida’s claims by alleging that the media industry also doubts the integrity of Rappler. But several media groups, both local and international, have backed up Rappler and its CEO, Nobel Laureate Maria Ressa, in the face of legal cases from the Duterte administration. Journalists have also supported Rappler’s petition with the Supreme Court for the Duterte government to end the coverage ban against Rappler reporters.

The NPC website says Gutierrez works for Philippine Journalists Inc. According to Vera Files, this media group was believed to have been owned, ultimately, by Benjamin “Kokoy” Romualdez, the younger brother of former First Lady Imelda Marcos.

Vera Files wrote: “Philippine Journalists Incorporated (PJI) was registered in 1972, the year the dictator Ferdinand Marcos imposed martial rule. In 1986, the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) sequestered all of PJI’s outstanding shares on suspicion that they were owned – ultimately – by Benjamin “Kokoy” Romualdez and were part of the ill-gotten assets acquired during the martial law years.”

It was an ally of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. that alerted media to the filing of Calida’s petition against Rappler and the Comelec. Suspended lawyer Larry Gadon, a senatorial bet under Marcos’ slate, was the first to inform media of the filing late Sunday night, March 6. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is Rappler’s Community Lead, in charge of linking our journalism with communities for impact.