New suit vs SMNI hosts shows how hard it is to legally beat red-tagging

Jairo Bolledo

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New suit vs SMNI hosts shows how hard it is to legally beat red-tagging


'I'm filing a civil suit to be consistent with my stand on the decriminalization of libel, which has been weaponized by those in power to muzzle free speech,' says BAYAN chairperson Teddy Casiño, who filed the complaint

MANILA, Philippines – Former Bayan Muna lawmaker and current BAYAN chairperson Teddy Casiño filed a civil complaint at the Makati City Regional Trial Court (RTC) against Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) hosts Lorraine Badoy and Jeffrey Celiz on Monday, December 18.

In his complaint, Casiño said Badoy, a former spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), and Celiz, a self-proclaimed former rebel, made malicious public statements that red-tagged and maligned him. The former Makabayan lawmaker is seeking damages under articles 19 to 21 of the Civil Code.

Article 19 of the Civil Code, on the one hand, mandates that every person should exercise his/her rights and perform his/her duties with justice and good faith. Article 20, on the other hand, states that when a person causes damage to another, he/she “shall indemnify the latter for the same.”

Article 21 of the same code also mandates that when a person “willfully” causes loss or injury to another person “in a manner that is contrary to morals, good customs, or public policy,” he/she should compensate the other party for the damage.

In his complaint, Casiño asked the Makati City RTC to compel Badoy and Celiz to compensate him with a total of P2.2 million. Below is the breakdown.

  • P1,100,00 for moral damages
  • P500,000 for exemplary damages
  • P500,000 for nominal damages
  • P100,000 (not less than) for attorney’s fees
  • Costs of the suit

Casiño, in a message to Rappler, explained that he filed a civil complaint to hold Badoy and Celiz accountable, without weaponizing available laws. Under the administration of former president Rodrigo Duterte, various laws such as libel, cyber libel, and illegal possession of firearms were filed against government critics.

“I’m filing a civil suit to be consistent with my stand on the decriminalization of libel, which has been weaponized by those in power to muzzle free speech,” the BAYAN chairperson explained.

The suit is one of the remedies activists have considered in addressing the red-tagging spree of individuals like Badoy and Celiz. Closed-door consultations between government and civil society groups have been at a loss on how to legally address red-tagging. Some said the best solution is for top government officials to just issue instructions not to do it at all.

In a separate statement, Casiño said his legal action was long overdue, because since 2020, the two SMNI hosts have been accusing him of being involved in rebellion and terrorism. He added that the civil case is not only for him, but for all other activists and citizens “who are being victimized on a daily basis by SMNI and the NTF-ELCAC.”

“As a leftist activist, I have been called many things by my detractors. But to be falsely and repeatedly accused of being a high ranking official of an organization arbitrarily designated by the Anti Terrorism Council (ATC) as a terrorist organization, and accused of orchestrating the death of thousands and the destruction of the country, is just too much. Add to that their false accusations and outright lies attacking me and my family’s reputation and integrity that I have built and protected all these years,” Casiño said.

Ang panre-red-tag nina Badoy-Partosa at Celiz ay banta sa aking buhay at kalayaan, nakakasira sa aking reputasyon para sa mga hindi nakakakilala sa akin, at nagdudulot ng matinding pagkadismaya, pagkabalisa, galit, stress, at maraming gabing walang tulog,” the BAYAN chairperson added.

(Badoy-Partoza and Celiz’s red-tagging is a threat to my life and liberty, tarnishes my reputation, especially to people who don’t know me, and causes deep dismay, discomfort, anger, stress, and sleepless nights to me.)

Casiño’s case was similar to the one filed by journalist Atom Araullo in September. In his civil suit, Araullo sought a P2-million compensation from Badoy and Celiz for “damages and injuries suffered due to defamatory statements maliciously disseminated.”

Both Badoy and Celiz are currently in hot water over their allegation about House Speaker Martin Romualdez’s supposed travel expenses, which led to a House probe. During the probe, the two were held in contempt and were detained

The two later filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus – a petition used by activists they red-tagged – to challenge their detention. Badoy and Celiz were later freed due to humanitarian considerations. –

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.