Veteran activist Araullo files P2-million damage suit vs red-taggers

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By: Krixia Subingsubing – Reporter / @KrixiasINQ

Philippine Daily Inquirer / July 20, 2023

MANILA, Philippines — Activist and former martial law detainee Carol Pagaduan Araullo is seeking P2 million in damages as she sued former anti-insurgency task force spokesperson Lorraine Badoy and confessed communist rebel Jeffrey Celiz for “their incessant and wanton red-tagging” that targeted her and her organization on their TV program and on social media.

Araullo, the chair emeritus of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), filed a civil complaint on Wednesday at the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office, accusing Badoy and Celiz of abusing freedom of speech as hosts of the show “Laban Para sa Bayan” on Sonshine Media Network Inc., a company owned by controversial televangelist Apollo Quiboloy.

She cited at least six instances since July 2021 where Badoy allegedly tagged her without basis as a terrorist and a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) whose armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), had been waging a Maoist insurgency since the 1970s.

As to Celiz, he allegedly named Araullo as a leader of the CPP’s political arm, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), and thus covered by the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, according to the complaint.

In several episodes of their show, the two Laban hosts described Araullo as “a top recruiter for the CPP-NPA while posing as a human rights defender,” it added.

Son not spared

They also referred to her son, broadcast journalist Atom Araullo, as the “son of a CPP central committee member” and challenged him to “talk about the crimes that your mother enabled to protect the CPP-NPA-NDF, where your mother is an urban operative.”

In her 21-page complaint, Araullo said the respondents “crossed the line by repeatedly committing abuses in the exercise of their right (to freedom of speech and expression).”

“What is clear is this: Defendants have no right to speak falsely or maliciously of other persons. The constitutional right of freedom of expression may not be availed of to broadcast lies or half-truths, insult others, destroy their name or reputation or bring them into disrepute,” she said.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Araullo said the persistent red-tagging had also taken a toll on her mental and physical health.

She spoke of having sleepless nights because of the social media comments generated by the accusations, maligning both her and Atom.

At one point, the chairperson of her barangay warned her that she was being kept under surveillance by security forces.

“So while I think myself to be a steadfast person — I endured martial law as a political prisoner — I cannot deny that these took a toll on me: I had to take security measures in my home and I have to warn my family members about the risks they face when they are with me.”

Need to ‘teach lesson’

She said she initially thought of just ignoring Badoy and Celiz but later realized “there is a need to exact accountability and to teach a lesson to these notorious red-taggers not just for me but for many others: trade unionists, community organizers, peasant organizers, lawyers, teachers, ordinary people whom they called enemies of the state.”

Araullo’s lawyer, Kristina Conti, explained that they chose not to file a libel complaint since they had been advocating the decriminalization of libel to prevent it from being used as a political weapon for silencing legitimate dissent and critical media reporting.

“However, there is a limit to one’s practice of free speech and it is not absolute…it cannot be used most especially for Red-tagging,” Conti said. “We want to show through this civil damages suit that Red-tagging is not protected speech, and is an abuse of this right.”