SC warns of red-tagging judges

THE Supreme Court on Tuesday warned those who red-tagged and threatened violence against judges and their families that they faced contempt charges and jail time.

The warning came as a lawmaker said the police would investigate the former spokesperson of an anti-communist task force, Lorraine Badoy, for her social media attacks on Manila regional trial court Judge Marlo Magdoza-Malagar, who had junked the government’s bid to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, terrorist organizations earlier this month.

“The Court sternly warns those who continue to incite violence through social media and other means, which endanger the lives of judges and their families, and that this shall likewise be considered a contempt of this Court and will be dealt with accordingly,” the justices said in a statement.

Malacañang, for its part, said it will let the legal process run its course over the Manila Regional Trial Court’s ruling.

Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said the Palace will rely on the Department of Justice’s decision to file a new petition before the Court of Appeals (CA), which has jurisdiction under Republic Act No. 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 2020.

“This administration will adhere closely to the rule of law and only to the rule of law. We do not endorse any illegal activities and we have relied on the statement of the Secretary of Justice [Jesus Crispin Remulla] saying that this particular case is to be refiled under the Anti-Terrorism Act,” Cruz-Angeles said in a Palace press briefing.

Earlier, several organizations such as the Philippine Judges Association, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and Hukom Inc. condemned the vilification and red-tagging of Magdoza-Malagar of the Manila RTC Branch 19.

In their en banc session Tuesday, the justices also tackled “possible actions” against Badoy, the former spokesperson of the National Task Force for the Elimination of the Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

In denying the government’s case against the CPP-NPA, Magdoza-Malagar held that the communist movement was not organized for the purpose of engaging or committing terrorism.

The judge also cautioned those who had a propensity for red tagging, saying it put the lives of activists in danger.

Badoy in a Facebook post last Friday accused Magdoza-Malagar of “lawyering” for the CPP-NPA when she ruled that rebellion and political crimes are not acts of terrorism.

“So if I kill this judge and I do so out of my political belief that all allies of the CPP NPA NDF must be killed because there is no difference in my mind between a member of the CPP NPA NDF and their friends, then please be lenient with me,” Badoy’s post said.

Badoy also called the judge a “friend” and “true ally” of the communist armed movement, saying that her 135-page decision was a “gift” and “propaganda material” for them.

Badoy deleted the post on Saturday and denied making a hypothetical statement about killing the judge, calling it “fake news.”

It was not the first time that a judge was vilified and threatened.

Last year, Mandaluyong RTC Judge Monique Quisumbing-Ignacio was also red-tagged in two tarpaulins hung on footbridges along EDSA after she dismissed the illegal possession of firearms charges against activists Lady Ann Salem and Rodrigo Esparago.

The SC responded to Quisumbing-Ignacio’s red-tagging then by issuing a rare, strongly-worded statement condemning threats and killings of lawyers and judges. 

More than 170 lawyers on Tuesday urged the Supreme Court to take “firm action” against Badoy.

“We call on the Supreme Court not to let this pass and to take immediate, concrete, and firm action to protect justice actors and the rule of law,” the lawyers said in a statement.

“The Court must hold accountable those who threaten and malign our judges and lawyers,” they added.

The SC earlier warned that fine or imprisonment or both will be imposed on “those who continue to incite violence through social media and other means which endanger the lives of judges and their families.”

However, it was not known immediately if the Court would order Badoy to explain why she should not be found in contempt.

Hukom Inc. an organization of trial court judges, condemned Badoy’s attacks on Magdoza-Malagar.

“Another member of the bench is again challenged,” the organization said in a statement on Saturday. “A much respected, upright and competent judge, after resolving a case against the government over a repealed law, had been red-tagged.”

The organization noted that the members of the court usually “kept silent” whenever their decisions came into attack, as they usually just allow their decisions to speak on their behalf.

“Recent events, however, have magnified the effect of criticism of the judiciary … We cannot rest easy and accept them as normal and ordinary. These acts must be called out because of the chilling effect on the exercise of our judicial functions and the lasting damage they cause to our institution,” they also said.

The group members also called for their fellow judges to “refuse to be victims.”

“Let us not normalize the use of violence against persons as a form of redress by being silent,” they said.

The National Union People’s Lawyers (NUPL) also issued a statement protesting Badoy’s threats. The group’s president Edre U. Olalia said in his Facebook post that the statement was signed by 174 lawyers, including himself.

Among the other signatories, Olalia said, were former Bayan Muna Party-List Rep. Carlos Zarate; former Quezon Fourth District Rep. Lorenzo Tanada III; NUPL chairperson Neri Colmenares; former Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) president Ade Fajardo; former Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Rowena Guanzon; Lyceum College of Law Dean Pacifico Agabin; University of La Salle School of Law Dean Jose Romeo S. Dela Cruz; Ateneo de Davao College of Law Dean Manuel Quibod; San Sebastian College Graduate School of Law Dean Rodel Taton; University of San Agustin Dean Jose Mari Tirol; and 2019 Bar topnotcher Mae Diane Azores.

“Ms. Badoy, without offering any credible evidence, accused Judge Malagar of being a friend and ally of the CPP-NPA, of lawyering for the said organizations, and of abusing her power to inflict harm on Filipinos,” they said.

“Ms. Badoy also suggested links between Judge Malagar’s husband, who is also a lawyer, and rebel groups. She also insinuated that some human rights lawyers helped craft Judge Malagar’s decision,” they also said.

They pointed out that the Badoy’s allegations were “beyond the bounds of fair and reasonable criticism.”

“These constitute a direct attack against the judiciary and its officers that is intended to undermine public confidence in the justice system and to harass and intimidate those who choose to act independently to promote the rule of law,” they said.

“Ms. Badoy continues her brazen and outrageous attacks through social media without compunction, including threats to life and to bomb offices, vicious red-tagging, and wild accusations,” they lamented.

“Lies, spins, and libelous accusations amounting to criminal contempt against judges, if left unchecked, erode the people’s faith in our courts and justice system. We must not stand idly by while justice actors are attacked by those who work to spread fear and paranoia,” they said.

“Ms. Badoy must be held accountable while those who dare to follow her lead must be warned that there are consequences for violating the law,” the lawyers added.

Also on Tuesday, Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Luisa Lloren Cuaresma told her colleagues that the Philippine National Police (PNP) would probe Badoy over her social media threats against Magdoza-Malagar.

She made the statement in response to a question posed by Kabataan party-list Rep. Raoul Manuel, during a hearing on the budget of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), which has supervision over the PNP.

“Does the police have any intention of arresting her because she is putting the security and life of Judge Malagar at risk?” Manuel said, referring to Badoy.

Cuaresma, the DILG budget sponsor, said, “The police will investigate, Mr. Speaker,” addressing Deputy Speaker Roberto Puno of Antipolo, who was presiding over the session at that moment.

She said Manuel would be given a copy of the results of the PNP investigation.

Manuel welcomed the PNP’s response, saying the police should not tolerate Badoy’s dangerous statements.




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