Broadcast journalist Alfonso Tomas “Atom” Araullo filed a P2-million civil suit against red-taggers former National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) Undersecretary Lorraine T. Badoy-Partosa and Jeffrey “Ka Eric” Celiz.
On Monday, Sept. 11, Araullo was joined by his lawyers from the Movement Against Disinformation (MAD) led by Antonio La Viña in filing a complaint for civil damages before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court.
The complaint alleged that Badoy and Celis violated Articles 19, 20, 21, 23, and 33 of the New Civil Code, which safeguard personal rights, human relations, and dignity from anything that may lead to serious damage and injury to his reputation, peace of mind, and personal relations.
The complaint also sought redress for serious damages and injury suffered by Araullo due to the defamatory statements “maliciously disseminated” by Celiz and Badoy through their daily program “Laban Kasama Ang Bayan” broadcasted on air and online via SMNI’s News Channel.
“In seeking redress, Mr. Araullo claims nominal, moral, and exemplary damages amounting to two million and seventy thousand pesos (US$ 36,518.94),” said Araullo’s legal counsel in a statement.
A way of pushing back
Araullo has been at the center of a red-tagging spree since early 2022, targeting both him and his mother Carol Araullo, long-time activist and former chairperson of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan.
Celiz and Badoy both branded Araullo as a “spawn” of an “active CPP [Communist Party of the Philippines] Central Committee leader.”
Araullo also said that ever since these videos were posted and aired, he has been subjected to various violent and threatening remarks from the supporters of Badoy and Celiz. This made it difficult for him to do his job as a journalist since he had to put extra measures to ensure his safety, especially when doing fieldwork in far-flung communities.
“I believe that this (red-tagging) is another way to intimidate and repress free press in our country,” said Araullo during a press conference.
He also said that he feels privileged to have enough resources to file such a case when other journalists with similar experience could not.
“I am doing this for the safety of my family, but I also hope that this can contribute to defending press freedom as a whole,” he said, adding, “I hope other journalists in the country can also muster the courage to take a stand against this kind of disinformation.”
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines commended Araullo’s decision to file charges, saying that red-tagging poses serious risks to the safety and security of those unjustly labeled as “communist-terrorists,” “communist propagandists,” and the like.
“Araullo’s complaint adds to the list of legal actions filed by our other colleagues to exact accountability from the enemies of the truth,” said NUJP.
“This practice has to stop. It’s time for these malign red taggers to face the full force of the law,” it added.
Altermidya, a network of independent and progressive media outfits, said that it stands with Araullo in full solidarity.
“That the powerful voice of one of the country’s most awarded and highly regarded journalists is added to the fight against the menace of red-tagging is an important step in defending the people’s right to know,” the network said.
Bulatlat, for its part, also expressed its support for Araullo, saying that journalists “should not be harassed for their truth-telling.”
Araullo is a member of the board of Alipato Media Center, publisher of Bulatlat.