There’s a rash of Red-tagging of activists in the public and private sectors. It’s not an entirely new phenomenon in this country that is marked by the longest-running insurgency in the world, and where, in the battle for hearts and minds, government officials blame public discontent over a crippling impoverishment on those who call it as it is and seek to banish the injustice and inequality that have long allowed it to fester. The killing of activists, young and old, whether in urban and rural areas, illustrates the dreadful ends Red-tagging can lead to.
But the old trick of branding activists as “commies” has reached a novel point, leading to the suspension on Sept. 9 of deliberations in the House of Representatives on the 2021 budget of the Presidential Communications Operations Office. The PCOO’s proposed budget of P1.59 billion was thus put on hold by the House appropriations committee, which had earlier briskly approved those of other agencies, sometimes in the course of one hearing.
What snagged the budget proceedings was Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy’s supposed use of her position and government resources in tagging members of the Makabayan bloc in the House as “high-ranking members” of the Communist Party of the Philippines, its armed wing the New People’s Army, and its political arm the National Democratic Front.
Badoy, also the spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, made the accusation in Facebook posts although she offered no evidence to back it; she likewise called on the representatives of the party-list groups ACT Teachers, Bayan Muna, Gabriela, and Kabataan to drop the supposed pretense of being lawmakers and admit to membership in the CPP-NPA-NDF.
Speaking at the hearing, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate and ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro took Badoy to task for her Red-tagging, warned that it was exposing them and their colleagues as well as their families to clear and present danger, and demanded to know why an unelected official was behaving in such a manner on the back of public funds. They went on to call for a suspension of the budget deliberations; hearing no objection, the committee chair, ACT-CIS Rep. Eric Yap, ruled accordingly.
Does it seem like Communications Secretary Martin Andanar is caught between the devil and the deep blue sea? Quite. At the hearing, per reports, Andanar asked that the suspension of the budget proceedings be reconsidered, but was ignored. He tried to put some distance between the PCOO and Badoy, pointing out that her statements were posted on her Facebook account and constituted, not the stand of her office, but her personal opinion — remarks that couldn’t have pleased his undersecretary for new media and development, who likes to project herself as the avatar of correctness.
In August 2018, for example, Badoy sought to douse the fire lit by then Assistant Communications Secretary Mocha Uson through the latter’s — laughable if it weren’t so crass — “pepe-dede” push for federalism. Be circumspect, Badoy in effect enjoined PCOO officers and staff: “Please be mindful of the content you post or share on your personal social media accounts, as well as other publications and press releases your office may publish.”
Yet Badoy has hardly been circumspect in her run as rah-rah girl of Malacañang. Annoyed at the European Union for its criticism of the Duterte administration’s bloody war on drugs, she said it should “stick to child porn.” Just in January, invited to One News’ “The Chiefs” to discuss the PCOO’s newly launched “Duterte Legacy” campaign, she made a spectacle of herself in accusing the think tank Ibon Foundation as a front organization of the CPP-NPA that “brings down governments” and, at one point, needed to be told by the program hosts to get a grip and focus on the topic at hand.
There’s also the matter of her attacks on Leni Robredo — “basurera,” garbage woman, she at one point called the Vice President, who had written about helping her college-age daughter get settled with recycled furniture in her Harvard apartment — slurs so astonishingly vicious that even her, Badoy’s, sister, the radio/TV host and educator Gang Badoy Capati, wondered: “Why so vile, so deeply and unnecessarily mean?”
Indeed, why? Badoy is a physician by training and therefore bound by professional ethical standards. Yet in calling activists “terrorists,” she pronounces herself simon-pure, suggesting that, tragically, holding people to what they have sworn to is now a futile, stupid, notion.
Is this state of affairs in the PCOO what it calls its “gold standard”? (And we’re not even beginning to talk about the “state of the art” media equipment supposedly donated by the Chinese Embassy in March 2019, which the Commission on Audit had failed to find in the PCOO’s book of accounts.)
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