Red-tagging, also known as red-baiting, is a pernicious practice as part of the government’s counterinsurgency efforts that targets individuals or organizations critical or not fully supportive of the actions of a sitting administration.

This includes publicly accusing activists, journalists, politicians, and organizations as either communists or terrorists, or both, regardless of their actual political beliefs or affiliations.

It is a type of incitement and has pernicious effects on its targets, who often end up being harassed or even killed.

Even our judicial system is not spared from red-tagging.

Courts resolve disputes as they provide a neutral arena for judging emotionally charged controversies. In some instances, when one’s views clash with the court’s decision, even if one is not a party to the case, violence in whatever form may result, including social media attacks.

“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 Supreme Court said in a statement.

This is the strong message by the Supreme Court in relation to the Facebook posts by Lorraine Badoy in reaction to Manila Regional Trial Court Judge Marlo Magdoza-Malagar’s junking of a 2018 Department of Justice petition to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) as terrorist group. Badoy is a former spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict,

“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, please be lenient with me,” Badoy said in a deleted Facebook post.

Badoy criticized the judge for ruling that “acts of terrorism” of the CPP-NPA-NDF should be deemed “political crimes” which are “treated with leniency.”

Badoy tagged the judge as a “friend” and “true ally” of the communist armed movement as she stressed that the 135-page decision was a “gift”, “propaganda material” and a “judgement straight from the bowels of communist hell.”

Badoy questioned why Judge Malagar was “so well-versed about the Constitution of the CPP-NPA, that only its members should have knowledge of.”

Badoy also tagged the judge’s husband, UP Cebu Chancellor Atty. Leo Malagar, as being a “communist sympathizer.” I know Leo personally as we were contemporaries at the UP College of Law.

Judge Malagar herself became the subject of online attacks and even threats on social media, with one reportedly threatening her with bodily harm, while the rest accused her of being an ally or friend of the CPP-NPA, echoing Badoy’s statements.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) “condemns the abuse, harassment, and outright red-tagging of another member of the Judiciary. These capricious and dishonest statements go beyond reasonable discussion. They foment vitriol and hate against our judges.”

The IBP said attacking members of the judiciary and threatening them with bodily harm is not normal as “the judiciary’s job is to decide disputes and no judge should ever feel threatened just by performing that duty.”

The Philippine Judges Association (PJA) underscored that any baseless attack on a judge in whatever manner “is an assault on democracy”.

“We remind everyone that individuals, including judges, have protected constitutional rights, and personal attacks and threats against them and the judiciary should never be tolerated,” the PJA said.

Hukom, another group of trial court judges, also condemned the red-tagging of Judge Malagar, saying such may be considered as an attack on the independence of the judiciary.

They urged fellow judges “not to normalize the use of violence against any person as a form of redress” by not speaking up against it.

The UP College of Law Faculty said in a statement that “the threat to kill another is a felony punished under our criminal laws. Red tagging violates the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.” Both Judge Malagar and her husband are members of the UP Law faculty.

They called on the Supreme Court “to consider initiating actions to hold accountable Badoy and those who may, in the future, consider lawyers, prosecutors, and judges fair game for similar attacks.”

A letter signed by at least 485 lawyers led by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) addressed to the Supreme Court called on the Court to address Badoy’s attacks against human rights lawyers, which were part of her attacks against Judge Malagar.

“We stand with our Judiciary in its efforts to ensure that ours will always be a society of rules, of democratic and critical discourse, and one that protects human rights,” they added.

(Peyups is the moniker of the University of the Philippines. Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, e-mail, or call 0917-5025808 or 0908-8665786.)