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FACT CHECK: SMNI hosts falsely accuse journos as CPP-NPA “operatives”

Davao Today

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FACT CHECK: SMNI hosts falsely accuse journos as CPP-NPA “operatives”

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The incident comes on the heels of linking Bulatlat.com managing editor Ronalyn Olea to the communist rebels in the same network last October 12.  

CLAIM: Accusations were made by personalities of the Quiboloy-owned media network SMNI against Filipino journalists Atom Araullo, Inday Espina-Varona, and Vergel Santos. The former branded the latter as “operatives” of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

The incident comes on the heels of linking Bulatlat.com managing editor Ronalyn Olea to the communist rebels in the same network last October 12.  

RATING: FALSE

FACTS: The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said labeling those who have not even been formally accused of any crime as communist operatives and government enemies “can expose them to online harassment and even offline harm.”

It pointed out the recent red-tagging was an apparent response to comments made by Araullo and Santos about SMNI chairman Pastor Apollo Quiboloy and the trafficking charges in the US which he has been indicted for.

“The inclusion of Araullo, Varona, and Santos in the ever-expanding list of supposed “operatives” shows that the practice is nothing more than a convenient way to discredit and intimidate inconvenient voices,” the NUJP said. 

The group also described Jeffrey Celiz, a self-proclaimed former rebel, as “listing targets for the audience” during the program.  

Human rights advocates have previously warned that red-tagging—accusing someone of being a communist sympathizer—equates to a death warrant.

Olea, on the other hand, had recently participated in questioning an order from the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) upon National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon’s request to block Bulatlat.com and other websites for allegedly having links to communist groups designated by the government as terrorists.

A Quezon City court has granted Bulatlat’s plea for a preliminary injunction on the NTC’s blocking order and has denied the motion for reconsideration filed by the commission and Esperon over its earlier ruling.

These were not the only times that SMNI personalities have publicly accused people, including journalists, of having links to the communist movement without any substantial basis.

One of the co-hosts of the program was Lorraine Badoy, a former spokesperson for the government’s anti-communist task force. Badoy was recently ordered by the Supreme Court to explain why she should not be cited for contempt over a social media post critical to a Manila judge who ruled against labeling communist groups as terrorists.

Araullo is the goodwill ambassador of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in the Philippines. His documentary “The Atom Araullo Specials: Munting Bisig” earned three major awards this year in New York, Busan, and Cannes. His essay “Letter from Tawi-Tawi” bagged the first prize in the prestigious Palanca Awards Essay Category.

Inday Espina-Varona is a veteran journalist who has received awards for investigative journalism, among others.

Bulatlat.com, meanwhile, has received various accolades for its in-depth stories. On October 27, its editor Len Olea received the Award of Distinction during the Jaime V. Ongpin Journalism Seminar organized by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility. (davaotoday.com

Davao Today is part of #FactsFirstPH which brings together various sectors that are committed to promoting truth in the public space, and exacting accountability on those who harm it with lies. For those interested to join the initiative, email info@factsfirst.ph.

This piece is republished with permission from Davao Today.

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