MANILA (UPDATE) — The Supreme Court on Tuesday acted swiftly to protect one of its own judges against online threats and red-tagging by issuing a strongly-worded warning.
“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,” it said in a brief statement issued by the SC Public Information Office.
The statement came a few days after former National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) spokesperson Lorraine Badoy, in a Facebook post, linked Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 19 Judge Marlo Magdoza-Malagar to 2 rebel groups.
Badoy, who is also a former Malacañang official, was criticizing Magdoza-Malagar's ruling that junked the Department of Justice’s proscription case against the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA).
Aside from red-tagging the judge, Badoy also posed a hypothetical scenario: “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.”
The SC’s press briefer said the Supreme Court en banc, acting on its own initiative, discussed possible actions over the statements made by “a certain Lorraine Badoy containing threats” against Judge Magdoza-Malagar.
The high court has assigned a docket number, indicating it is an active case already.
Magdoza-Malagar earned Badoy’s ire after she ruled that rebellion and others political crimes do not amount to terrorism, in dismissing the proscription case.
Badoy called the judge “unprincipled” and a “friend of the CPP NPA NDF”, while describing her 135-page resolution as a “judgment straight from the bowels of communist hell.”
In a subsequent post, Badoy also appeared to red-tag the judge’s husband, lawyer Leo Malagar, chancellor for the University of the Philippines-Cebu.
In another post, she said she wants to build an organization which will “start bombing the offices of these corrupt judges who are friend of terrorists — even if they kneel before us and beg for their lives…”
Badoy on Saturday denied making the threat and the original post was no longer available on her Facebook timeline on that day.
It resurfaced on Tuesday with the timestamp dated September 23 at 2:25 a.m.
Several Twitter users, activists and rights defenders also managed to take screenshots and screen recordings of her original post.
Following the developments, Malacañang said that President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.'s administration “adheres only to the rule of law."
“As you know, this administration will adhere closely to the rule of law and only to the rule of law. We do not endorse any illegal activities,” Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles told Palace reporters.
"We let the law take its course and allow the judiciary to exercise its full mandate," she added.
The justice department will file a new proscription case with the Court of Appeals, Cruz-Angeles also noted.
Various groups have condemned Badoy’s post, including HUKOM, Inc. and the Philippine Judges Association (PJA), both groups of trial court judges.
Breaking the traditional silence of judges, HUKOM in a statement said it considers red-tagging, online vilification, doxxing, among others as “attacks on the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.”
“We cannot rest easy and accept them as normal and ordinary. These acts must be called out because of their chilling effect on the exercise of our judicial functions and the lasting damage they cause to our institution,” it said.
The PJA, for its part, called on the Philippine government “to declare that in no time under its watch, will democracy be imperiled by an irresponsible and unfounded assault on a trial judge.”
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), Movement Against Disinformation, and the Chevening Alumni Foundation of the Philippines added their condemnation.
“If judges can be treated disdainfully without consequence, the Rule of Law becomes a hollow promise,” the IBP said.
At least 174 lawyers also signed a joint statement calling on the Supreme Court to hold Badoy accountable.
The Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) also called out Badoy's "irresponsible" statements.
"Badoy's threat is not protected speech — it is a felony. Her red-tagging of the spouses Malagar violate their rights under international law and Philippine law. Her irresponsible posts against them and others clearly indicate she will continue to act with impunity unless she is held accountable," it said in a statement.
Court Administrator Raul Villanueva on Monday expressed concern over Badoy’s statements, telling ANC Rundown that his office will investigate the incident if the SC so requires.
A law creating the Office of the Judiciary Marshals, which will protect members and personnel of the judiciary, was signed in April but its implementing rules and regulations is still being crafted.
Last year, the High Court also condemned a string of threats against and killings of lawyers and judges.
“To threaten our judges and our lawyers is no less than an assault on the judiciary. To assault the judiciary is to shake the very bedrock on which the rule of law stands. This cannot be allowed in a civilized society like ours. This cannot go undenounced on the Court’s watch,” high court magistrates said in a joint statement in March 2021.