TV broadcast journalist Atom Araullo (left), Atty. Ayn Ruth Tolentino, and Dean Tony La Vina at Max's Circle, QC - Photo by Perfecto T. Raymundo, Jr.

QUEZON CITY — Alfonso Tomas “Atom” P. Araullo on Monday, September 11 filed a P2-million damage suit before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court for civil damages seeking redress for damages and injury he suffered due to the alleged defamatory statements disseminated by Jeffrey “Ka Eric” L. Celiz and Lorraine Marie T. Badoy-Partosa.

In a press conference at Max’s, Quezon City Circle, Araullo said that he filed a civil case against Jeffrey “Ka Eric” L. Celiz and former Undersecretary Lorraine Marie T. Badoy-Partosa due to the alleged defamatory statements maliciously they disseminated against him.

However, he said “as of today, he would not file criminal charges against Celiz and Badoy.”

Araullo said that the legal action was intended to hold accountable the two SMNI hosts for their alleged wrongful acts and to highlight how red-tagging foment hate, abuse, and violence against journalists and truth-tellers.

Araullo’s resolve to file this case was in support of a broader push back against Red-tagging and the spread of disinformation that suppress democratic discourse and the rule of law.

Araullo was represented by counsels from the Movement Against Disinformation (MAD), with Atty. Rico V. Domingo and Dean Tony La Viña as lead counsels and Atty. Artemio Calumpong, Atty. Cris Yambot, and Atty. Ayn Ruth Tolentino-Azarcon as co-counsels.

“I feel privileged to have the resources to do this. Although I did this for me and my family, I hope other journalists will stand up against this dissemination of wrong information,” Araullo said.

“There are many places in the country where you should take care of your security. I was told that I should take extra careful, not in Metro Manila but in the provinces,” he added.

“I think this is just a part of a bigger pattern, particularly Red-tagging. We are doing all what we can do and everything that we should do. This is a special case that we can bring up before the court to hold them liable,” Araullo said.

“I think there are clear lapses in their (respondents) Code of Conduct,” he added.

“Personally, I draw the line, hence, I filed this civil case,” Araullo said.

For his part, Dean Tony La Viña said that “what we have done today is the filing of the physical charges against Celiz and Badoy, but it was electronically filed yesterday (Sunday) and for the filing fee.”

“It is just okay not to file for now a civil case for libel,” La Vina said.

“All the statements published were documented to show the evidence,” he added.

“We still have to be vigilant. Hence, it is important to draw the line on the ground,” La Vina said.

“It was exacerbated when Badoy was already out of the government,” he added.

Badoy was a former Undersecretary of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) and Spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

“This is not an easy case. It took us three months to prepare this case,” La Vina said.

“It can be P1 or P500 million, but the P2 million amount of civil damage is just reasonable for the sufferings experienced by the family of Araullo. The judge will be fair,” he said.

For her part, Atty. Ayn Ruth Tolentino-Azarcon said that the civil damages were for violations of Articles 18, 19, 20, 26 and 33 of the Revised Penal Code which are an abuse of right or exercise of right, respect the dignity and right of a person which calls for civil damages.

Tolentino said that in their complaint, they cited six videos which were published through the social media which contained dafamatory statements which violated the Revised Penal Code articles.

She added that other statements they (respondents) uttered, particularly that “Araullo was a part of the systematic attack against the government. That he is a part or a member of the New People’s Army (NPA). He allegedly destroyed and attacked others.”

“According to the defamatory statements, he (Araullo) also made documents that were faithful to the CPP/NPA/NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front),” Tolentino said.

On the other hand, Domingo said that the impact of this case to the journalists is that they (respondents) are putting political colors on what they report to the public.

“Red-tagging, in fact, infringes on press freedom, because Red-tagging makes the public not to discern on what exactly really happened,” he added.

Domingo cited for instances, the case of Araullo, the case of Cadapan family who seemed not to attained justice for now.

“Hence, the Movement Against Disinformation, he said, is taking the cudgels for those who cannot take the constant attacks against them,” he said.

“Whatever amount Araullo would get from the civil case will be given to the advocates of press freedom,” Domingo added.

“What we fear in the movement (MAD), is that in Red-tagging you are already marked. Don’t you see the eminence of that ‘threat’ against freedom of the press just like during Martial Law?” he said.

“The signs are ominous. We are not scaring you,” Domingo added.

“In fact, in the DepEd (Department of Education), they are eradicating the Marcos dictatorship,” he said.

“The amount of Damages is not quantifiable. What is at stake is that the respondents abused the rights of the plaintiff (Araullo),” Domingo said. – By Perfecto T. Raymundo, Jr.