Red-tagging of religious sister by Philippine official criticised

Sister Mananzan. Photo: UCAN/Angie de Silva
Sister Mananzan. Photo: UCAN/Angie de Silva

MANILA (UCAN): Philippine presidential communications undersecretary, Lorraine Badoy, red-tagged (accused of being communist or terrorists) Benedictine Sister Mary John Mananzan after she condemned the libel conviction of top journalist Maria Ressa and news writer Reynaldo Santos, Jr., calling it an attack on press freedom in a recent social media post.

“I am not intolerant of MJ’s (Sister Mananzan) views. If she thinks Maria Ressa is the best thing since sliced bread, what do I care? We are a democracy after all. Not communist like others strive for us to be,” Badoy said on social media.

She then came close to libel herself, by trying to link Sister Mananzan to the Communist Party of the Philippines, “Why is Mary John Mananzan so closely allied to a group that has brought this country so much grief and destruction and that has, as its main goal, the overthrow of the government?” 

Badoy’s post drew demands for a public apology from women’s and human rights groups.

“Sister Mananzan is only the latest on a long list of activists and Duterte critics red-tagged by Badoy and the agencies she works with. We demand a public apology from Badoy retracting and correcting her condemnable Facebook post,” said the lay group, Movement Against Tyranny, in a statement. The group also said the undersecretary had gone too far in red-tagging and accusing one of the pillars of Philippine activism.

“Such wild and baseless accusations coming from an undersecretary and official not only defames Sister Mary John’s person and reputation but puts her life and liberty in peril,” the group added.

Presidential spokesperson, Harry Roque, claimed that Badoy’s comments fell within the realm of freedom of expression. “That was her personal view. We are in a democracy … Freedom of expression is guaranteed under the Bill of Rights,” he told reporters.

Much of Sister Mananzan’s criticism was aimed at the judge in the case, Rainelda Estacio Montesa, whom she noted studied at St. Scholastica, a Benedictine school. She expressed sadness that the judge did not show the values of a scholastican (from St. Scholastica) education.

“Whatever successes you (Judge Montesa) may have attained, I am afraid you are a failure as scholastican. Some consolation is that Maria Ressa is also a scholastican,” Sister Mananzan added.

Sister Mananzan is founder of the Gabriela Women’s Party and was chairperson for 18 years. The group was founded in 1984 to advocate for women’s issues and later became one of the biggest groups to fight the Marcos regime.

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