MANILA – Malacañang on Tuesday said Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy’s statement tagging activist nun Sr. Mary John Mananzan as a “longtime ally” of the National Democratic Front (NDF) is covered by freedom of expression.

“That is a personal expression of kung sino man ang nasabi niyan at unfortunately wala po akong hurisdiksyon dahil hindi yan sa aking tanggapan (of whoever said that and unfortunately, I have no jurisdiction because that official is not under my office),” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a virtual presser.

However, he said Badoy is entitled to her own expression or opinion.

“Malinaw naman po ang desisyon ni Presidente na tanging ako lang po sa aking tanggapan ang pupwede magsalita para sa gobyerno at si Usec. [Maria Rosario] Vergiere pagdating sa mga bagay bagay na related sa health (It is clear that the decision of the President is that only I will be allowed to speak for the government and Usec. Vergeire will speak in matters related to health),” he said.

Roque noted that as much as the public had the right to criticize the government, public officials also had the right to say what they wanted.

“That is a personal opinion po of the writer at sa ating demokrasya hindi naman pupwede na kapag pupulaan mo lang gobyerno meron kang kalayaan. Siyempre yun mga taong gobyerno, napupulaan yun mga kalaban ng gobyerno. (and in our democracy, it cannot be that you only have freedom to criticize the government. Of course, government officials can also criticize their enemies),” he said.

Roque said he would leave it to government officials to release their own statements.

“Hayaan din natin sila (Let us allow them to do so) because the freedom of expression is guaranteed under the bill of rights,” he said.

Article 3, Section 4 of the Philippine Constitution states that “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”

In a Facebook post last June 17, Badoy claimed that Mananzan was a long-time ally of the NDF, the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), after the activist nun condemned the conviction of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and former researcher-writer Rey Santos of cyber libel.

Badoy, speaking for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), also said the nun is putting forth an ideology of “communism.”

“A Catholic nun given a place of honor in a communist terrorist organization. Imagine that,” she said.

The Movement Against Tyranny (MAT), a progressive coalition, called Badoy’s accusations as “wild” and “baseless” and demanded a public apology from her.

Human rights group Karapatan, meanwhile, said contrary to Badoy’s accusations, Mananzan is a “consistent, steadfast, and feisty human rights advocate.”

Women's group Gabriela also slammed Badoy for her "malicious" statements against Mananzan.

Badoy hits back

Badoy, in a statement, shrugged off the declaration of both MAT and Karapatan that Mananzan is a “pillar of activism in the country.”

She stood by her claim that Mananzan is a long-time ally of the NDF by being emeritus chairman of Gabriela.

"By aligning herself with the NDF and by leading Gabriela for life, Mary John Mananzan agrees with the violent overthrow of government and the destruction of democracy in our country and installation of communism in its stead," Badoy said.

She said the groups, whom she claimed were affiliated with the CPP-NPA-NDF, wanted to see the country "go down the drain" so that it would be easier for them "to take over and turn us into a fascist state."

"They think I have gone too far and laid on me the usual accusation of redtagging--that made-up create the communist terrorist groups use to silence government and to fascist-tag us," she said.

She called them "delusional liars" for proclaiming themselves "defenders of human rights", claiming they were the worst offenders. (PNA)