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House panel suspends PCOO budget briefing as Makabayan solons slam Badoy's 'red-tagging' remarks

PCOO budget hearing at House of Representatives

The House Committee on Appropriations on Wednesday suspended the 2021 budget briefing of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) following a motion from a lawmaker who took offense at the supposedly "red-tagging" remarks of one of the agency's undersecretaries.

ACT Teachers party-list Representative France Castro moved to suspend the budget briefing of PCOO as she slammed Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy, who also serves as spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), for "red-tagging" her and her fellow members of the Makabayan Bloc.

Castro was referring to Badoy's statement over the weekend where she called Makabayan Bloc members "high-ranking party members" of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) whose goals are to weaken the government until it is totally destroyed "so that the CPP may topple our democracy and install, in its place, communism."

"Ito ay isang undersecretary at kung hindi niya ma-substantiate ang mga sinabi niya diyan, gamit ang pondo ng gobyerno, gamit ang kaniyang posisyon, threatened kami. Alam naman natin na kapag tinagurian kang terorista, ni-red tag ka, kamatayan, threatened ang aming buhay," Castro said.

"I'm moving to suspend the briefing for the budget of PCOO," she added.

Bayan Muna party-list Representative Carlos Zarate seconded Castro's motion as he said that Badoy's remark is an affront not only to him and his fellow Makabayan Bloc members but also to the House of Representatives as a whole.

"Kung ganu'n-ganu'n na lang mag-akusa ang isang unelected official na ito sa mga halal ng bayan, at humihingi sila ng budget dito, then we cannot allow that," he said.

"We may differ in position on many issues, but all of us are here in this Congress because we are elected by our constituents. And this unelected factotum should respect that," he added.

Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, in response, said Badoy made the remark in her personal capacity using her own social media account and not of the PCOO's.

"Whatever our esteemed USec. Badoy, if she's given the right to answer, that is her own post on her own page and that should not affect the rest of the PCOO budget including the agencies' budget because these agencies', these monies are for the executive branch, for the PCOO to be able to disseminate information especially during this pandemic," Andanar said.

"I cannot imagine not having any budget to help the national government, every Filipino, to disseminate the correct, the right information," he added.

Badoy was also present during the hearing but she has yet to respond to the statements of the Makabayan lawmakers. 

However, since no member of the panel objected to the motion, Castro's motion was carried and the budget briefing of the PCOO was suspended.

An advisory from the assistant committee secretary was later flashed on the Zoom meeting saying that the PCOO's budget briefing is "suspended until further notice."

The PCOO was supposed to present a budget of P1.59 billion for next year.

On Tuesday, Badoy sent a statement to GMA News Online asking "why are they terribly threatened with the presence and the whole-of-government approach of the NTF-ELCAC in ending this communist terrorist scourge?"

This was the response of Badoy after Gabriela Women's Party Representative Arlene Brosas called for a "zero budget" and the abolition of the task force following the former's "red-tagging" remarks. —KG, GMA News