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Badoy, Celiz kin file petition to release SMNI hosts in House detention

The families of Lorraine Badoy and Jeffrey “Ka Eric” Celiz on Monday filed a petition before the Supreme Court for the release of the two SMNI program hosts who are detained after they were cited in contempt by the House of Representatives last week.

In a 57-page petition for certiorari and writ of habeas corpus, Walter Partosa, who represented Badoy, and Rogilda Canilao Celiz, who represented Celiz, asked the court to issue a writ of preliminary mandatory injunction for their release on or before December 15, 2023.

Further, they asked the court to issue a writ of habeas corpus declaring that there is no legal basis for their detention and to issue a writ declaring that the House panel acted with grave abuse of discretion.


The two SMNI personalities were represented by former presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.

“Ito po ay hindi lang po makasaysayan para sa lahat ng mga mamamahayag, ito po ay importanteng araw para sa demokrasya. Dahil kung wala pong malayang pamamahayag ay masusupil po talaga ang diskusyon, ang debate, na kinakailangan natin para gumana ang ating demokrasya,” Roque said in an ambush interview.


(This is not only historical for the press, but this is also an important day for democracy. Because if there is no freedom of the press, the discussions and debate needed for democracy to function will be impeded.) 


Identified as respondents are the House Committee on Legislative Franchises and Napoleon Taas in his official capacity as the Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Representatives.


When sought for comment, House Committee chairperson Gus Tambunting said the filing is “their prerogative.”


Last week, the House panel cited Badoy for contempt and ordered her to be detained for her "refusal to answer" and "acting in a disrespectful manner" during an inquiry surrounding the ad revenues of her SMNI program, 'Laban Kasama ang Bayan' that she co-hosted and co-produced.


Celiz, meanwhile, was cited in contempt for his refusal to divulge the identity of his source that provided erroneous information pertaining to the Speaker’s alleged P1.8 billion travel fund.


In their petition, Badoy and Celiz argued that inconsistent answers do not establish that a witness is being evasive.


“In this case, the allegedly inconsistent answers of the petitioner do not conclusively establish that she was doing it out of disrespect to the members of the Committee," they said.


"Petitioner Badoy should have been given the opportunity to explain her side, as she was attempting to do while the respondent Committee was discussing the motion to cite her in contempt,” they added.

The petition argued that the committee supposedly ignoring Badoy is a violation of her right to due process.


Meanwhile, the petitioners argued that Celiz is shielded by Republic Act 53 or an “Act to Exempt the Publisher, Editor or Reporter of Any Publication from Revealing the Source of Published News or Information Obtained in Confidence.”

“He was not given the opportunity to explain why his polite invocation of the Shield Law should not be considered as ‘disrespectful’ in accordance with the House Rules Governing Inquiries in Aid of Legislation,” the petition said.


Further, they argued that their detention was due to comments they made in their program.


“The Petitioners were summoned to the hearing because of comments that they made in their TV program. The only logical, inescapable conclusion is that their present detention is a result of those comments,” they said.

However, Badoy and Celiz argued that the comments they made were “privileged” in the exercise of their right to fair journalistic comment. Due to this, they said their comments fell within the ambit of freedom of the press.

“Being privileged communication, those comments must be free from any inquiry, including by the Respondent Committee, unless there is a clear and present danger. There is none,” they said.


The two also argued that their detention was a violation of their right to freedom of expression and freedom of the press.


In a separate ambush interview, Partosa and Rogilda Celiz expressed hope that the Supreme Court would listen to their petition.

“Sana mapakinggan kami na wala kaming ginawang masama,” Partosa said.—RF, GMA Integrated News