In this day and age and in a society like what we see in the land of cheats where perversion is the norm Libel & Prostitution in Gloria Arroyo's Fiefdom is like an inseparable Siamese twins. Prostituting a public office for political gains to silence their political enemies perceived or otherwise seems to be the norm nowadays in Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s questionable tenure. The Bystander in reaction to another anomalous 4 year old libel suit against Anti-Gambling advocate Archbishop Cruz quoted the Supreme Court often repeated reminder to prosecutors to be fair and impartial in the performance of their functions:
We cannot emphasize too strongly that prosecutors should not allow, and should avoid, giving the impression that their noble office is being used or prostituted, wittingly or unwittingly, for political ends, or other purposes alien to, or subversive of, the basic and fundamental objective of observing the interest of justice evenhandedly, without fear or favor to any and all litigants alike, whether rich or poor, weak or strong, powerless or mighty. Only by strict adherence to the established procedure may be public’s perception of the impartiality of the prosecutor be enhanced.The latest scandalous case of libel took its toll on The Daily Tribune publisher Niñez Cacho Olivares when a Makati City court found her guilty of libel for writing a column accusing a law firm of influence peddling in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 (NAIA3) deal. What is odd was that she was not the only one who published such scandalous deal as she lamented being singled out, exactly what the Supreme Court has been pointing out. Although this time around it is not the prosecutors but the decision of the city court gives the impression of prostituting their chambers in favor of the well connected and powerful law firm as the “victim.”
The law office or better known as “The Firm” is not content with the verdict received by Olivares of a minimum of 6 months to a maximum of 2 years, P5M in moral damages and P33,732.25 in civil damages plus a libel fine of P4,000 will pursue 47 more libel suits separately. Thanks and no thanks to Judge Winlove Dumayas of regional Trial Court Branch 59 for the shameless errr "honor" of this sentence but geez this libel law is one outdated irrelevant law that impinges on the freedom of the press.
The imprisonment decision handed out to Olivares despite Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno issuing a circular not too long ago last January of a circular advising judges to refrain from imposing jail sentences on journalist.
“The Firm” is widely known and it is no secret that they are well connected and powerful counting Mike Arroyo as a client the husband of the one cheating errrr sitting by the stinking Pasig River with their key people appointed by this administration to government post. I am not a fan of Niñez Cacho Olivares nor do I agree with most of her commentaries but just like anyone else she is entitled to express her own opinion. This high handed tactics has no place in a society that strives and prides itself as the first democratic state in the region and as such should be guided by its ideals and principle.
DJ of Philippine Commentary had mixed feelings on the outcome of the Olivares case pointing out the excesses of the scalawags in the field of journalism as part of their arsenal for extortion activities. While I agree that there are indeed scalawags there is this danger of blaming the victim that only weakens our resolve in our democratic quest for freedom of expression and the press. Besides what is the point of having a press club if they can’t police their own ranks, but then again that is probably wishful thinking in a society where perversion and aberration seems to be the norm.
At the comment section of Ellen Tordesillas blog was a comment from atty36252 pointing out the flaw in the penal law, which I agree needs to be addressed. A good landmark case for the Supreme Court that will benefit the entire journalist but that it has to be elevated to the SC first, to quote:
A libel is public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead. Art. 353 Revised Penal Code.In a follow up comment atty36252 further stated:
Then in Art 354, it says: Every defamatory imputation is presumed to be malicious, even if it be true, if no good intention and justifiable motive for making it is shown…..
Article 353 enumerates the elements of the offense - that the defamatory statement be (1) public and (2) malicious. Then, Article 354 says malice is presumed, unless the offender can prove her good intentions.
So the burden of proof is shifted to the defendant? She must prove her good intentions? Isn’t it part of due process that the government must prove every element of the offense? The Congress has not only shifted the burden, it has made a finding of fact (the defamatory statement is malicious), which is a judiciary function.
I am not a fan of Pecabar, or ACCRA, or the “victim” law firm. Kung ako ang mag-re-recommend, si Saguisag na lang, or si Professor Alfredo Tadiar ng UP.
My problem with this libel suit is the fact that Ninez was commenting on a public figure - Marcelo. She was pointing to Marcelo’s alleged corruption. The practice is corrupt because the public official was directing business traffic to his law firm. Of course, she had to mention the law firm; but the attack was on the public official, not the law firm.I am not a lawyer so I leave the technicalities to the lawyers but one thing that struck me is that this libel law which Neal Cruz has been saying all along was copied in the US during the days of the duel is surely outdated and irrelevant in this day and age. To make matter worse atty36252 stated that libel does not even exist in the US today. Sadly, we have people like Alexander Adonis of the streaking butt naked Nogi Boy Nograles allegation languishing in a penal colony on a criminal offense that lingers on our penal code becoming an effective tool for the those who wield political power to silence their political enemies and the press.
Why did the law firm sue, not Marcelo, because commenting on a public figure is privileged, and the case would not have prospered. So this was a circuitous argument to get back at Ninez for criticizing Marcelo. I must admit it is a crafty argument.
Poor Juan dela Cruz paying billions of pesos maintaining a squandering President whose tenure is questionable at best and a Bastusan errr Batasan Pambansa (House of Legislative) whose insatiable appetite for pork barrel to the tune of billions of pesos still to this day can only come up with a proposition to remove imprisonment penalty on libel when it should be scrapped altogether. This is what people get; they pay these leaders at the expense of a sinking bankrupt economy just to trample on the right of their citizens to be heard is just too much. How much more abuse are the people willing to take? Now let us see if the Supreme Court will once again proved its mettle as the court of last resort maintaining their independence or do we see a see no evil, hear no evil, say no evil stance as in their last not so glorious decision favoring La Engkatada (enchanted) errr the president's henpecked errr men in invoking "executive privilege?"
Sadly the high incidence of impunity in the Philippines in disregarding the rule of law is one enormous formidable challenge that journalist has to deal with on a daily basis, just look at Reporters Without Borders in its Philippines - Annual report 2008. No wonder we see some Philippine journalist prostituting their profession whoever is in position because society's aberration has reached the lowest of the low where telling the truth puts one at risk of being imprisoned, maimed or worse killed is very likely. Until the journalist and the freedom loving citizenry collectively resist and fight for their rights instead of blaming the industry's scalawags we will be in this quagmire for the long haul.