A wanton disregard for press freedom

There are presently 43 journalists in the Philippines facing libel charges filed by First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo. The sheer number betrays a wanton disregard for freedom of the press and the propensity to use power and influence to silence critics. This statement is to protest the use of the libel law to stop critical reports and commentaries and to fight for the right of every Filipino to seek and receive information and ideas on matters of public interest, which are at the very core of the concept of a democratic society.

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A wanton disregard for press freedom

The law on libel exists to protect private citizens from unwarranted damage to reputation, but in the Philippines libel has been predominantly used by public officials as a tool to cow an independent press.

The most glaring example is the multiple libel cases filed by First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo against 43 reporters, columnists, editors, publishers, and even a subscription manager, of various publications.

We will not dispute the merits of the cases nor Mr. Arroyo’s right to defend his honor and dignity, as he and his lawyers insist.

What we decry is his propensity to sue journalists so as to muzzle those he does not agree with and sending out a clear signal to others that they risk the same ordeal should they dare cross him.

Mr. Arroyo is, after all, no ordinary mortal. As Presidential husband, he clearly enjoys immense power and influence, not just by his status but also because he does head the Office of the First Gentleman. And many, if not most, of his deeds and pronouncements dwell in the realm of public interest.

He is, therefore, both a public figure and public official.

That he is aware of this status and has no qualms of wielding it against his perceived enemies is evident in the fact that, when he filed his latest suit against the Tulfo brothers, he gave his address as Malacañang Palace, as if to stress who he is.

The record number of cases Mr. Arroyo has filed highlight how the powerful in this benighted land regularly abuse libel laws to curtail the democratic right of the press to delve into the truth behind matters of public interest and the people’s right to know.

It is also the best argument for decriminalizing an outdated law that has been used not so much to protect the innocent as to shield the guilty.

We demand that Congress immediately work to repeal the law on libel, to strike it off the book of criminal statutes, as part of its sworn duty to strengthen our badly eroded and still beleaguered democracy.

We demand that Jose Miguel Arroyo cease and desist from this clear abuse of his power and influence and squarely face the issues raised against him where they are properly addressed, in the arena of free and democratic discourse.

We pledge that neither this nor any other attempts by those in power to trample on the freedom of the press and the people’s right to know shall go unchallenged.

We commit ourselves to the continued struggle to realize the true blooming of democracy in our land, when freedom of expression shall be enshrined not just in our aspirations but in practice.

Signed by:

Below are the signatories as of 1:35 am , September 29, 2006:

Philippine Media Organizations

1. National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP)
2. Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR)
3. Bandillo ng Palawan
4. Sorsogon Organization of News writers, Announcers and Reporters (SONAR)
5. Manila Chinese Press Club (MCPC)
6. Negros Weekly
7. Negros Daily Bulletin
8. Cobra-Ans

International Organizations

1. International Federation of Journalists
2. Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance
3. Indian Media Centre ( India)
4. Reporters Without Borders
5. Committee to Protect Journalists
6. Southeast Asian Press Alliance
7. Hong Kong Journalists Association
8. National Union of Journalists (India)

Individuals

1. Jose Torres Jr. (Chairperson, NUJP)
2. Rowena Paraan (Secretary-General, NUJP)
3. Nonoy Espina (Director, NUJP)
4. Inday Espina-Varona (Director, NUJP)
5. Sonny E. Fernandez (National Vice Chairperson, NUJP/ABC 5)
6. Elmer James Bandol (NUJP-Albay)
7. Leti Boniol (Philippine Daily Inquirer)
8. Ruben Alabastro (Inquirer)
9. Julie Aurelio (Inquirer)
10. Elvira Mata (Inquirer)
11. Adelle Geraldo (Inquirer)
12. Lorna Kalaw-Tirol (Inquirer)
13. Juan Sarmiento Jr. (Inquirer)
14. Chito de la Vega (Inquirer)
15. Stephanie Asuncion (Inquirer)
16. Jun Bandayrel (Inquirer)
17. Tina Arceo-Dumlao (Inquirer)
18. Margie Espino (Inquirer)
19. Corrie Salientes-Narisma (Inquirer)
20. Monica Feria (Inquirer)
21. Vangie Baga-Reyes (Inquirer)
22. Mylene Francisco (Inquirer)
23. Miguel Suarez (Inquirer)
24. Ted Melendres (Inquirer)
25. Jun Cinco (Inquirer)
26. A. Noel Velasco (Inquirer)
27. Abelardo Ulanday (Inquirer)
28. Rosario Garcellano (Inquirer)
29. Artemio Engracia Jr. (Inquirer)
30. Jose Ma. Nolasco (Inquirer)
31. John B. Bayarong (NUJP-Olongapo/Subic)
32. Romy Elusfa (Business Mirror)
33. Joyce Pañares (Manila Standard Today)
34. Marlon Ramos (Inquirer Southern Luzon Bureau-Laguna)
35. Carla P. Gomez (Visayan Daily Star, Bacolod City)
36. Arman Toga, editor (Negros Daily Bulletin)
37. Ire Jo V.C. Laurente (DWOM-FM, Mindoro )
38. Julie S. Alipala, ( Inquirer Mindanao Bureau-Zamboanga City)
39. David Santos ( ABS-CBN Zamboanga City )
40. Vicente Jaime Villafranca (Philippine Graphic)
41. Ramon Acasio (Philippine Graphic)
42. Lynette Ordoñez-Luna (Independent)
43. Rollie Espina, Philippine Star and Negros Press Club
44. Ma. Ester Espina, Media Advocates for Reproductive Health and Empowerment
45. Delfin Perez (Manila Bulletin)
46. Gerry Albert Corpuz (contributor, Bulatlat.com)
47. Jofelle Tesorio (Bandillo ng Palawan)
48. Ansbert B. Joaquin (NUJP Olongapo-Subic)
49. Tony Bergonia (Inquirer)
50. Raul Marcelo (Inquirer)
51. Eric Olona (Inquirer)
52. Linda Bolido (Inquirer)
53. Chelo B. Formoso (Inquirer)
54. Fernando del Mundo (Inquirer)
55. Cenon Bibe Jr. (Inquirer)
56. Sandra Sendoyro (Inquirer)
57. Romina Austria (Inquirer)
58. Princess Daily Omilga (Inquirer)
59. Ernie Sarmiento (Inquirer)
60. Keith Bacongco (Business Mirror)
61. Jun Verzola (Northern Dispatch Weekly)
62. Delfin T. Mallari Jr. (Inquirer Southern Luzon-Quezon)
63. Dodong Solis (Radio Mindanao Networks-Davao)
64. Alexander Martin Remollino (Bulatlat Online Magazine, NUJP)
65. Dennis Maliwanag (inq7.net)
66. Ces Rodriguez (One Philippines )
67. Raffy Jimenez (GMANews.TV)
68. Ilang-Ilang Quijano (Pinoy Weekly)
69. Noel Sales Barcelona (Pinoy Weekly, NUJP)
70. Soliman A. Santos (Pinoy Weekly, NUJP/Elliptical Press Corps director)
71. Kenneth Roland A. Guda (Pinoy Weekly, NUJP)
72. D’Jay Lazaro (Pinoy Weekly managing editor, NUJP/NCPM Executive Director)
73. Rogelio L. Ordoñez (Pinoy Weekly EIC, NUJP/NPC)
74. Bayani Abadilla (Pinoy Weekly, News Editor, NUJP/NPC)
75. Roel Pareno (Philippine Star)
76. Frencie Carreon (Zamboanga Today)
77. Carol “Rollie” Montilla (Eastern Times, Malaya, KMC Magazine)
78. Carmelito Q. Francisco (BusinessWorld-Mindanao/Mindanao Times)
79. Veronica Uy (INQ7.net)
80. Thea Alberto (INQ7.net)
81. Noel Godinez (Nothern Dispatch Weekly)
82. Rudy D. Liporada (Editor, Kapitbahay, San Diego, California)
83. Lito Banayo (Columnist, Malaya and Abante)
84. Aquiles Z. Zonio (Inquirer Mindanao Bureau/NUJP-General Santos City)
85. Edith Regalado
86. Iris Cecilia Gonzales (BusinessWorld)
87. Ma. Ceres P. Doyo (Inquirer)
88. Bobby Tuazon ( Bulatlat.com)
89. Grace Albasin (Inquirer Mindanao Bureau/NUJP)
90. Danilo A. Arao ( Bulatlat.com)
91. Merpu P. Roa (Filipino Express/MindaNews)
92. Ermin Garcia Jr. (Sunday Punch)
93. Susan Palmes (NUJP-Cagayan de Oro)
94. Rommel G. Rebolido (NUJP-General Santos )
95. Artemio A. Dumlao (Philippine Star/NUJP)
96. Raymond Panaligan (freelance photographer)
97. Ellen Tordesillas ( Malaya )
98. Hadrian Hernandez (Gulf News, UAE)
99. Carlos Isagani T. Zarate (Columnist,Kris-Crossing Mindanao, Inquirer)
100. Edwin C. Mercurio (Philippine Press Club-Ontario , Canada)
101. Ninotchka Rosca (Novelist/journalist)
102. Michael Sarcauga (NUJP-Pagadian)
103. Roberto Galicia (Philippine Press Club-Ontario , Canada)
104. Ma. Diosa Labiste (Inquirer-Iloilo/NUJP)
105. Nestor Burgos Jr. (Inquirer-Iloilo/NUJP)
106. Michael L. Ubac (Inquirer)
107. Ronnel Domingo (Inquirer)
108. Tarra Quismundo (Inquirer)
109. Philip Cesar Tubeza (Inquirer)
110. Marinel R. Cruz (Inquirer)
111. Kathryn L. Reyes (Inquirer)
112. Pamela Samia (Inquirer)
113. Robert Jaworski Abaño (Inquirer Northern Luzon Bureau)
114. Vincent Cabreza (Inquirer Northern Luzon Bureau)
115. Desiree Caluza (Inquirer Northern Luzon Bureau)
116. Jonathan Cellona (photojournalist, BusinessWorld)
117. Voltaire F. Domingo
118. Paul M. Gutierrez (Journal Group)
119. Gerry Kaimo
120. Gene de Loyola
121. Joel Salud (freelance writer)
122. Edralyn Benedicto (Inquirer Visayas Bureau)
123. Cheryll Fiel ( Davao Today/NUJP)
124. Grace Uddin ( Davao Today/NUJP)
125. Pam Pastor (Inquirer)
126. Psyche Mendoza
127. Gil Nartea (Philippine Center for Photojournalism)
128. Butch Hilario (freelance journalist)
129. Armando Malay Jr.
130. Ares P. Gutierrez (Al Nisr Media-Dubai/Gulf News)
131. Carlos H. Conde
132. Alexander T. Magno (GMA-News.TV )
133. Ricky Carandang (ANC)
134. Allan M. Mediante (Mindanao Trustee, Philippine Press Institute/Mindanao Gold Star aily)
135. Jun Galias (NUJP-Sorsogon)
136. Manny Lucila (SONAR)
137. Bobby Q. Labalan (Inquirer Southern Luzon Bureau/NUJP)
138. Jose F. Lacaba
139. Jun Godoy ( NUJP-Ozamiz City)
140. Aubrey SC Makilan ( Bulatlat.com/Silangan Shimbun)
141. Tony Abejo (Malindang Tribune/ NUJP- Misamis Occidental)
142. Florfina Marcelino (The Philippine Times, Winnepeg, Canada)
143. Erwin Oliva (INQ7.net/ cyberbaguioboy.com.ph)
144. Armin Adina (Inquirer Libre)
145. Ritchie Sabado (Inquirer Libre)
146. Bayani San Diego (Inquirer)
147. Cora Lucas (Inquirer)
148. Heraldo “Boy” Cabrido (Inquirer)
149. Raffy Lerma (Inquirer)
150. Grace Pagulayan (Inquirer)
151. Dennis Eroa (Inquirer Libre)
152. Rommel Lalata (Inquirer Libre)
153. John Nery (Inquirer)
154. Ariel Dim. Borlongan (Balita)
155. Rorie Fajardo (GMANews.TV)
156. Darwin Wee (BusinessWorld)
157. Leila Vicente (ABS-CBN Zamboanga)
158. Raul Valino (Philippine Graphic at Business Mirror)
159. Sonia M. Capio (Womantouch Media)
160. Allen V. Estabillo (MindaNews)
161. Al Alegre (Foundation for Media Alternatives)
162. Vi Massart, Chief European Correspondent, The Philippine Star)
163. Jon Joaquin (Mindanao Daily Mirror)
164. Martin Marfil (GMANews.TV)
165. Val Veneracion (GMANews.TV)
166. Clarissa Militante (GMANews.TV)
167. Jes Aznar (GMANews.TV)
168. Vic Montero (Editorial Chief, ABC 5)
169. Jackie Sierda (Executive Producer, The Big News, ABC 5)
170. Jove Francisco (Reporter, ABC 5)
171. Sherrie Ann Torres (Reporter, ABC 5)
172. Naomi Dayrit (Reporter, ABC 5)
173. Ge-Ann Pineda (Reporter, ABC 5)
174. Jason Torres (Reporter, ABC 5)
175. Michael Carreon (News writer, ABC 5)
176. Eric Montas (Senior Desk Offficer, News, ABC 5)
177. Mel Cabigting (Desk Officer, ABC 5)
178. Rowena Garcia (Desk Officer, ABC 5)
179. Paul Mendinuteo (Desk Officer, ABC 5)
180. Mary Grace Navarro (News Desk, ABC 5)
181. Greggy Eugenio (Video Researcher, News, ABC 5)
182. Gigi Gabriel (News Traffic, ABC 5)
183. Rhoneil Amores (Chief Cameraman, ABC 5)
184. Joseph Martiin (Graphics Artist, ABC 5)
185. Reggie Agullo (Chargen Operator, ABC 5)
186. Arnold Marquez (Supervisor, VTR Editing)
187. Arnold Macarasig (Playback Operator, News, ABC 5)
188. Norman Balcos (Video Researcher, News, ABC-5)
189. Ambet Quitil (VTR Editor, News, ABC 5)
190. Heinrich Agcaoili (VTR Editor, News, ABC 5)
191. Yancy Consul (VTR Editor, ABC 5)
192. Jim Libiran (Head, Public Affairs Department, ABC5)
193. Ed Lingao (Head, News Department, ABC 5)

2 Replies to “A wanton disregard for press freedom”

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