Facing libel cases

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Friday, July 4, 2014

THE press must be free. It has always been so. And much evil has been corrected by it. If the government finds itself annoyed, let it examine its own conduct and it will find the cause.”

The threat of Provincial Attorney Orvi Ortega to sue me if I won't stop commenting against him is not only a threat to me personally but to the entire media industry.

This threat might have a chilling effect especially to those who are neophytes in the broadcast/journalism profession. If we will not stand our ground, anybody will just threaten us.


I am not claiming to be a veteran in terms of facing libel cases but I would challenge Ortega to go ahead with his threat. If he has been planning to sue me because his reputation has been damaged by my commentaries, then he didn’t need to threaten me and announce it to the world.

Besides, who is he to stop me? I am raising a very legitimate issue. He was hurt
because I exposed his questionable conduct on the bidding for a security provider at the Capitol?

If broadcasters and columnists succumb to threats by people who have been subjected to media criticisms and commentaries, media will no longer be effective in its crusade for good governance and democracy will die. For me, as long as I am in the right direction, I will never back off. Will threatening me with libel stop me? No way.

I am not bragging but I have been charged 24 times in my entire career and all these cases were dismissed at the level of the prosecutor’s office and in the Department of Justice.

I was cited for contempt of court initiated by no less than two Regional Trial Court (RTC) judges. I was fined and scolded in open court and was almost sent to jail by a judge. But one of judges later committed suicide while the other one was dismissed from service.

A Muslim trader in Zamboanga City whose illegal activities I exposed threatened me at gun point. I was mauled by a son of an influential family in Mandaue City after I exposed their exorbitant barge fees following the closure of the first Mactan-Mandaue bridge after a foreign ship rammed it at the height of typhoon Ruping in the ‘90s.

Despite this, I did not give up and I am still in this profession earning an honest living.

I am saying this not to brag but just to inform our readers how delicate this profession is sometimes. I think you heard that some of our colleagues died in the pursuit of their profession. I hope, though, that Ortega won’t resort to violence.

Facing libel cases is one of the hazards of the media profession. Had I been afraid of this kind of harassment, I could have opted to resign from the media profession, go home to my hometown and till the farm land that I inherited from my parents.

Go ahead, Atty. Ortega. I am gladly waiting for the case that you will file. But I would inform you in advance that I have more than thirty lawyers to defend me.

They are, from the Cebu Media Legal Aid (according to age), Cheking Seares, Fritz Quiñanola, Frank Malilong, Ely Espinoza, Bingo Gonzales, Eddie Barrita, Ruphil Bañoc and my GMA 7 Balitang Bisdak co-anchor Rose Verzosa.

Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella, Agueda Monteclar, Don Gonzales and Vice Mayor Dave Duallo of Buenavista in Bohol also volunteered to help me. So too the Seares-del Rosario-Mangubat and Seares law office and Gloria Lastimosa Dalawampu. Si Atty. Glo, baynte na gud na siya daan. Di sobra 30 ang akong mga abogado.


Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 05, 2014.


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