Senator Manny Pacquiao said the filing of libel or cyber libel charges should not discourage journalists in exposing wrongdoings in government, adding that the media is a necessary part of ensuring that honesty, efficiency and integrity will prevail in public service.
Paccquiao gave this advise as he aired misgivings over the filing by Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi of libel and cyber libel complaints against seven local media outfits over the publication of articles on the official being charged with graft complaints last October 19.
“Dapat huwag siya magalit at magdemanda sa mga reporter na naglalabas ng stories. Trabaho at karapatan ng mga reporter na maglabas ng stories para ipaalam sa taumbayan kung may ninakaw ka o gumawa ka ng kalokohan against the government. (He should not get angry and charge reporters for coming out with stories. Reporters have the duty and the right to publish stories that would inform the public if one stole or did foolish things against the government,” Pacquiao told an ambush interview over the weekend.
“Ginagampanan naman nila ang mga trabaho nila. May basis naman sila sa inilalabas nila. (They are doing their job. They have basis in what they published),” explained the senator who is seeking the presidency in the 2022 elections.
Pacquiao stated: “So hwag na personal. Hwag na iyong personal kasi kung nasasaktan ka ibig sabihin parang totoo. (Don’t get personal. If you make it personal because you were hurt, it might seem there is truth to it).”
Davao businessman Dennis Uy filed separate complaints against the media entities on the same issue.
Cusi filed his the criminal complaints before the office of the city prosecutor in Taguig City while Uy filed his in Davao City.
There were no reports that the energy secretary had paid the docket fees for his claim of P200 million compensation. Non-refundable docket fees may reach over millions of pesos.
Slapped with the libel charges were ABS-CBN Corp., Business World Publishing Corp., Manila Bulletin Publishing Corp., GMA News Media Inc., Philippine Business Mirror Publishing, Rappler Inc. and Philstar Global Corp.
Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite and senatorial aspirant Neri Colmenares also lamented Cusi’s decision to file the criminal complaint and demand P200 million in damages for allegedly damaging his “reputation and good standing in government” as a result of the published reports on the controversial Malampaya deal.
Gaite and Colmenares defended the Fourth Estate in its bid to help people understand issues and make informed decisions based on facts presented.
The two Bayan Muna officials criticized the filing of libel cases against some journalists and publishers, saying that Cusi should “stop playing victim” in the Malampaya deal.
“The libel charges filed by Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi is a testament to media’s important role in shedding light on the dubious Malampaya deal involving Dennis Uy, one of President Duterte’s close friends and significant political patrons,” said Colmenares.
Gaite said as a government official, Cusi must not be too sensitive to public scrutiny and criticisms. He stressed that being an energy secretary does not “exempt” Cusi from being criticized.