Robredo spokesperson files cyber libel case vs tabloid

Published May 6, 2022, 2:43 PM

by Argyll Cyrus Geducos

Lawyer Barry Gutierrez, the spokesman of Vice President Leni Robredo, has filed a cyber libel case against a Manila-based news organization for the supposed intentional publishing of a defamatory news article against him and the Vice President.

Lawyer Barry Gutierrez, the spokesman of Vice President Robredo, sues the writer, editors, and publisher of journalnews.com.ph, People’s Journal, and People’s Journal Tonight for cyberlibel over an article alleging Joma Sison is an adviser of Robredo.

Based on his complaint-affidavit, Gutierrez is suing writer Lee Ann Ducusin, publisher PJI Web News Publishing, and publishing corporation Philippine Journalists, Inc. for violating Section 4 of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. He filed the case at the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office on Friday morning, May 6.

A Supreme Court decision defined libel as the “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.”

The news organization published on its website Journal News Online and its tabloids, People’s Journal and People’s Journal Tonight, a story alleging that the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Ma. Sison serves as an adviser to Robredo.

According to Gutierrez, the article, which claims that he and Robredo were in talks with the CPP for election strategies, was “without due regard for truth, propriety, and fairness.”

“[The] author and publishers caused the writing and the publication of a scurrilous, malicious, injurious, false, defamatory, and libelous article in the Journal News Online with the intention of attacking my person, character, and honor and exposing myself to public ridicule, contempt, and hatred,” his affidavit read.

Gutierrez said that the publication “knowingly and maliciously” ascribed the following “fabricated fictitious acts” to him:

  • Sison is a key contributor to Vice President Robredo’s presidential bid and acts as an adviser to him and Robredo;
  • Gutierrez has been Robredo’s conduit in her negotiations with Sison;
  • Sison allegedly advised Gutierrez to initiate a media attack against other presidential candidates; and
  • Sison allegedly advised Gutierrez to disregard the truth and accuse other candidates of corruption;

“I categorically and strongly deny (all of the above allegations) for these are brazen falsehoods and are nothing but outright lies and malicious prevarications,” Gutierrez said.

“I have neither corresponded with Sison nor anyone regarding the above malicious imputations. It is also deceitful to paint that VP Robredo and I are working together with Sison,” he added.

Robredo has also denied she was in talks with Sison.

Elements of libel

According to Gutierrez, all elements of libel are present in the case:

  • The allegation of a discreditable act or condition concerning another;
  • Publication of the charge;
  • The identity of the person defamed;
  • Existence of malice;

He said that the news organization linking him and Robredo with the CPP has a natural tendency to damage and blacken his reputation especially since Robredo holds the second-highest position in the Executive and has consistently strived to ensure that her office represents a transparent, honest, God-fearing, and humane public office.

“The statements in the News Article are clearly and unmistakably defamatory, misleading, malevolent, and deceptive aspersions, designed and engineered to bring me to disrepute and public contempt,” he said.

The second element of libel is likewise present due to the online publication of the article on the organization’s website and Facebook pages, both platforms open to the public.

For the third element, Gutierrez said he has been expressly mentioned and positively identified in the article.

He added that malice was also present after the author and publication continued to publish the article without verifying the “facts” and even after Sison and the CPP denied the allegation.

“Good faith is clearly lacking on the part of the other Respondents as they failed to substantiate or even attempt to verify Sison’s fictional story before publication,” Gutierrez said.

“The fact that these defamatory statements are unsupported by any proof clearly points out that these were specifically crafted and maliciously engineered to cause damage to my good name and reputation,” he added.

“The fact that the Respondents proceeded to publish the News Article and used the headline ‘Joma admits advising Leni’ even after learning that the CPP and Sison denied publishing any news item in Ang Bayan, which was allegedly the basis of the News Article, is already concrete proof of the bad faith and malicious intent on the part of the Respondents,” he continued.

 
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