If you hate reporters, give him right to defend


If you hate reporters,
give them right to defend

October 21, 2011


City of Calapan
Oriental Mindoro

Dear Mayor Leachon,


            We write to express our apprehension over your filing of a libel complaint against members of the press, JUANCHO REYES MAHUSAY and PAT SOSA SIGUE, who are also among those who compose Oriental Mindoro Media Club.

            While we are against libel as a crime, we recognize that we have a criminal law on libel and we recognize your right to file a complaint thereof if you feel you are aggrieved by any article published by any newsmen.

            Reports coming to us, however, are ugly. 

Some media members there are now being subjected to some forms of suppression of their freedom to write and to publish what they wrote just because you cannot get their cooperation.

            The first of this suppression came after you filed your libel complaint.  The respondents in your complaint were not even given the courtesy of getting informed of your complaint against them.  As such, Mr. Mahusay and Mr. Sigue were not able to file their counter-affidavit to your complaint.

            While it is the obligation of the Office of the City Prosecutor to notify persons being charged of any crime to enable those being accused to defend themselves, which duty is a sacred right for the people as written in Section 1, Article III of the Constitution, you have the obligation to protect the right to defend even of your enemies.

Be a Voltaire who said: “I may not like what you say, but I will defend to death your right to say it.”

Also, please be reminded that the best test of character of a person is his capacity to give a chance to his opponent to fight in an even field.

You are not an ordinary complainant, Mayor. You are also the mayor for all Calapan residents and a lawyer at that. 

So that it is with more reason that you have the obligation to make it sure that the people are afforded their right to defend even if the complainant is you.  But what has happened has been you just let the City Prosecutors do their thing even if you know that thing gravely violated that right.

            You must have also known that the City Prosecutor’s Office has never ever exerted any effort to ensure that the subpoena was received by the respondents to your complaint. 

You should have been extra-diligent to ensure that violations of due process will not happen because you are placed in a situation to be prompted so.     You should have known that if this violation happened it would be highly questionable because the prosecutors of a city normally receive allowances from the Office of the City Mayor.

            Additionally, you also did not exert any effort to ensure that the criminal information filed by the City Prosecutor’s Office will not be raffled off to the branch of the Regional Trial Court of Calapan where the judge is an elder brother of your party mate, City Councilor Joey Leynes.

            But the contrary occurred: when it was known that the case fell to the sala of the brother of Councilor Leyness, you never voluntarily asked for the inhibition of the judge just to erase doubts as much as possible.

            Moreover, you being a lawyer should know you are charged with the obligation to ensure that the information filed by the City Prosecutor in court must be examined personally by the judge.  As such, you also have the obligation to prompt the judge to be very restrained and be very prudent in approving or disapproving the information filed by the prosecutor.

            Further, let the National Press Club request from you to give a better understanding a chance to be known on how the freedom of the press works.

In the exercise of press freedom, mistakes are a common place, the reason there is such a thing the pressmen call as “kuryente.” 

In newspapering, to “scoop” is the rule and to be out-scooped is the worst sin that plagiarism only comes second.   

The main reason for the necessity of a scoop is the fact that when others were ahead the news becomes a history and it is a big disgust for newspapers to publish a history or what has already been told.

Because of the premium given to get scoop stories, “kuryente” often happens and we beg your understanding to this.

Thus, it is requested from you that instead of filing libel cases, it is much better that you refute any accusation by means of telling the truth of your rejoinder to the public.  Nothing can set a public official free from the doubts of the public but the truth.

            In this case, it was published in the newspaper of the accused that you filed a bail to obviate arrest due to a criminal case filed before the Sandiganbayan. 

You said it is not true. You even produced certificates certifying to the falsity of the report.

Therefore, truth was in your favor. 

And you could have displayed a more amiable and respectable gesture by just requesting the same newspaper to publish the copy of the certifications and all the doubts from the minds are wiped away at once.

            In fact, subsequent to the “kuryente”, the accused even published public apology telling the people that it was a mistake.  It was an act of humility that in itself has put the credibility of the newspaper into question, yet you are unforgiving.

            Please also be reminded that it destroys rather than help any public official to file a libel case instead of gamely facing the accusations with defenses of truth.  The act of filing a libel case is being looked by the public as a high-handed act not commensurate to whatever defaming words there might have been.

            The moral and better rule should be: WORDS against WORDS, not SWORD against WORDS.

            Since it is you who will decide at the end of the day, the National Press Club leaves it to you on what to do to make amends with the rule of civility and professionalism.

            The ball is in your hands, Mayor.

                                                                                                Respectfully yours,

                                                                                                JERRY S. YAP
                                                                                                National Press Club

Copy furnished:

City of Calapan, Oriental Mindoro

Regional Trial Court of Calapan, Branch 40
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