As the legal counsel of columnist Jerry S. Yap, who is also the chairman of Alab ng Mamamahayag (ALAM), I wrote to six councilors-elect of District 5 of Manila to defend press freedom against the assaults of these "epal maniacs."
In the said letter, I wrote the following lines:
"By the way, reputation, in itself, has no meaning coming from one who speaks about his self. It is substantive and music coming from the mouth of others. With this, any councilor-elect has no right or authority to say his or her reputation for honesty has been damaged or not. And if he or she has no basis to say his or her reputation was damaged, then he or she has no basis to demand punishment or apology for an imagined damage."
Read the full letter below.
Renta Pe Causing Sabarre
Castro & Associates
Unit No. 1, # 2368 Leon Guinto St. corner JB Roxas St., Malate, Manila
June 20, 2013
HONORABLE CRISTINA A. ISIP
5th District, Manila
Thru: ATTY. ISRAEL P.J. CALDERON
The Law Firm of Israel P.J. Calderon
Room 303 ML Bldg., 47, Kamias Rd, Quezon City
Greetings for your election victory.
On behalf of client Jerry S. Yap, columnist of Bulabugin that is published daily at Hataw, this is a reply to your letters dated May 31, 2013 and June 3, 2013.
Please understand that the ideals and principles of press freedom, Republic Act No. 53 (the Sotto Law), and good faith protect Mr. Yap from being compelled to execute an apology that you demand and from revealing the sources of the information he wrote in his column items published in the May 17, 2013 edition of Hataw.
Nevertheless, let it be pointed out that it is uncalled for and unbecoming a City Councilor to demand from a journalist to execute an apology when there is nothing to apologize because it was a perfect exercise of press freedom and to threaten to sue a journalist for refusing to reveal sources because it is protected by the Sotto Law.
For the enlightenment of the councilor-elect, let it be known that PUBLIC OFFICE IS A PUBLIC TRUST and NOT A PERSONAL TRUST.
Once a person attempts to join politics with the view of winning a political position, he or she must know that he or she is putting his or her privacy and honor at risk in the name of public service. He or she must expect all kinds of criticisms, founded on truth or falsities. He or she must know that it is a birthright of the people composing the public to criticize and demand better public service and honest public servants.
Now, the demands for honest public servants begin from the time they present to the voters composing the public. These do not begin at the time of oath-taking or entry into the office for which a servant has just been elected. So that any issue that may crop up, true or not, that one person proclaimed by the Comelec as a winner was reported to have bought votes and bribed his or her way to victory is included amongst the risks to personal honor and privacy.
In short, any councilor-elect has no birthright to demand apology or to demand the revelation of sources of published items that he or she deemed to have damaged his or her reputation.
By the way, reputation, in itself, has no meaning coming from one who speaks about his self. It is substantive and music coming from the mouth of others. With this, any councilor-elect has no right or authority to say his or her reputation for honesty has been damaged or not. And if he or she has no basis to say his or her reputation was damaged, then he or she has no basis to demand punishment or apology for an imagined damage.
Now, you may see that press freedom is one of the indispensable tools invented by man to keep good governance alive in letter and spirit.
Hoping it is now clear to you. It is erroneous, inappropriate and improper for you to demand for an apology and revelation of sources of information and to sue if the demand is not met.
After all, public officials are not left without sufficient remedies.
All they need is speak up and not bully those who speak ill of them. They just need to present their side to be read in the most decent and kindest way possible for them to win the sympathy of the audience. In the case of Councilor-elect Isip and the rest who also wrote Mr. Yap, the best they could is to write down their side of the issue and it is assured that the substantive points shall be published in Hataw subject to space constraints.
Councilor-elect Isip and all other councilors-elect in District 5—Raymundo Yupangco, Joey Hizon III, Josefina Siscar, Arnold Atienza and Roberto Ortega—may post their side of the issue on their respective walls on Facebook and share the same in as many walls they can.
In the speech delivered by Barrack Obama addressing the “Innocence of Muslims” Youtube video footage that sparked violent protests across the globe, he said that the answer to hate speech is more speech. The US President even pointed out that he may have been the most maligned person on earth with all the catcalls thrown his way but he will never ever trade the freedom of speech for his anger.
Additionally, we wish to inform you that we argue that in so far as public officials are concerned, libel law is deemed revoked by well-entrenched jurisprudence on public figures that require that the kind of malice to be considered is only ACTUAL MALICE and nothing else.
Now, as defined by jurisprudence, actual malice is not one founded on hatred, on ill will, revenge, greed, or envy. It is one founded on the falsity of the imputations. It is defined as publishing falsities with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of the falsities. So that it does not matter whether the speaker has envies and yet he or she could not have actual malice because he spoke of the truth.
So that Article 354 of the Revised Penal Code, which is the heart of the existence or not of malice in libel, has now outlived its usefulness. To demonstrate, let us begin by quoting Art. 354, to wit:
Art. 354. Requirement for publicity. — Every defamatory imputation is presumed to be malicious, even if it be true, if no good intention and justifiable motive for making it is shown, except in the following cases:
In Article 354 it is decreed that no matter what kind of imputation it is, it is always presumed malicious even if true. This is now abrogated. This is because this is plain and clear to be inconsistent with the Actual Malice Doctrine formulated by the interpretative power of the Supreme Court of the US and of the Philippines.
And in this case where any of the councilors-elect cannot even establish by clear and convincing evidence which is true, it is hopeless for them to sustain any libel action that they may be thinking aloud.
So that it is better for you, Madam, and the rest of the councilors-elect of District 5 to desist from demanding an apology from the client and stop from compelling him to reveal his sources of information about the Iglesia Ni Cristo reports.
Lest we be clear, this letter is also addressed to all other councilors-elect of District 5 of Manila.
We therefore request that we be given the courtesy of a reply from all the councilors-elect on whether they would agree to the request for them to desist.
Should there be no reply in ten (10) days, we would deem that silence or omission as a violation of the right of Mr. Yap to exercise the right to publish in a serial publication that would give him causes of action under Article 32 of the Civil Code and we will not hesitate to file damage suits and administrative cases before the Ombudsman.
Additionally, compulsion is a crime of grave coercion.
BERTENI CATALUÑA CAUSING
Counsel of Mr. Jerry S. Yap and Hataw
Councilors-elect Raymund Yupangco, Joey Hizon III, Josefina Siscar, Arnold Atienza and Roberto Ortega, all of District 5, Manila