Don't call netizens as 'bullies,' Atty. Fortun
While I have no question on the decision of Panyero Raymond Fortun of withdrawing from being the spokesman of Cedric Lee, that in fact I am even praising him for doing it, I totally disagree with his statement blaming the media and internet citizens for alleged bullying on his client, Cedric Lee.
In short: Atty. Raymond wants the internet citizens and the media to be silent on his client because their noise bullied Cedric.
Well, to my mind, the media and the net citizens must be free to exercise their freedom to express, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press.
These rights of freedom are unalienable and there must be overriding reasons that we the people make these as a matter of policy in the Constitution prohibiting the Congress from passing laws abridging them.
That justification has never been outdated by time.
To the contrary time has again and again solidified the necessity to protect and preserve these freedoms for the greater good of the majority of the people and for the defense of the State and its principal agent that is the government against the corrupt in the government and in the society.
Look at the Philippines at the time it was held by the neck by colonial powers of Spain. One of the indispensable medicines to liberate the Filipinos was the power of the pen found incising in "La Solidaridad," "Noli Me Tangere," "El Filibusterismo," etc.
Through these expressions of disgusts over the injustices made, the hearts and minds of brave Filipinos, including Andres Bonifacio and his legion, were awakened to lead the first real fight by the oppressed against the oppressors; they must have realized that freedom is not given by the oppressors but fought for by the oppressed.
What would be the Philippines today if our forefathers chose not to tax their blood and preferred to stay in silence because making loud on sentiments would defame or hurt the feelings of the men and women in high places of the society during that time, including the priests represented by Padre Damaso in the pen of Jose Protacio Mercado Rizal y Realonda?
What would be the Philippines today if our forebears who spoke and wrote loud during the period of Marcos totalitarian government chose not to act against the injustices, massive human rights violations, thievery and rape of the nation's coffers and resources committed by Marcos and his cronies? Among those probed by the press during that time were the scandals that were actually private affairs of private men not in the government but having connections to the transmitters of power, not much different than how is Cedric Lee who boots his connections with several generals.
The fires of freedom of expression, of speech, and of the press flamed the brightest when Facebook, Twitter and Youtube aided the oppressed people of Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya to liberate the people. Without these internet networks that pricked the conscience of the world, the oppression in scales not known by man would continue to rule.
The public that is the People of the Philippines is the source of all powers, including the power to build the government, the power to make laws, the power to implement laws, and the power to judge and the power to punish the guilty. That is why P-Noy calls them "Boss."
Crimes are crimes because they offend the State and the People. That is why the title of all criminal cases are "PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES VS. _______."
By being a fact that there is probability, no matter how small it may be, that Cedric Lee and company would be hailed to court in cases entitled "PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES VS. CEDRIC LEE, DENIECE MILINETTE CORNEJO, ET. AL.", the people of the Philippines listening to the media and blogging on the internet have all the right to demand transparency and express opinions of what they saw.
Can we take away from the people that power to make judgments even if they exercise these on the internet?
Like Cedric and Deniece, the people too are interested in justice: that the guilty be punished and the innocent be acquitted and that only those punishment that are just are meted out. It is bet that if the people on the net saw evidence in favor of Cedric, they will be the first to cry out in favor of Cedric, in the same way the people cry out for Vhong Navarro after watching the CCTV footage of the elevator scenes.
But in this case, Atty. Raymond cries out that the netizens and the media have been bullying his client Cedric. He calls it bullying when the public obviously has basis in pronouncing an opinion of guilt: that damned elevator CCTV is the netizens' basis.
That CCTV footage does not even talk. But the images it shows are so powerful to lead any reasonable person to conclude that Cedric was lying when he claimed at first that he caught Vhong Navarro in the act of raping Deniece, and to conclude that Deniece was lying when she claimed she was raped by Vhong. The CCTV shows that Deniece was already out of the condo unit when Cedric arrived at the same condo unit, clearly showing that it was impossible for Vhong to have been caught by Cedric to have raped Deniece.
So why call the netizens as "bullies" when they are only basing their opinions on the CCTV released by the NBI? Of course, the netizens will not do so if there was no CCTV that was shown them. The judgment of the people on the net is based on official evidence released by the NBI. What if the NBI did not release this? Is it not that the crooks of injustice would have greater opportunity to wrong the right?
Never mind those opinions of the people on the internet or elsewhere. These opinions are elements of transparency that works both ways: to protect Cedric and Deniece if they are unjustly treated and punished and to protect the interest of the People to punish them when evidence show they are guilty. Their opinions keep the NBI and the Department of Justice cautious and fast enough in moving in the right direction because they know the people are watching.
After all, Cedric and company as well as their lawyers-spokesmen are not prevented from using the internet to defend their clients and to correct or caution on whatever facts released by the investigating bodies if they are false. But the fact that they do not do so means they do not possess that evidence that can match the CCTV footage taken from the inside of the elevator.
In fact, the media have been friendly to Cedric and Deniece. All the statements they released were published or broadcast, no matter the face of improbability to truth that confronts the mediamen. In other words, all is still fair in this present world of highly-active media and internet citizens. Facebook and Twitter are fair, too. Cedric can post whatever they want to say. Youtube as well is fair, it does not alter the video footage that Cedric may want to upload.
When there is fairness at least in the opportunities to speak, not one has any right to complain of unfairness. Not one has any right to remove anything that helps fairness to grow in the halls of justice.
The age-old libel law was born in the olden times upon the premise that not all persons had equal opportunities to have their voices printed in the limited spaces of books and newspapers or to have their voices heard in the limited time of radio and television.
To the contrary, the internet now is unlimited and un-discriminating that it can accommodate all what one wants to say.
So why blame the internet just because the citizens there are pro-active in expressing their opinions of your client, Cedric, when those opinions are based on CCTV footage?
Why can Atty. Raymond not write a blog to further the interest of Cedric, in the same vigor when he posted about the tax woes of Manny Pacquiao?
A private person like Cedric has the right to be insulated from defaming assaults. But once he comes out voluntarily to start stirring the passion and emotion of the public by mauling a TV personality who is loved by so many, he has no more right to complain.
Under the new paradigm of privilege communication doctrine, a private person who voluntarily throws himself to the vortex of the controversy is a public figure and as a public figure he has lost reasons to keep his personality and acts secret.
And it is undisputed that Cedric himself breached his own right to privacy when he admitted having beaten up Vhong Navarro black and blue on a pretended justification that he caught Vhong sexually assaulting Deniece. He breached his own right to privacy when he himself conducted the first press conference.
It is recalled that immediately after the public got the knowledge about the mauling, Cedric and Deniece were the ones who first sought the help of the media by conducting a press conference where he made his justifications public.
Unfortunately, Cedric and Deniece talked too fast. They forgot to check that there was a CCTV camera inside the elevator to record the actions they were doing when they all passed through before, during and after the mauling.
When this elevator footage was released by the NBI, it is very clear to any sane person to arrive at a conclusion that it was impossible for Vhong to have raped Deniece considering that there were only 62 seconds available time for Vhong to do it.
Now, let us talk about the right of the people to ensure that the guilty are punished.
This right to punish the guilty cannot be assured to the people that it is served well if all the media entities and internet citizens are prohibited by the Cyberlibel law that Atty. Fortun supports and that I want scrapped that I even filed a petition for the Supreme Court to declare it null and void.
If we choose the policy of silence on all criminal cases, during the preliminary investigation stage or during trials, the bigger danger lurks and the so-called "good lawyers" will always have the opportunity to sway the roll of justice to their liking, make their interpretation of evidence even to the point of being highly improbable or questionable, and, worse, suppress the evidence that should matter.
Why then prevent the media and the internet community from making their own opinions out of the facts they have seen in watching the highly-incorruptible CCTV footage of the elevator at Forbeswood?
That video show is enough for the public to form a good opinion that it was impossible for Vhong to have raped Deniece in 62 seconds.
Without that elevator video, it is almost certain that Cedric and Deniece will win with the high caliber lawyers they have in the persons of Atty. Raymond and Atty. Howard Calleja. And if Cedric and Deniece will win by the play of legal maneuvers, the public that is the source of the power to judge will rebel against the judge, the prosecutors and even the system itself.
In the wisdom of Justice Malcolm written in his decision in the case of United States vs. Felipe Bustos in G.R. No. L-12592, March 8, 1918, he penned: "The interest of the society and the maintenance of good government demands full discussions of public affairs." And this full discussion must be over and above personal discomfort or injuries arising from published or broadcast imputation when the interest of the State and the people is at stake.
Justice Malcolm further said in the same case: "Men in public life may suffer under a hostile and an unjust accusation; the wound can be assuaged with the balm of a clear conscience."
This was written by Justice Malcolm when there was no internet. What if there was already Facebook at that time? What would Justice Malcolm twit to Cedric?
After all, all is fair in Facebook.
The statement of Atty. Raymond Fortun is posted below
I had been engaged as your spokesman with the objective of being the media’s contact person in all legal as well as factual issues as may be consistent with the thrust of your legal counsels. In this regard, I had faithfully complied with this mandate for the past 12 days, even at peril to my own reputation as a lawyer.
Together with this mandate was an agreement that no statements shall by anybody from your group without the consent/approval of your counsels and/or spokesman. This has been breached last night.
My personal desire to help you notwithstanding the adverse publicity that you have been receiving is precisely to educate the public on the need to temper their emotions in light of your Constitutional rights to due process, to counsel of your choice, to present a valid and lawful defense, and to confront your accusers in the proper legal setting.
The past several days had made me realize that this country is NOT YET READY to accept these legal concepts, to which I squarely lay the blame on inaccurate reportage and the unprofessional actions of certain law enforcement agencies. That being the case and for the earlier reason mentioned, and in light of my inability to perform the functions for which I was hired, I regret that I must resign as your spokesman effective immediately.
Nonetheless, and in light of the lessons I have learned during my short stint as your spokesman, I will henceforth be devoting some of my time to: (i) ask congressmen to enact legislation so that ALL PERSONS who MAY be facing criminal prosecution be duly informed of their rights (e.g. to remain silent, to the presence of a lawyer etc.) before they are interviewed by TV networks.
People accused of crimes also have rights which need to be protected against media frenzy and unfair pre-judgments; and (ii) ask the Supreme Court to resolve the issues in respect of the Constitutionality of the Anti-Cybercrime Law, in order to address the matter of cyber-libels against Filipino citizens. People do have the right to express their opinions about issues, but such freedom does not grant a license to bully, hurl invectives or otherwise destroy one’s reputation without factual basis.
I wish you all the best in your case, and may justice prevail.
Very truly yours,