(via) Neal Cruz, who has read the decision on the libel case against Ninez Cacho-Olivares:
Failure to check on the truth of an allegation is interpreted by the courts as malice. And this is a common mistake of journalists in a hurry. Malice is present when it is shown that the author of the libelous item made such remarks with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not. Failure to check on the veracity of an allegation is reckless disregard and is interpreted as malice.
Another common error is that public officials and public figures are fair game; the public has the right to know what they are doing. Public officials are those who are elected or appointed to public positions; public figures are those who voluntarily thrust themselves into the public eye, such as movie stars, entertainers, society matrons, prominent businessmen, artists, athletes, etc. But it does not mean that anybody who attracts public attention is a public figure if he did not voluntarily thrust himself into the limelight. He is a private individual who has private rights and it is very risky to defame him.
Still another error is “fair comment.” Many believe that any column is fair comment.
But the Supreme Court laid down the guidelines for a fair comment on matters of public interest:
“Comment which is true or which, if false, expresses the real opinion of the author, such opinion having been formed with a reasonable degree of care and on reasonable grounds.” An opinion must be based on fact. A columnist cannot make a false accusation and say “that is my opinion.”
As if Ninez and the Tribune made the stories up out of whole cloth. As if they invented all the FRAPORT allegations without evidence to back up what they said.
Here's what the inquirer reported on FRAPORT people back in Oct. 14, 2003:
Fraport heads say Macapagal
lawyer 'asked for millions'
Posted: 11:48 PM (Manila Time) | Oct. 14, 2003
By Juan V. Sarmiento Jr. and Gil Cabacungan Jr.
Inquirer News Service
Climaco, Cruz also linked
A PERSONAL lawyer of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had demanded "several tens of millions of US dollars" from the German airport operator Fraport AG to facilitate the ouster of its Filipino partner from the Terminal 3 project in Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport -- known as NAIA 3 -- so groups favored by Malaca?? could take part in the project, according to top officials of the German firm.
Fraport chairperson Wilhelm Bender and vice chairperson Manfred Schulch disclosed the demand of lawyer F. Arthur Villaraza in a letter to the World Bank's International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) on Sept. 17, which they submitted through the Washington-based law firm Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP.
It was serious enough that FRAPORT went to court with this.
And in that arbitration request, according to the Bulletin, it sez:
Fraport, which has 30 percent shareholding in its partner, Philippine International Air Terminals Corp. (Piatco), has earlier sued the Philippine government before the WB arbitration panel to enable it to honor its contract to operate and manage the long-delayed NAIA 3 facility.
In its arbitration request, Fraport alleged that presidential adviser on strategic projects Gloria Tan Climaco, presidential legal counsel Avelino Cruz, and President Arroyo's lawyer, F. Arthur Pancho Villaraza, attempted to extort some $70 million in exchange of the operations of the NAIA 3 facility.
So was Ninez (and the Tribune) guilty of libel for reporting on FRAPORT's own statements against the ARroyo gov't and it's lawyers? More from the NYT.
From the pro-admin Manila Standard Today:
Fraport asked Icsid to arbitrate the dispute after Ms. Arroyo voided the contracts granted to the Philippine International Air Terminals Co. to build and operate Terminal-3 at Naia. Fraport and its local partner, the Cheng family, are the principal investors in the project.
The German firm also implicated former Presidential Adviser on Strategic Projects Gloria Tan-Climaco and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Avelino Cruz to the alleged extortion attempt.
According to Fraport’s letter-complaint, Tan-Climaco, now a consultant to the President, allegedly suggested to the company to tap the services of Villaraza to force the Cheng family to give up its stake in Naia-3 project. It said Cruz, on the other hand, exerted pressure on the company into ousting the Chang family from the project.
There was also a tape of the conversation between Fraport representatives and their lawyers talking about The Firm and Villaraza's efforts to extort money from them. The Transcript is here.
Senator Angara tried to start a probe based on the tapes, but was shut down by joker arroyo because the tapes were inadmissible (i.e. "illegally recorded").
Villaraza did not deny the tapes were fake, but agreed with Joker that they were "inadmissible" in court.
In his complaint, Villaraza said the articles – which included a transcript of a taped conversation between project officials and their lawyers – were based on "private conversations" that had been recorded illegally, and said they were "not only hearsay statements, but also inadmissible as evidence."
More from the Manila Times:
The law office of Villaraza had denied the alleged extortion attempt and claimed that it was the Fraport officials who sought their services.
Angara said he was not surprised by the denial.
“What else do you expect them to say? They cannot very well admit the allegation so they have to deny it. But they still have to disprove it because Fraport will try to prove what it alleges,” he explained.
And why just target Ninez when Dante Ang, Arroyo's former "personal publicist", has been saying pretty much the same thing about Pancho Villaraza. Dante Ang was a close confidant of the Arroyos, so if anybody should know about the corrupt practices of the people close to Arroyo if any--he should know.
When asked if Ang's threat to come out with an expose soon against alleged abuses of the influential law firm would hurt Malacañang, Bunye answered, "Of course, (it will) but just as we said before, we would prefer that the relationship between him and the other side (remain) cordial."
When pressed to comment on the strongly worded statements that Ang had
hurled at Villaraza, the presidential spokesman said, "That's his (Ang's)
Ang also yesterday appealed to Mrs. Arroyo to kick out the
Villaraza-Angangco law firm from the Palace, a plea that apparently
betrayed the big role that the office actually plays in the Arroyo
"If we can kick out two presidents (Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 and Joseph
Estrada in 2001), certainly we can also boot out the likes of Viaje
(referring to Villaraza) out of this government...," he said.
Ang waxed poetic and warned that Villaraza will eventually be thrown out,
apparently by the same "civil society" that had seated Mrs. Arroyo in the
"If Viaje thinks he has the situation under control and that the
businessmen he has milked dry and the people he has traduced will continue
to lick their wounds in silence, he has another think coming. Slowly but
surely, the whispers in the corridors of business and power are getting
louder, bolder, more descriptive, more pointed. The dam is about to burst.
The cascading waters will topple everything that stands in their path.
Viaje and his ilk will be the first to go. I've seen that before. And so it will be," he said, without elaborating.
Fel Marangay (a pro-Arroyo columinst for the manila standard today) agrees that the person Dante Ang refers to as "Viaje" was Pancho Villaraza.
Weeks ago, former presidential PR man and now Manila Times publisher Dante Ang dropped a bombshell about how an influential lawyer who he called only as Viaje, allegedly takes advantage of his Palace connection to engage in money-making deals.
Although Ang did not identify the lawyer, he was obviously referring to lawyer Arthur “Pancho” Villaraza of the Villaraza and Angcangco Law Office, which handles private legal matters of the First Couple.
Of course, any efforts at whistleblowing will always be subject to harassment by this administration.
I like the first paragraph of businessworld better:
DoJ says it's closing in on Dante Tan.
(From BusinessWorld (Philippines))
Byline: Bernardette S. Sto. Domingo
Fugitive businessman Dante T. Tan should enjoy his remaining days in hiding after the Department of Justice (DoJ) yesterday confirmed it is in talks with a country where he possibly sought refuge.
UPDATE: From Newsbreak:
The court also upheld that the law firm and Villaraza are private entities.
Sure, Just like Mike Arroyo?
PCIJ: Libel a ‘battering ram’ vs press freedom
Posted by: Avigail Olarte | March 8, 2007 at 9:32 pm
Filed under: In the News, Media Issues
THE arrest of Newsbreak online coordinator and writer Gemma Bagayaua over a P100-million libel suit is described as the latest of the series of attacks against press freedom under the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
The New York-based media group Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) denounced the arrest and criticized “authorities in the Philippines” for “using criminal libel as a battering ram against press freedom.”
The libel suit of Ilocos Sur Governor and administration senatorial bet Luis ‘Chavit’ Singson against Bagayaua and four other Newsbreak editors and journalists follows the flurry of libel charges against journalists in the country today.
Arroyo’s husband, First Gentleman Jose Miguel ‘Mike’ Arroyo, has filed similar suits against 46 journalists, prompting media groups to call on Mr. Arroyo and the President to stop harassing journalists and using “an antiquated libel law as a tool to silence criticisms.” Mike Arroyo has sought a total of P141 million in damages.
“Government officials should not rush to a prosecutor every time a journalist writes critically about those in power,” CPJ executive director Joel Simon said.
Newsbreak staff and its other writers alone face two other libel suits. One stems from an article on the family’s alleged undisclosed properties in California. Another case was filed against Mia Gonzales for writing an article in the magazine about Mr. Arroyo’s “perceived crookedness and perceived influence in governance.”
“The message we’re getting is this: no matter how responsible journalists are, you can no longer seek protection in the law,” Newsbreak editor in chief Marites Dañguilan Vitug said in an earlier statement.
From NUJP: "Contrary to what his lawyers are saying, First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo is a public figure and will have to prove actual malice in order for his numerous libel suits against journalists to prosper.
This is what human rights lawyer Theodore Te said during a roundtable discussion this morning held at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City. Agreeing with him were more than 35 journalists, some of whom are defendants in Arroyo’s libel suits, as well several UP journalism students.
The activity was organized by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines after learning that 43 journalists are facing libel raps from the First Gentleman. His lawyers have been quoted in media as describing Arroyo as a private individual and therefore “not fair game” for media."
PCIJ: License to Libel:
LIBEL cases are becoming greater threats to journalists in the hands of First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, says lawyer Theodore Te of the Free Legal Assistance Group. Arroyo has studied the art of filing libel, because there is a “calculating aspect” on how he uses the loopholes in provisions on libel to make his suits more potent, according to Te.
Earlier libel cases filed by Arroyo singled out columnists such as Malaya’s Lito Banayo and inq7.net’s William Esposo. Now, he includes newspaper editors and publishers in his suits. This is a divisive tactic, as the defense of publishers consists of passing on the blame, according to Te.
But thanks gods Mike Arroyo dropped all the libel suits against the journalists out of the kindness of his heart ("gesture for peace"), after the 2007 midterm elections.
But STILL, Pidal still believes he is a "private citizen". (kaya ingat kayo mga media journalists.)