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Media were tipped off on the promulgation of Daily Tribune publisher and editor-in-chief Ninez Cacho-Olivares on libel. And the tip certainly didn’t come from the Tribune, which does not call on media to provide coverage for such cases.
Evidently, the tipoff came from the Firm, the private prosecutors in the case lodged against Olivares. As a matter of fact, the Firm even called media a day before to invite them for a press conference in relation to the promulgation.
The Firm’s junior partners were all present in court yesterday.
It was a cinch that the court would hand out a guilty verdict on Olivares. One is sure to win a case will go all out for such a publicity.
For the firm, it knew that yesterday, with a conviction of Olivares, it would be its “crowning glory,” which was why the media were asked to attend the promulgation. They knew, even before the ruling was made, it was going to be a conviction.
What stunned, however, was the fact that despite a Supreme Court circular making a libel conviction’s penalty a fine of P6 thousand instead of a jail term, the court meted out the punishment of a six months to close to three years jail term, plus P33 thousand for actual damages and even P5 million for “moral damages,” considering, as the ruling said that the latter’s (The Firm’s) professional standing in society, they being highly reputed lawyers.” Such fulsome praise in a ruling.
To top it all, there went the Firm’s lawyers, announcing that the Firm would be donating the P5 million to the Philippine Press Institute to assist the journalists in their libel suits.
What? They who ensure that a journalist is convicted and jailed and made to pay P5 million for this one count of libel and even argue in court that Olivares should be denied bail after the conviction, even when it is not final and executory and will definitely be appealed, now say they will be assisting journalists in their libel suits?
Funny, but other newspapers wrote just about the same things about the firm, and yet only the Daily Tribune was singled out by Villaraza, as it was he, and not his law firm that alleged the crime of libel.
The case stemmed from one of 48 stories that appeared in The Tribune where The Firm was linked to irregularities over the controversial decision of President Arroyo to abort a $450 million contract to build the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) Terminal 3, which up to this day remains mothballed.
The decision is a landmark for stifling the freedom of the press.
The type of influence that The Firm exerts is no secret in the political and legal community and even in the media
As stated earlier, not too long ago, last January, Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno issued a circular advising judges to refrain from imposing jail sentence on journalists.
The penalties seem calculated to have a limiting effect on both Olivares and The Tribune which has always been critical of the administration of Mrs. Arroyo.
A P5 million fine would be enough to have dire consequences for a growing newspaper such as The Tribune.
It was not the first time that the powerful have tried to muzzle Olivares and The Tribune.
In the morning of the anniversary of the first People Power Movement in 1986, Gloria placed the country under a state of emergency through Presidential Proclamation 1017.
When midnight struck, the Daily Tribune was raided by the PNP-CIDG.
The libel conviction of Olivares is but a continuation of the constant pressure applied on The Tribune under Gloria’s administration.
The moves against Olivares and The Tribune then and now, however, were directed not exactly at the critical newspaper and its publisher, who they know cannot be cowed, but on the whole media sector.
These were made to let it known that digging up legitimate stories that step on the toes of the powerful would have dire consequences under Gloria’s administration.
For The Tribune, efforts to muzzle it only serve to further inspire it to greater heights in its mission to root out the truth under Gloria’s secretively sinister administration.
The more the attacks, the more The Tribune proves true to its vow to report the news without fear or favor.