MANILA, Philippines — Barry Gutierrez, spokesperson of Vice President Leni Robredo, filed Friday a cyber libel complaint against six People’s Journal and People’s Journal Tonight staff over an article that claimed that he and the vice president were being advised by Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison on her presidential campaign.
In an 11-page complaint, Gutierrez said that the false claims in the article that appeared on Journal News Online, People’s Journal and People’s Journal Tonight “maliciously ascribed and fabricated fictitious acts” to him.
These false claims include Sison supposedly being a key contributor to the Robredo campaign and that he is acting as an adviser for Gutierrez and the vice president. Gutierrez was also accused in the article of being involved in the CPP’s “legal front” and was acting as a conduit for talks between Sison and Robredo.
“The foregoing are acts that I categorically and strongly deny for these are brazen falsehoods and are nothing but outright lies and malicious prevarications,” Gutierrez said, adding that Journal staffers did not verify with him the accusations in the article.
In his complaint, Gutierrez cited the 2008 Supreme Court case Tulfo vs People, where the high court said: “Journalists have a responsibility to report the truth, and in doing so must at least investigate their stories before publication and be able to back up their stories with proof.”
“Journalists are not storytellers or novelists who may just spin tales out of fevered imaginings and pass them off as reality,” the SC decision said. “There must be some foundation to their reports; these reports must be warranted by facts.”
The Journal story largely based its claims on a supposed statement made by Sison on the CPP’s official publication, Ang Bayan. Ang Bayan, which is available online, does not carry the alleged statement that the Journal news story quoted.
Robredo, Gutierrez and Sison have also dismissed the Journal story as fake in separate statements.
Over the course of her campaign, the vice president and her supporters have been the target of red-tagging by various government officials, including the notorious National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.
Groups like the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility have repeatedly called for the decriminalization of libel, noting that this has been often used by the powerful to quash dissent. — Xave Gregorio
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