December 28, 2006 · Posted in: In the News, Media

Fighting back

JOURNALISTS are filing a civil class action suit against presidential spouse Jose Miguel Arroyo today at the Makati regional trial court in response to the flurry of libel cases he has filed since 2003 — 10 against 45 members of the press, a number unprecedented in Philippine history.

The plaintiffs, represented by half of those Arroyo has charged with libel, are joined by other journalists and media and journalists? organizations, including the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism and Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility. They are contesting the First Gentleman’s claim that he has been maligned as a private citizen, for which he is seeking at least P141 million in damages.

Arguing that the reports are fair commentaries on matters of public interest, the journalists assert that the “sheer number of libel suits Arroyo has filed suggests that these are primarily intended to intimidate the press and silence criticism.”

“(Arroyo) is not out to defend his honor; he is out to chill the media in their exercise of the freedom of the press,?” said lawyer Harry Roque, who is also a professor of international law at the University of the Philippines. Roque drafted the complaint in behalf of the journalists.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines also expressed support for the journalists who are filing the case. The group is likewise advocating for the decriminalization of the libel law “to prevent journalists from being thrown behind bars for simply doing their jobs.”

Below is the pooled editorial in connection with the filing of the media class suit against Arroyo:


(UPDATED) MORE than half of the 45 reporters, columnists, editors and publishers the First Gentleman, Jose Miguel Arroyo, has sued for libel are filing a civil class action suit against him today, December 28.

Because the suit is being filed in behalf of the press, the journalists have been joined by other journalists and media and journalists’ organizations, among them the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, and The Daily Tribune.

The class suit is asking for P15 million in damages for the anxiety, loss of income and other inconveniences Mr. Arroyo’s libel suits have allegedly caused. But it also argues that the suits have not only caused the respondents sleepless nights; they also have a chilling effect on press freedom. Should it prosper, the P15 million will go into a press freedom fund.

The suit does not dispute the right of Mr. Arroyo to file libel charges against anyone he believes has wronged him through a libelous imputation. Journalists are also aware that libel suits are part of the media territory. But the sheer number of suits he has filed (10 against 45 respondents) suggests that these are primarily intended to intimidate the press and silence criticism.

Mr. Arroyo claims he has no such intention. He describes himself as a private citizen rather than a public official, despite the fact that there is an Office of the First Gentleman maintained by public funds — and despite the influence and power he wields as the President’s spouse.

Libel is a criminal offense in the Philippines. A journalist can be arrested for libel, and, if found guilty, sentenced to a prison term and made to pay damages that can run into the millions.

Mr. Arroyo’s claims for damages in the 10 cases he has filed amount to at least P141 million. Last month one of the journalists Mr. Arroyo has sued was nearly arrested in the Malacañang press office itself. She would have spent at least a night in jail if the police had found her there. But it was evident that the attempted arrest was also meant to intimidate her and her media colleagues.

Media and journalists’ organizations have called for the de-criminalization of libel to stop such threats to journalists and to press freedom. While the present libel law remains in force, however, the media must fight back and oppose its use as a tool of harassment and as a means of eroding the constitutionally-protected freedom of the press.

Most if not all of the First Gentleman’s libel suits may not prosper. But the subjects of those suits are painfully aware of the context of his actions. They fully remember how Proclamation 1017 allowed the surveillance, harassment and intimidation of journalists and news organizations. Rather than relent, the powerful forces they are confronting continue to assault the autonomy of the press.

The filing of so many cases against journalists undermines the task of the journalist, so essential to democracy, of monitoring government and holding powerful figures to account. It is in recognition of the damage the Arroyo suits have wreaked that the civil suit is being pursued by the complainants.

But the damage Mr. Arroyo’s suits against journalists has caused and may further cause is not limited to the erosion of press freedom. They are also a threat to Philippine democracy, given the crucial role of the press in behalf of the sovereign citizenry. This intimidation must be stopped, not only for the sake of press freedom, but for the sake of democracy itself.

8 Responses to Fighting back



December 28th, 2006 at 8:27 am

Hi Sir Alecks,

Please check out the updated version of the editorial in Freedom Watch (, the institutional blog of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility.



Alecks Pabico

December 28th, 2006 at 8:50 am

Thanks, Bryant. I’ve just updated it.



December 28th, 2006 at 2:02 pm

Walang mangyayari riyan, lutong makaw rin ang resulta niyan, parang Garci…



December 28th, 2006 at 9:17 pm

Dapat lang na magsampa ng magsampa ng libel case si FG sa sinumang nakaharang sa kanilang daraanan. Una… ito lamang ang puwedeng pakinabangin sa kanya ng kanyang asawang si GMA… kaya siya nandiyan ay para protektahan ang kapangyarihang kasalukuyang kanilang tinatamasa. Ano naman ang mawawala kay FG kung araw araw e magsampa siya ng kaso laban sa mga peryodista… di ba wala… sisikat pa nga siya at aakalain ng mga uto-utong tagasunod niya na talagang ginagawa niya ang kanyang napakadakilang tungkulin na tulungan ang kanyang asawa na paunlarin ang bayang Pilipinas… Kapag tumigil si FG sa pagsasampa ng mga kaso laban sa mga peryodista… ano ang sasabihin ng mga alipores niya… nagpapalaki ng ….. si amo. Kaya sa mga peryodista,, ano pang hinihintay ninyo tira ng tira… una … may mawawala ba rin sa inyo kung babalikan ninyo si FG… palagay ko ay wala… tulong na ninyo sa sambayanan… imulat ninyo ang mga mata ng mga taong dilat pero hindi makakita ng katotohanan…



December 29th, 2006 at 4:33 pm

Mahirap na kalaban si Big Mike at ang mga officials na konektado sa kanya as long as GMA is still in power.

Remember the PROBE team, “the longest-running and most awarded television newsmagazine” in the country. Well, it was pressure from the administration and Pidal’s best buddy Efraim Genuino that led to the censorship and cancellation of Probe Team by GMA7.

No surprise there, matagal na nating alam na maka-Admin ang GMA7 at si Mike Enriquez.

As for Efraim Genuino, ito ang report ng PCIJ on how valuable Genuino is to the Arroyo admin:

THE name of Ephraim Genuino, chair of the cash-rich Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), came up in the press conference held this morning by President Arroyo’s former Cabinet members.

Former Education Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad said that a small group of Cabinet secretaries had asked Arroyo to let Genuino go at the height of the political crisis.

But the president wouldn’t, according to Abad. He quoted her as saying, “I need Genuino because… he takes cares of the media and the bishops for me.”

Genuino, a close associate of First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo, apparently does more than dealing with the press and the clergy.

In its latest issue, Newsbreak identified 15 conversations in the controversial “Hello, Garci” tapes as supposedly those between the Pagcor chair and then elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano.

Genuino, in two instances, asked about possible payoffs to election manipulators, according to Newsbreak.

Several of the 15 conversations were earlier reported to have been between Garcillano and Mr. Arroyo or former Sen. Robert Barbers.

Newsbreak’s story in full.


INSIDE PCIJ » 2006: The ‘worst year’ for journalists

January 5th, 2007 at 7:13 am

[…] Starting in 2003, First Gentleman Joe Miguel Arroyo has sued 45 journalists, editors, and columnists (See related posts here and here.) […]


jay seneca

January 6th, 2007 at 10:01 pm

to simplify the tactics being used by the arroyos to emasculate and control the media, the counter tactics or solution could really be problematical, since the tactics smacks of dictatorship;


1. sinCe most of them are poor, and those not poor are greedy:

2. since some of them are cowards and or afraid of what will happen to their families

3. since some of them are crazy about freedom of the press and will not care about their safety and their families.

Philippines has the freest or the most free of all Press in the World whatever that means.


INSIDE PCIJ » Press freedom under threat

March 8th, 2007 at 9:33 pm

[…] Roque, who is also the lawyer of the group of journalists and press freedom advocates who filed a suit against Mr. Arroyo, said the case will definitely be elevated before the international community should the local courts dismiss the petition. […]

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