Privilege Speech of Sen. Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada
November 21, 2006
Press freedom Besieged
Mr. President, as we jubilate and bask in the victory of perhaps the greatest Filipino ring-fighter of all time, Manny Pacquio, in the grand finale of one of the most memorable boxing rivalries in recent history, let us not ignore another colossal battle unfolding in the Philippine legal landscape that recently captured the attention of the international community.
I am referring to our hard-earned and precious 'press freedom', the hallmark of our democracy, which is now being besieged and badgered by the political and legal juggernaut, also known to many as: Attorney Mike Arroyo.
Mr. president, my distinguished colleagues in this venerable chamber, I speak before you on a matter of personal and collective privilege in order to place on record, and to condemn and denounce, in the strongest possible terms, the sinister strategy of MR. Arroyo to terrorize, harass, and to ultimately silence the free press and the vigilant media who investigate and report on his anomalous transactions and activities, including that of his WIFE, family, and HIS cronies.
Over the last two years, Atty. Arroyo has filed a series of criminal libel suits against forty-three (43) reporters, columnists, editors, publishers and other media professionals. He also filed criminal libel cases against at least six (6) other critics, including this representation, Senator Ping Lacson, former Senator Kit Tatad, and Congressman Alan Peter Cayetano, bringing to at least fifty (50) the total number of persons he has sued for libel since his legal wife, Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, grabbed power in 2001.
MR. PRESIDENT, This is already the highest number of libel charges filed by a single person in the annals of Philippine legal history. But apparently, mr. president, there is no stopping this political and legal juggernaut from filing more criminal libel cases in the future, in view of the dark and terrible warning he issued last week against his critics in the press and media.
And what is most terrifying, especially for the press and media, is that all the libel cases he filed, no matter how weak the grounds are, seem to have prospered in the fiscals’ offices and reached the courts, despite the constitutional guarantee on press freedom. As a result, warrants of arrest have been issued by the courts, and these are immediately enforced by police authorities against reporters, columnists, editors, publishers and other media professionals, oftentimes without warning, such as what has happened to this representation, and recently to MISS mia Gonzales of the business mirror.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines has denounced this barrage of libel cases filed by Atty. Arroyo as an effort to muzzle his critics.
In protest, More than six hundred (600) Filipino reporters and media practitioners, joined by their colleagues from fourteen (14) countries, and twenty-one (21) local and international media organizationS, petitioned and demanded MR. Arroyo to (quote) 'cease and desist from exploiting libel as a tool to cow the media' (unquote). Almost every publisher, editor, columnist and reporter all over the country, including those from community newspapers, from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, have joined the rising chorus against MR. Arroyo’s (quote) 'wanton disregard for press freedom' (unquote). In one voice, the alarmed local and international media organizations, in a joint statement, said (which I quote) 'The record number of cases Mr. Arroyo has filed highlight how the powerful in this benighted land regularly abuse libel laws to curtail the democratic right of the press to delve into the truth behind matters of public interest and the people’s right to know.'
Mr. president, the libel cases filed by MR. Arroyo against media professionals have a common template, which implies a systematic assembly-line effort to stifle the press and media. MR. Arroyo has turned our libel law into a SEEMING weapon of mass-destruction to stifle criticisms and unfavorable reporting against his legal wife’s repressive regime. The apparent intent was to create a chilling effect not only on journalists and media people, but on political dissent as well.
MR. Arroyo has already become an international celebrity for hounding journalists, and for casting a long shadow over investigative journalism and the independent press. With his tremendous political clout as husband of the usurper-president, and his utter lack of public accountability being a self-proclaimed private citizen, big mike arroyo, has become the media’s worse nightmare.
he claims that the people he sued for libel are not telling the truth - SHAME ON YOU -, or merely inventing stories to malign his reputation, including that of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and their family. In short, mr. president, he is saying that the more than fifty (50) people that he sued for libel are all liars!
But, MR. PRESIDENT, who is more credible? Who is truthful? Sino ba talaga ang nagsasabi ng totoo? Ang mahigit na limampung katao na kinasuhan niya ng libelo? O, ang nag-iisang nag-aakusa na si GINOONG Arroyo? Siguro naman, GINOONG PANGULO, may isa, at sa palagay ko ay higit pa sa isa, sa mga nakasuhan ng libelo ang nag-sasabi ng totoo.
When Senator Tatad tagged him the 'chief cheater' in the last elections, was he just inventing stories? A great many people DO NOT think SO.
When this representation accused him of being the godfather of big-time smugglers, was I merely inventing stories? Most people think not. Even HIS former buddies, the Tulfo brothers, whom HE sued for libel, think otherwise.
GINOONG ARROYO, When Senator Lacson called you Jose Pidal, the money launderer, at alam ba ni Misis Toh?, was he merely inventing stories? I am sure everyone thinkS not. Even your legal wife, some quarters say, seriously doubts you. IN FACT, MR. PRESIDENT, I WAS INFORMED THAT THE CASE AGAINST SENATOR LACSON WAS DISMISSED OUTRIGHTLY BY THE COURT.
When Linda Montayre exposed THE 'GENTLEMAN' for receiving billions of pesos in kickback from O.F.W. deployments, was she merely inventing stories? Many people think not, MR PRESIDENT.
When Congressman ALLAN PETER Cayetano accused MR. ARROYO of maintaining multi-million german bank accounts, was he merely spinning fairy tales? I am certain many people believed IN him. Legal luminaries believed that the certificate THE 'GENTLEMAN' allegedly obtained from your german bank is self-serving, and without any value as evidence.
When Mia Gonzales of THE Business Mirror referred to THE SAID 'GENTLEMAN’S' 'crookedness' in that Newsbreak article, was she merely INVENTING STORIES? I believe everyone knows that HE really IS a crook. HIS high-handedness and abuse of power merely confirms this.
When the journalists HE sued investigated and reported on HIS ill-gotten wealth registered in the names of HIS dummies both here and abroad, were they making these all up?
When journalists exposed the anomalous transactions and activities of the government officials HE help got appointed to juicy and sensitive positions through HIS political and conjugal clout, the likes of joc-joc bolante, sila ba ay nananaginip lamang? Kung saan naKAKAkita ang usok, malamang doon may sunog, GINOONG PANGULO.
Para sa mga PAMILYA Arroyo, bawal magtanong, bawal ang mag-imbistiga, kaya’t pag nagtanong ka o nag-imbistiga ka laban sa kanila – sapul ka agad sa kasong libelo.
Hundreds of journalists and media people have challenged THE 'GENTLEMAN' to squarely face the issues raised against HIM in the arena of free and democratic discourse. Ginoong mike, KUNG NAKIKINIG KA MAN LAMANG,bakit hindi mo harapin at sagutin ang mga paratang sa iyo sa tamang paraan? Why is libel suit HIS answer? IS HE afraid of the truth?
ginoong Arroyo, hard-hitting journalist Ramon Tulfo was your erstwhile friend. Now, he is your bitter enemy. He must know you then, and the truth about your illegal transactions and smuggling activities with Businessman Sammy Lim, and Vicky and Tomas Toh.
THIS AFTERNOON, WHILE SENATOR FRANK DRILON WAS DELIVERING HIS SPONSORSHIP SPEECH OF THE 2007 BUDGET, I SAW THE COMMISSIONER OF THE BUREAU OF CUSTOMS WATCHING EAGERLY. AND NOW, I WOULD LIKE TO REQUEST, AND WOULD LIKE SENATOR DRILON TO ALSO HEAR THIS, THAT I HAVE REQUESTED THE NAMES OF THE BIG-TIME SMUGGLERS IDENTIFIED WITH MR. MIKE ARROYO DURING THE BUDGET DELIBERATIONS OF LAST YEAR, AND UP TO THIS DATE, MY OFFICE HAS NOT RECEIVED A SINGLE NAME FORM THE OFFICE OF THE COMMISSIONER OF THE BUREAU OF CUSTOMS.
MR. PRESIDENT, When my father, President Joseph Ejercito Estrada, was still Vice-President, he did file one case of libel, and that was against his former most vocal political opponent, the inimitable Manoling Morato. But my father was so uneasy about it, that when he became president, in a show of humility and magnanimity, he withdrew this libel case in open court.
But suing forty-three (43) journalists and media people, and several others, totaling at least fifty (50) personalities, is just too much. THIS IS a completely different story. THIS IS an abuse of right, and an affront to the constitutional guarantee on press freedom.
NEITHER SHOULD WE FORGET THAT THE PHILIPPINES HAS EARNED NOTORIETY AS THE MOST DANGEROUS PLACE FOR JOURNALISTS SINCE GLORIA MACAPAGAL ARROYO illegally occupied malacanang IN 2001. a total of FORTY-SIX (46), I REPEAT, FORTY-SIX (46) MEDIA PROFESSIONALS HAVE BEEN KILLED SO FAR DURING THE five (5) year REGIME OF MRS. ARROYO. CLEARLY, THERE IS AN UNMISTAKABLE PATTERN HERE, AN INSIDIOUS PLAN TO TERRORIZE MEDIA PEOPLE INTO SILENCE AND SUBMISSION.
I, therefore, join the local and international journalists and media organizations THAT have condemned MR. MIKE 'JOSE PIDAL' Arroyo, who when crossed, aims to gag and blindfold journalists by bludgeoning them with criminal libel suits and warrants of arrests.
In response to the petition signed by more than six-hundred (600) reporters, including foreign and local media groups, calling for the de-criminalization of libel, I call on the Senate, particularly our committee on public information AND MASS MEDIA, to fast-track this measure under senate bill no. 977, including the immediate passage of other bills, most especially senate bill no. 1828, creating the Magna Carta for media professionals, in order to maximize the protection for independent crusading journalists and the free press.
MR. PRESIDENT, just this morning, the camp of mike arroyo officially declared its opposition to the de-criminalization of libel under our penal sysytem.
why MR. MIKE arroyo? is this because you are afraid to lose your tool of repression?
mr. president, my fellow senators, There is no tool more effective in destroying a democratic society and its institutions than a cowed media aligned with an immoral government that thinks that the end justifies the means.
Let us, therefore, champion the cause of press freedom. Let us, as a body, defend the people's right to information. Let us support the petition of Filipino journalists and their foreign colleagues in protesting the use of the libel law as a tool to cow the independent press.
maraming salamat po.
Monday, March 2