June 16, 2018
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines denounces Senate President Vicente Sotto III’s brazen attempt to suppress freedom of the press and of expression by asking online news portal Inquirer.net to take down three stories about him from its site.
Two of the stories were written in 2014 by US-based lawyer and writer Rodel Rodis – “The rape of Pepsi Paloma” and “Was Pepsi Paloma murdered?” – the third, a news article dated March 3, 2016 – “Tito Sotto denies whitewashing Pepsi Paloma rape case” – written by Totel de Jesus.
Sotto says he believes “there was malicious imputation of a crime against me” and complains that the stories “have been negatively affecting my reputation for the longest time.”
The senator also makes the somewhat ludicrous point that his “efforts to clarify my side were somewhat ineffectual by reason of the afore-cited (sic) articles were shared by your readers in the social media, and those readers who knew nothing about the issue took them as the version of truth considering that those reports came from a well-trusted company like Inquirer.net.”
While we can understand the senator’s discomfiture with these articles, we feel he is overstepping his bounds by zeroing in on the Inquirer.net articles, particularly the third, which is a straight news report on his denial of any involvement in trying to whitewash the Pepsi Paloma case and blaming this on the late actress’ manager, Rey dela Cruz who, like his ward, is also no longer around to dispute the claim.
We point out that all three articles Sotto wants taken down would have not been posted had they not gone through Inquirer.net‘s stringent vetting and editing.
It isn’t as if Inquirer.net was the first and the only one to publish materials on the Pepsi Paloma case and those allegedly involved in her rape and the attempt to cover it up. Why, too, didn’t he raise hell when the articles were first uploaded in 2014? Or does he believe his status and authority as Senate president give him better chances of having the stories taken down?
But equally disturbing, to our mind, is the news outfit’s statement on the request, which starts off by pointing out that Rodis had posted a copy of Sotto’s letter on social media and ends with the disclaimer that the post was Rodis’ “own decision” and stresses that “Inquirer.net has nothing to do with it.”
We cannot understand why the outfit has to bring up Rodis’ posting and then wash its hands of it, like it were something dishonest or devious when the writer was well with his rights to do so just as Inquirer.net editor in chief Abelardo Ulanday acknowledges that “it is within Sen. Sotto’s right” to request the takedowns even if he is not right at all to do so.
We acknowledge that Inquirer.net has yet to decide on the matter. But this early on, we urge that it do right by asserting its independence and upholding freedom of the press and of expression, which are increasingly under siege today.
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