JPE and cyber libel

By Rene Saguisag

THe Inquirer asked: “But didn’t he [JPE] himself tell the public on Feb. 22, 1986, as he and . . . Ramos barricaded themselves at Camp Aguinaldo after the discovery of their coup plot. . . , that the ambush was fake? Together with Ramos and [soldiers] that formed the Reform the AFP Movement (RAM), Enrile, speaking on radio, confessed, among other things, that Marcos ordered the staging of the ambush to contrive a final act by his [foes] that forced him to place the country under martial law. The Filipinos forgave him, and trooped to Edsa by the millions to shield him and Ramos and their troops against an assault by Marcos’ military.” PDI, September 30, 2012, A8, col. 1.

If JPE lies, will son Jackie with his Alfie Anido problem? Fruit does not fall far from the tree? The version in the auto-bio that there was no fake ambush seems to be revisionism by one who has done good, validating that all autobiography is vanity (Durants). Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus?

I borrowed a copy of JPE’s auto-bio last Tuesday, but had time only to skim it, with all else I have to do. Kindly repeatedly invited to the book launch by JPE’s staff and the sponsoring Lopezes, I could not go. I was curious on JPE’s takes on certain items. Like 1) JPE’s supposed 1986 shouting match with PCGG’s Ramon Diaz, presumably over ill-gotten wealth. Gutsy of RD as the rest of us had been tsunamied by the JPE-FVR getaway. No mention. 2) How JPE got word on the need to meet Prez Cory who fired him on Nov. 23, 1986, a Sunday, and whether what happened was what he had expected. Page 665. Cryptic. Elliptical 3) Our early post-Edsa meets on freeing all political detainees, etc. In Club Filipino and Camp Crame meets were difficult and emotional. Uncle Jovy Salonga and I were committed to release all such detainees, a battle cry of years, which unimplemented, would put our credibility on the line right off. FVR was taciturn. JPE was against, as to the extreme left. Page 660. JPE wrote about the Ver-Edna romantic rumors. Page 482. What about his own love life? Page 37. GFs, he said in one memorable interview.

JPE wrote that on the night of Feb. 25, 1986: “I met President Aquino in an open area behind the house of Mrs. Josephine Reyes. With her were Jimmy Ongpin, Nene Pimentel, and [ex-]Justice Cecilia Muñoz Palma, Joker Arroyo, Ramon Mitra, Jojo Binay, Ernie Maceda, Rene Saguisag, and others. . . . President Aquino asked someone to call Ambassador Bosworth and she talked to him. All of a sudden, I heard her exclaim, “No! I do not want him here. I want him out of the country!” I was certain her remarks meant President Marcos.” Page 635. “. [S]hortly after her oath-taking, Cory held court at the head of the huge rectangular table in the cabinet room where Marcos had presided. Doy Laurel as Vice President sat normally to her right and I sat next to Doy as the Defense Secretary. To her left was Joker, her first Executive Secretary, who was pretty much the one steering the meeting. The rest of the cabinet members like Nene P, Neptali G, Rene Saguisag, Bobbit Sanchez, Ernie M, and the others occupied the other seats.” Page 656. To those still doubting I was Present at the Creation, belat kayo lahat. But, As Cory, Jr. I could not move freely as I wished. JPE, I was told, would not touch our food in our Cabinet meets. Poison concern?

The book affirms that he was behind forming ACCRA (Page 350) which he would deny at the time, if my memory is true. Ed Angara asked me at Manila Hotel during a Con-Con lunch break to join it; I declined. I dimly recall JPE suing a mag for mentioning the JPE-ACCRA link in he 80’s. In 1972 an ACCRA partner showed me around the ACCRA office in a Philbanking Bldg. on Ayala and pointed to JPE’s room. Another terminological inexactitude?

Another sizzling topic. Did the cybercrime law (R.A. No. 10175) change the notion of libel?

The penalty therefor was upped by R.A. No. 10175 but the Supreme Court (SC) has been liberal in acquittals and in imposing libel penalties, only a fine in the last decade given more-speech-not-less culture. But, no one should libel whatever the medium; the SC is there to temper. Trial courts may reflect the local power situation. A severe penalty can be nullified as impermissible under the substantive due process and equal protection clauses in a case filed by an actually prejudiced person in a real, not hypothetical, case; particularly so where the media is concerned. The SC strokes and massages the press.

Can Sen. TG Guingona, crying Uncle! make sumbong to the SC after he failed to convince his colleagues? I question too whether a Senator can violate the Consti by being a party. Lawyers-lawmakers are not supposed to appear in courts. What about non-lawyers? May both be circumventive? I prefer the prudential approach of Sen. Chiz Escudero, Sen. Allan Cayetano and Rep. Sonny Angara. They will work to amend and not have the SC do the dirty job. What TG is doing it to show up the executive and legislative branches as constitutional innocents. Given the trio’s initiative the SC should show judicial restraint: give Congress time to “correct” its work. I admire the courage of any Senator going to the SC asserting that close to 300 lawmakers abetted by PNoy’s legal team—do not know the Consti. Is TG the proper party, a lawmaker who lost in the Senate voting? And there is no actual case or controversy involving anyone personally on which he seeks an SC veto via an advisory opinion. Solons may differ but the Cabinet must speak with a single voice.

The Revised Penal Code penalizes libel by six months and one day to four years and two months and a fine ranging from P200 to P6,000, or both, in addition to the victim’s civil suit for damages. Courts may impose a fine, or imprisonment, or both, and award crippling damages.

We redeem valuable human material and prevent unnecessary deprivation of personal liberty and economic usefulness with due regard to the the social order. Buatis v. People, 485 SCRA 275, 291 (2006)(libel). In Sazon v. CA, 255 SCRA 692, 703 (1996) (libel) the SC ruled that “ the decision of the Court of Appeals is hereby AFFIRMED with the modification that, in lieu of imprisonment and fine, the penalty . . . shall be a fine of [3,000].” Better than having the SC shame the other branches, and immunize those saying what they think of Justices and their ancestors. To doubt is to sustain – Malcolm. The elected can cure the defects. Anyone calling a Justice a rapist online will be out of line and cannot be insulated from suit. But, the Right thing must be done by the Right party at the Right Time in the Right Way and for the Right reason. My Five R’s.