Isyu 20 Nov 1995
Palakpakan, aprub na aprub, ang maraming kaibigan sa media at iba pang tagahanga ng yumaong si Louie Beltran when the Court of Appeals ruled in his favor, overturning the 1992 Regional Trial Court decision that found him guilty of libel. They agree, one and all, with Justice Jose de la Rama that Beltran’s statement to the effect that President Cory Aquino “hid under her bed” at the height of the August 1987 RAM coup attempt was a “fair comment of a public event and was made without malice.” Making matters even happier, President Cory has decided to take no further action on the case. It would seem that Beltran has been vindicated and media can now live happily ever after.
All’s well that ends well? I’m not sure. Ang totoo, I don’t quite agree that Beltran’s statement was “fair comment of a public event” or that it was made “without malice.” Say niya, if you will recall, during that August 28 coup try, “the President hid under her bed while the firing wasgoing on—perhaps the first Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces to have to do so.” He wrote it for his October 12 column (Straight from the Shoulder, Philippine Star) more than a month and a half later. I remember taking him literally. I thought he was stating an objective fact, that he had newly discovered this facet of Cory’s behavior during the crisis – nothing in the statement suggested to me that he was just kidding. That’s fair? Besides, which “public event” was the statement a “fair comment” on? Sure, the coup attempt was a public event and open to comment, but Cory hiding under her bed was not, couldn’t have been, since it didn’t happen.
Too bad Cory and her advisers aren’t into the gender issue. Sa akin, Beltran’s statement smacks of male malice or chauvinism. I ask you. If it hadn’t been Cory in Malacañang when RAM struck, if it had been Laurel or Enrile or Tolentino, would Beltran even have thought of making such a statement? Of course not. Not unless it was true.