NUJP statement on Erap’s libel case vs PDI

Estrada is shooting the messenger

Former president Joseph Estrada is barking up the wrong tree by including editors and reporters of the Philippine Daily Inquirer in the libel suit he has filed against taipan Alfonso Yuchengco, who claimed Estrada had forced him to sell his shares in the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. Yuchengco was backing allegations raised by Senator Panfilo Lacson in a privilege speech against his former boss.

It is unfortunate that Estrada has chosen to target the messenger instead of addressing the message.

What the Philippine Daily Inquirer did was simply to publish a factual report on a matter of interest, quoting one of the players in Lacson’s expose. In short, it was simply following up on a story, and rightly so, since the truth or falsity of Lacson and Yuchengco’s allegations could impact tremendously on a major sector of our economy as well as become another benchmark of the quality of governance in this country.

As reported by the Inquirer, Estrada, in filing his case, claimed Yuchengco’s statements were not true and were only maliciously meant to destroy his reputation. We will not even argue his assertion for that is for him and Yuchengco to prove either way.

What we will dispute is his assertion that the Inquirer should not have printed the September 16 story because Yuchengco’s statement was not a verified document because it did not have the businessman’s signature.

Surely, as an actor and politician, Estrada realizes that his statements have been quoted probably a million times without the need for his signature, as many other public or even private figures involved in matters reported on by the press have been. Surely, there have been countless times when he has, in fact, sought media out to quote him on this issue or another. In this instance, in fact, media did seek him out for his side of the issues hurled against him.

And in this instance, it is not only media’s right but, in fact, its responsibility to dig deeper into the allegations of Lacson since these involve matters of public interest. And who better to seek out than the very person Lacson claimed had been victimized?

It is, of course, not the first time the Inquirer has felt the wrath of Estrada. When he was president, he pulled out government ads from the paper in retaliation for its reports on his mansions and other issues of governance.

It is unfortunate that Estrada, who time and again has professed to be a victim of injustice, has not learned that the best and only defense in times like this is the truth, unless of course it is not on your side to begin with. Shooting the bearer of bad news has never helped. You may silence the messenger but the bad news will still be there to haunt you.

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