Is Rey Joble’s “Aguilar To Receive P18M From Gilas” Libelous?
Not too long ago I wrote a piece in my Abante column that got me in some first time major hot water. See it wrote about this private individual (note: not a government official) and how his mis-doings in a private association were to say “manipulative”. I cited a highly credible source whom had first hand info that this person in fact admitted to his mis-deeds.
The next week I get the shock of my life, it was a demand letter from that man’s lawyer threatening me with libel if I did not make a retraction and a public apology in my column. I consulted the publication’s lawyers and a personal lawyer. I was so frustrated coz what I knew I was damn sure it was 100% true. But to my surprise, the law says that was not enough. The catch? That dude who did the mis-deeds was indeed a “private individual” and his actions in a private association. The only time the law allows you only site only a source and not even have a shred of evidence is when you are accusing a public official of something like corruption because his actions are of public interest and he is publicly accountable. Add to that, I damaged the reputation or defamed him with what I claimed he did. So since I had no evidence mentioned, nor did my highly placed source have any shred of evidence aside from a story from a trusted insider, I was screwed. Both lawyers advised me to retract and apologize. And so I did. I learned the law the hard way. Lucky for me, the guy was simply happy with an apology and retraction and he did not opt to file a suit.
To put things in perspective here, I do not know Rey very well. Now that I saw his name and looked up his picture on twitter, I realized yes I do know the guy. I have been with him in several sports coverages. In fact I just saw him today at Manny Pacquiao’s presscon and I even went up to him and Abac Cordero of Philstar and I kidded to them that Japeth was there as he changed his mind and opted to be a boxer instead. Clearly I have nothing against him and in person he seems to be a very likeable guy. So to make things crystal clear, this is nothing personal, just a major déjàvu of what happened to me, just might happen to him. Here’s why I see it that way.
(In case you have not read Rey Joble’s piece today from the Manila Standard Today, click here – http://bit.ly/3jcy1u)
So how does my experience compare to Rey Joble’s piece on Japeth? One, he has no evidence aside from citing a highly placed source. Two, he didn’t even mention if his source has a shred of physical evidence or any document to corroborate it. Three, Japeth, his father, and agent are private individuals and not public officials, what they do is not of public interest and are not accountable to the public. Four, accusing people of sheer and utter greed is in the eyes of many defaming too.
I want to make it clear too that i do not even intend to argue whether what he said was true or not, heck his source may be spot on. And if it is, it may change the general views I have on this situation altogether… But point is, you just cant do that to private individuals without any evidence or basis. Coz I now get what the law means, at the end of the day, some people will say “so what?” because it is not of general public interest unlike a government official. But the danger is, a good number of people may say “P.I. kaya pala, what a greedy bastard”. Game over, reputation defamed and down the drain. Sadly, i have seen this happening on twitter already. Some people just take these things as biblical truth.
So I need not be a lawyer to voice this opinion of mine and my analysis of this, but seeing the exact dynamics yet in slightly different circumstances, I see this piece as the same as mine, ready for a libel suit. But again, i ain’t no lawyer, so lets see how this is interpreted. The difference is, will the accused people in this case be as forgiving as the one I hurt?