ABS-CBN: GMA7 libel case has no basis
MANILA, Philippines - ABS-CBN has reiterated its stand that the libel case filed by GMA-7 against it has "no basis in fact and law."
ABS-CBN head Gabby Lopez and majority of the 12 other former and current ABS-CBN executives and employees posted bail Monday, February 18, before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court, after the court issued warrants of arrest for the respondents on Thursday, February 14, over libel charges filed by GMA-7.
GMA7 sued ABS-CBN on July 27, 2004 after the latter accused GMA-7 of "stealing" and "pirating" live feeds taken of overseas Filipino worker Angelo dela Cruz when he arrived at Ninoy Aquino International Airport on July 22, 2004. He was kidnapped by Iraqi militants. (Read details of the case here.)
In a statement, ABS-CBN Integrated Corporate Communications head Bong Osorio said the TV network is confident that the libel case will be junked, noting that the respondents "voluntarily surrendered" to the court and posted bail.
"It is unfortunate that the respondents are being pilloried as criminals, when in fact, it was ABS-CBN whose rights were violated. They are confident that this libel suit will eventually be dismissed," Osorio said.
The others included in the warrant are Erwin Tulfo, Lynda Jumilla, Beth Frondoso, Maria Progena Estonillo Reyes, Annie Eugenio, Dondi Garcia, Luis Alejandro, Jose Ramon Olives, Jesus Maderazo, Luchi Cruz-Valdes, Jose Magsaysay Jr, Alfonso Marquez.
The Court of Appeals dismissed the case in 2011. But Justice Secretary Leila De Lima ordered prosecutors to file the libel charges against ABS-CBN in January 2012.
In her order, De Lima said GMA7 was able to show that all 4 elements that constitute the crime of libel were present in their case. The elements are:
- defamatory imputation tending to cause dishonor
- malice, either in law or in fact
- identifiability of the person defamed
What about copyright infringement?
Osorio took a swipe at GMA7, reiterating ABS-CBN's earlier arguments that it was GMA-7 that committed copyright infringement by using ABS-CBN footage "without its authority and consent."
In 2004, ABS-CBN filed a case against GMA-7 for copyright infringement over the same footage.
But the Court of Appeals dismissed the case. In a 2010 decision penned by Associate Justice Josefina Guevara-Salonga, the CA ruled that there was no probable cause to charge GMA-7 as "the footage constitutes a mere short excerpt compared to the entirety of the subject news footage" and the material did not have a "No Access Philippines" label.
ABS-CBN legal counsel Vincent Bayhon said ABS-CBN's motion for reconsideration is still pending before the Supreme Court.
Read the ABS-CBN statement in full below:
"The respondents to the libel case have voluntarily surrendered to the court and posted bail in accordance with law. They nevertheless firmly maintain that the libel charge has no basis in fact and law.
In truth, it was the complainant who used ABS-CBN footage without its authority and consent and was thus charged by ABS-CBN with copyright infringement.
The respondents will avail themselves of all legal remedies to question the findings of probable cause for the arrest warrants issued by the RTC of Quezon City.
It is unfortunate that the respondents are being pilloried as criminals, when in fact, it was ABS-CBN whose rights were violated. They are confident that this libel suit will eventually be dismissed." - with reports from Angela Casauay/Rappler.com