Inquirer news site's Pepsi Paloma articles now inaccessible
MANILA, Philippines (5th UPDATE) – Online news site Inquirer.net has taken down contributed articles tagging Senate President Vicente Sotto III in alleged attempt to whitewash the rape case of sexy actress Pepsi Paloma, a minor, in 1982.
Similarly, a March 2016 news article on Sotto's denial that he used his political affiliation to influence the court decision on the rape case was also removed.
Original links to the articles, when clicked, now redirect readers to the homepage of the Inquirer.
In statement, Inquirer.net management said: “The articles on the Pepsi Paloma case are currently under review and are unavailable at the moment.”
In a text reply to Rappler Wednesday night, Sotto said: "Lets not comment. Mapapag-usapan pa (that won't end the talk). I thanked them (Inquirer.net) na (already)."
NUJP 'saddened' by takedown
Meanwhile, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said in a statement it was "saddened" by the takedown, referring to the day's takedown of the articles as "one of the darkest days in the annals of Philippine journalism."
"It is the day when the online arm of the newspaper long regarded as one of the beacons of press freedom in the country caved in to the demands of Senate President Vicente Sotto III. It is the day when Inquirer.net disowned its own editorial policies and standards – and its writers – by willingly taking down stories it had posted as far as 4 years ago that harp on Sotto’s alleged role in the cover up of the rape of Pepsi Paloma," the group went on to say.
The NUJP added the "humiliating self-censorship" betrays not only the Inquirer, but also "a profession whose practitioners have fended and continue to fight off all attempts to muzzle it even if it has cost our ranks 184 lives since 1986."
The takedown request
In a May 29 letter bearing the Senate of the Philippines letterhead, Sotto asked Inquirer.net to take down the said articles. After this, Sotto announced that Inquirer.net would delete the articles, which he said were libelous.
The actress, then 14 years old, accused Sotto's brother Vic Sotto and friends Joey de Leon and Ritchie d' Horsey of raping her. Sotto, before he ventured into politics, was part of the comedic trio Tito, Vic, and Joey.
In late June, the Inquirer said it would defer using future articles by Rodis, pending the outcome of the inquiry into his old Pepsi Paloma write-ups.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) had called Sotto's request a "brazen attempt to suppress freedom of the press and of expression."
In February 2016, Sotto threatened to sue Rappler and columnist Sylvia Claudio if the news site does not take down a January 2016 opinion piece titled "Magnanakaw' sa Senado." The piece was about the P1-billion allocation for contraceptives that was removed from the national budget.
Rappler did not take down this piece.