Gabby Lopez posts bail for libel case

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(UPDATED) A court issues a warrant of arrest against Lopez and 12 others in connection with a libel suit filed against them by GMA-7

Eugenio Lopez III. Photo courtesy of ABS-CBN.

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – The Quezon City Regional Trial Court (QC RTC) issued a warrant of arrest against ABS-CBN chairman Eugenio “Gabby” Lopez III and 12 other former and current executives and employees of the network over libel charges filed by rival network GMA-7.

Lopez posted bail at a Quezon City court on Monday, February 18. The bail was P20,000 for two counts of libel.

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.

Six of them are already out of ABS-CBN: Erwin Tulfo, anchor of TV5; Beth Frondoso, production head of Rappler; Luis Alejandro, COO of Del Monte Corp; Cruz-Valdes, head of news and current affairs of TV5; Jose Magsaysay Jr and Alfonso Marquez, both executives of Solar News.

On July 27, 2004 GMA7 sued ABS-CBN for airing reports accusing GMA7 of “stealing” and “pirating” exclusive footage taken of the arrival of overseas Filipino worker Angelo dela Cruz after he was released by Iraqi militants in 2004.

ABS-CBN explained that in its arrangement with Reuters, any footage coming from the network would be considered under “embargo” from other Philippine-based media.

After GMA7 aired the “unauthorized” footage of Dela Cruz on July 22, 2004, ABS-CBN broadcast a story on the mix-up in its now-defunct late-night news program “Insider.” Erwin Tulfo was the anchor of “Insider,” while Jumilla voiced the story.

During the program, Tulfo and Jumilla used the words “pagnanakaw ng aming eksklusibong kuha,” “pamimirata ng footage,” “pagnanakaw ay isang malaking krimen” and “pagnanakaw ng video” in reference to the incident within the program and the report, based on court documents.

A day after, Tulfo once again issued the same comments in news program Magandang Umaga Bayan, where he said that the GMA7 “copied” and stole” the footage, while it was being shown. Jumilia’s report was also replayed in the same show. 

The Court of Appeals (CA) dismissed the case in 2011, a decision that affirmed its 2010 ruling in favor of ABS-CBN’s petition to junk the case.

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 showed all 4 elements that constitute the crime of libel. The elements are:

  1. defamatory imputation tending to cause dishonor
  2. malice, either in law or in fact
  3. publication
  4. identifiability of the person defamed

As of latest posting at 1:20 pm, majority of the respondents have already posted bail.

Vincent Bayhon, lawyer of ABS-CBN, said they will ask the court to suspend the arraignment.

A separate case involving the same footage is pending before the Supreme Court. In 2004, ABS-CBN also filed a case against GMA7 for copyright infringement. 

But the Court of Appeals dismissed the case. In a 2010 decision penned by Associate Justice Josefina Guevara-Salonga, CA ruled that there was no probable cause to charge GMA 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. 

Bayhon said they are still awaiting the decision on the motion for reconsideration filed by ABS-CBN. 

Lopez retired as CEO in December 2012. It’s the first time in recent history that a network big boss is included in an arrest warrant. –

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