MANILA, Philippines – Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea has filed a libel complaint against Special Envoy for Public Diplomacy to China Ramon Tulfo for an alleged malicious article published in the Manila Times.
“It was filed a few weeks ago, quietly done,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told Rappler on Thursday, August 1.
Medialdea himself had spoken of his libel complaint in a July 26 letter to the Manila Times.
“I chose to be quiet in all his backhanded accusations and malicious articles against me, and let my lawyer just file the appropriate libel case against him for a libelous article he previously wrote in this newspaper,” said Medialdea.
But since the filing of the complaint, the Medialdea-Tulfo squabble has heated up, with the Executive Secretary writing a statement he asked Manila Times to make public.
In a July 26 letter to the Manila Times editorial board, his office condemned Tulfo’s “malicious accusations” about him.
The letter was also sent to Manila Times executive director Dante Ang II, son of Dante Ang, the paper’s chairman emeritus and Duterte’s special envoy for international public relations.
Bearing the header of the Office of the President (OP), the letter includes a statement written by Medialdea himself. His office asked the broadsheet to publish the statement in full.
Medialdea’s statement focused on Tulfo’s July 25 column, entitled “Self-purgation should start with the Cabinet.”
It shared the account of a Felicito Mejorado who claimed that he had not yet received P272.07 million in reward money owed to him by the government for his tip on a smuggling operation in Mariveles, Bataan, in 1997.
Mejorado said his claim for his reward had been pending with Medialdea’s office for one year and that a certain Vianney D. Garol, supposedly a presidential consultant, asked for P72 million for the release of the reward and that this money was for Medialdea.
But the Executive Secretary said he didn’t know any Vianney D. Garol but found out, based on Palace records, that Garol was a project development officer under the Office of External Affairs-Davao, a now defunct unit under the OP in 2005.
Medialdea also said that contrary to Mejorado’s claim that his cash reward was pending with the Palace, his claim had been denied by the Department of Justice. However, Mejorado apealed the denial and it was this appeal that had been lodged before Medialdea’s office.
The appeal has been pending for 3 months, and not one year, as Mejorado claimed, said the Executive Secretary. He added that the OP acted on Mejorado’s appeal, asking the Department of Finance to forward all records related to his case.
“I would have urged Tulfo to observe responsible journalism, but that might prove to be a futile exercise,” said Medialdea.
He warned others to be “circumspect” when dealing with Tulfo.
“I cannot overemphasize the importance of discernment and to take things coming from Tulfo with a grain, if not a kilo, of salt,” said Medialdea.
A previous indication of a brewing spat between the two men had been Medialdea’s speech in a Malacañang event on July 24, where he slammed “noisy” people for questioning his authority to issue orders on behalf of President Rodrigo Duterte.
While he didn’t name names, a few days before, Manila Times published a Tulfo column where the Duterte envoy claimed Medialdea signed a memorandum circular on the Southeast Asian Games hosting “apparently without the President’s knowledge.”
The circular called on all government agencies to support the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC) Foundation, a private entity that had been accused of overspending on uniforms.
Duterte himself had yet to comment on the tiff between his two appointees. Will he take sides? Will it be with his longtime lawyer and friend Medialdea or the rabblerouser Tulfo?