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Cayetano ally sues 17 Daily Tribune staff, officers over SEA Games reporting

A former Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee (Phisgoc) official filed multiple counts of cyber libel against 17 journalists, officers, and the owner of the Daily Tribune newspaper over its reports on the alleged corruption in the agency.

Ramon Suzara, who served as Phisgoc COO under then-chairman and foreign affairs secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, also sued 4 former executives of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC).

The respondents appeared before the Taguig City Prosecutor’s Office on Tuesday, February 23, after Senior Assistant City Prosecutor James Villamor summoned them.

Aldrin Cardona, managing editor of the Daily Tribune, and among the respondents, told Rappler that some of their reporters are facing one to two counts of cyber libel, while officers are facing 36 to 46 counts.

Cardona said the cases filed were in relation to the publication’s coverage of the pre- and post-Southeast Asian Games, “including reports/ issues which were also carried by other newspapers and news sites.”

“Suzara claimed that our articles maligned the Phisgoc as an organization. We stand by our stories, however, as all of them were based on results and interviews conducted with actual living sources, some of whom have also been filed with cyber libel charges by Cayetano’s group,” Cardona said in an e-mail to Rappler on Wednesday, February 24.

“We see this as a form of a media harassment. We’ll fight these charges. The truth is on our side,” Cardona said.

“These are wholesale charges that are meant to cripple our operation and finances. Suzara was not alone in filing these charges,” he said.

In several speeches in Congress, former speaker Cayetano accused the paper and its owner, public relations man Willie Fernandez, of spreading "black propaganda" against him, including about the leadership row between him and Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco, who replaced Cayetano as House Speaker.

Times seem to have changed, as there were reports during the 2013 senatorial campaign that Fernandez was working for Cayetano. 

"'Di naman po ako nagulat d’un sa Tribune, kasi nabanggit ko na po sa ating Pangulo, 'Mr President, si Cong. Velasco ang PR n’yan ay si Willie Fernandez ng Tribune. Umpisa pa lang ng SEA Games ginugulo na ako n’yan at kung anu-anong black propaganda [ang pinapakalat]," Cayetano was earlier quoted as saying by GMA News.

Cayetano also earlier accused POC members of resorting to politicking in the middle of the SEA Games. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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