2022 PH presidential race

Robredo’s spokesman sues Journal News Online writer, publisher for cyber libel

Mara Cepeda

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Robredo’s spokesman sues Journal News Online writer, publisher for cyber libel

Veteran election lawyer, Atty. Romulo Macalintal, and Atty. Barry Gutierrez, spokesperson of Vice President Leni Robredo, held a press conference on Thursday, February 17, at the Leni-Kiko Volunteer Center in Quezon City where they said Oplan Baklas of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) violates the 1987 Constitution and the law. Gutierrez said Robredo, who is running for President, is deeply concerned about the implementation of Oplan Baklas where the Comelec orders the takedown of campaign tarpaulins and billboards even in private properties. (VP Leni Media Bureau)

VP Leni Media Bureau

Barry Gutierrez takes legal action vs an article falsely claiming CPP founder Jose Sison was a key campaign adviser to him and presidential candidate VP Leni Robredo
Robredo’s spokesman sues Journal News Online writer, publisher for cyber libel

MANILA, Philippines – Barry Gutierrez, the spokesperson of presidential candidate Vice President Leni Robredo, filed a cyber libel complaint against the writer and publisher of Journal News Online over an article claiming Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Jose Ma. Sison was allegedly a Robredo campaign adviser. 

Gutierrez filed his complaint-affidavit before the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office on Friday, May 6, three days before Filipinos cast their votes for the high-stakes 2022 national elections. 

A lawyer, Gutierrez is suing the following parties from Journal News Online for cyber libel: article author Lee Ann P. Ducusin, PJI Web News Publishing, the owner and publisher of journalnews.com.ph, and Philippine Journalists Incorporated, the publishing corporation.

He argued that they have violated the cyber libel provisions under the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 or Republic Act No. 10175 and libel provisions under the Revised Penal Code for publishing the article entitled “Joma admits advising Leni” on April 21, 2022.

The article falsely claimed that Sison supposedly acted as a key contributor to the Robredo campaign and allegedly also acted as an adviser to Robredo and Gutierrez. 

But Robredo, Gutierrez, and even Sison himself and the CPP all released separate statements denying Journal News Online’s accusations. Rappler also published a fact-check article debunking these lies. 

Gutierrez tagged the article as “malicious” and “libelous.”

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“The news article is without due regard for truth, propriety, and fairness, whose author and publishers caused the writing and the publication of a scurrilous, malicious, injurious, false, defamatory, and libelous article in the Journal News Online with the intention of attacking my person, character, and honor and exposing myself to public ridicule, contempt, and hatred,” Gutierrez said in his complaint-affidavit. 

Gutierrez “categorically and strongly” denied all accusations in the article, including false claims that he acted as Sison’s conduit to instigate media attacks against other presidential candidates. 

He also rejected the article’s attempts to link him and Robredo to communists.

“I personally reject and condemn any form of violence, murder, armed conflict, and violation of human rights. The imputation made by the News Article that VP Robredo and I are in any way associated with CPP has a natural tendency to damage and blacken my reputation in the eyes of the public most especially considering that VP Robredo holds the second highest position in the executive and has consistently strived to ensure that our office represents a transparent, honest, God-fearing, and humane public,” said Gutierrez. 

Robredo has been persistently red-tagged as leader of the opposition movement against President Rodrigo Duterte. But the red-tagging intensified further when she declared her bid for the presidency and started riding on a momentum in the crucial last few weeks of the campaign. 

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The lone female presidential contender already said she would not ally with anyone resorting to violence to advance their agenda. She vowed to help protect her “kakampink” supporters against these attacks. 

Several of her supporters have since filed complaints against Presidential Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy for her serial red-tagging of Robredo. Badoy is the spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, the body formed by Duterte to address the communist insurgency. – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.