Archive for July, 2012

Support Statement for Outcrop Libel Case: CEGP Kalinga Chapter


A campus paper writer is an artistic activist and partisan in some struggle for power. Like an artist, he molds, paints, draws and sketches words about what is happening around her in the school or in the community where he lives. Like a partisan, he is often mistaken as a shrewd oppositionist who writes or comments against the faculty or administration of the school he is connected. It is just but natural and perhaps even healthier that some divergence of view sets in.

Every student journalist has the right to express her feelings, ideas and observations but has to be responsible enough to seek and present only the truth for journalism should be promoted as a way literature that is not one-sided and baseless.  Press freedom is guaranteed in the Constitution of the Philippines, where it is enshrined in Article III, Section 4.

Hence, we, the members of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) Kalinga Chapter, affirm our support for Ms. Jesusa Paquibot, Editor-in-Chief of the Outcrop, and the official student publication of the University of the Philippines-Baguio, who is facing a libel case filed against her by a faculty member of UP Baguio.

 

DECRIMINALIZE LIBEL

FIGHT FOR CAMPUS PRESS FREEDOM!

UPHOLD STUDENT’S DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS AND ACADEMIC FREEDOM!

 

Nineteen year-old campus journalist facing possible conviction for charges of libel: an update on the libel case against Jesusa Paquibot, former Outcrop Editor-in-Chief (2)


The task of the journalist, be it mainstream or campus-based, is to write the truth. Whether it is the rising prices of commodities, the poverty in urban areas, the latest gadgets, the movies that everyone is watching at the moment, a teacher rebuking someone who merely does her job as an event documentor or a new infrastructure in town, as long as it is grounded on reality and backed up by facts, the journalist must write what he or she thinks is most relevant to the readers.

Due to limitations in the space of a newspaper or time slot for audio-visual programs, journalists can only choose some of what they deem to be most relevant and most significant among the numerous events happening around which they can write about. Moreover, given a democratic space that is being limited by factors like legislations, editorial policies leaning towards private interests and most severely, security threats, the journalists have to be more careful and creative in delivering the issues in the community and influencing the thinking of the people. One of the ways by which these limitations can be undermined is through types of writing that can vary tones and writing styles, explore linguistic forms and generally go outside the rigidities of structure usually found in more traditional types of journalism articles like news and features. One example here is lampoon writing. Without bypassing the principles of responsible journalism and in the case of Outcrop, without digression from its pro-student and pro-people orientation, lampoon writing can be effectively used to tackle issues which otherwise cannot be tackled in a setting abounding with repressive codes and regulations. Sadly, even this tapping of alternative forms to deliver truthful events is being attacked especially if they threaten those who cling to and benefit with their power. This is what happened to a lampoon article, entitled Yupiang Yupi, which is published in Outcrop, the official student publication of UP Baguio.

Around November last year, upon arriving at her boarding house, the Editor-in-Chief of UPB Outcrop received a subpoena requiring her to submit a counter-affidavit in defense of the complaint that a Professor in UP Baguio filed at the City Prosecutor’s Office on August 25, 2011. On November 25, together with her legal adviser, Paquibot filed her counter-affidavit at the City Prosecutor’s Office. Four days after, The City Prosecutor’s Office filed a resolution stating that the article was not libelous due to the lack of the element of specificity.

On December 19, 2011, the private complainant filed a motion for reconsideration. The case was then considered libelous after a student and a professor from the CAC officially declared that they think the fictional character in the said Yupiang Yupi article to be professor. However, the Outcrop was not able to respond to this since it was the period of Christmas break when most of the staffers come back to their homes.

January of this year when Outcrop, the official student publication of UP Baguio and member of the College Editor’s Guild of the Philippines, received a notice from the Regional Trial Court (RTC) prosecutor indicating its decision to continue the libel case filed by a professor of UP Baguio to Jesusa Paquibot as Editor-in-Chief of Outcrop. This was after the earlier charge of libel was dismissed on November 2011 by a different prosecutor.

On January 19, 2012, Outcrop filed cash bond to recall or set aside the warrant of arrest. The original amount of ten thousand was reduced to five thousand five hundred after a motion to reduce bail was made. The amount of money raised and used for bail was garnered overnight through donations from the UP Baguio students, Outcrop alumni and others.

On February 07, 2012, in the scheduled arraignment, the respondent pleaded not guilty.

On March 07, 2012, the pre-trial was held.

On March 08 and 09, 2012, the defense requested the Court for a mediation process with the complainant. While the process went on, the complainant and the respondent were not able to settle the terms of mediation. The complainant wished that the respondent apologizes for the lampoon article it approved of publishing and which intends to defame her. The respondent and her legal advisers disagreed to these terms for they find it to be self-incriminating and similar to a guilty plea.

With the failure of the mediation process to settle the case, the initial trial was set on April 23 where the Professor testified as the private offended party.

On May 15 and 16, 2012, Professor Anna Christie, now Dean of the College of Arts and Communication of UP Baguio, testified as a witness.

On May 22 Joshua Anne Therese Tan, a Communication student at UP Baguio testified as a witness. The next day, May 23, Ms. Tan was cross-examined by the defense then the side of the private complainant presented another witness, Nelly Rae Castro, also a Communication student at UP Baguio.

On June 19, Amer Amor, an instructor at UP Baguio was presented as the last witness of the private complainant. The side of the private complainant was given ten days to a summation of its evidences to which the defense will have seven days afterwards to make comments on.

As of now, the defense planned to return the case to the Judicial Dispute Resolution where again it will try to settle the case with the complainant by agreeing on the terms of the public letter. Ms. Paquibot of Outcrop and CEGP together with her legal advisers and confreres are open to apologizing to the Professor but only for the distress the lampoon article caused her and nothing else. However, the legal adviser of Outcrop clarified that instead of a “mediation” with the complainant, a “settlement” seems more likely to happen. Whereas in the case of a mediation, the two parties can meet on mutually agreeable terms, a settlement would allow the complainant to compel the respondent (Ms. Paquibot) to abide by the conditions she will demand. Considering the heavy toll a conviction on libel would generate – at least six months of imprisonment and a fine of up to 500 thousand pesos – the Editorial Board of Outcrop is now considering to abide by whatever demands the private complainant will make if a case of settlement takes place. Similar to the plight of the mainstream media, particularly from community papers, who are also prone to charges of libel, Outcrop is being daunted by the possible consequences of a conviction. Lacking the financial capability to shoulder such fines and to miss a period of their work in the case of imprisonment, many mediamen charged of libel are forced to succumb to the conditions given by the complainants just for the case to be dismissed. In the case of Paquibot, the situation appears even bleaker as she is only a student, who unfortunately, was charged of a criminal case by a professor in the university.

To clarify this further, while this scenario is being explored by the Editorial Board of Outcrop and its confreres, it is still very open on pursuing the case. Since it is now the turn of the defense to present its witnesses, Outcrop is already preparing for this stage. It already has its line of witnesses that shall present the other side of the case. Hence, while it already looks at the possibility of conviction of one among its ranks, the defense’ determination to continue the trial is not even slightly dampened. It is in this relation that CEGP Baguio-Benguet keeps on gathering support from fellow campus journalists, mainstream media practitioners and other concerned groups for our victory in this case.

This is when the unity not just of the members of the press but of everyone who cares to know the things happening around them is being urgently called for.  We are seeking the support of the mainstream media which is likewise prone to the threats of powerplay in the current system where libel is only one manifestation. We are also uniting with the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines in its call to Decriminalize Libel and prevent this from limiting the freedom of expression of the media, and as a consequence, limiting as well the public’s freedom of information.

In the final note, CEGP Baguio-Benguet reiterates that this is not just Outcrop’s battle. This is a battle for the entire press – be it campus or mainstream. This is a battle against the various elements – state institutions and policies, powerful and influential figures – that stifle not only the right of media practitioners to freedom of expression but more importantly, the right to information of the public.

 

For other related materials, check on these links:

https://www.facebook.com/notes/up-baguio-outcrop/rootcrop-anatomy-of-the-libel-case-against-outcrop/256939927708783

https://www.facebook.com/notes/up-baguio-outcrop/no-backing-down-a-statement-for-jesusa-paquibot-current-outcrop-editor-in-chief-/255314551204654

https://cegpcordillera.wordpress.com/2012/02/01/loquitor-statement-regarding-the-libel-case-against-outcrop/

https://cegpcordillera.wordpress.com/2012/02/06/support-statement-for-jesusa-paquibot/

 

An Update on the Libel Case against Jesusa Paquibot, former Editor-in-Chief, UP Baguio Outcrop


 

July 10, 2012

January of this year when Outcrop, the official student publication of UP Baguio and member of the College Editor’s Guild of the Philippines, received a notice from the Regional Trial Court (RTC) prosecutor indicating its decision to continue the libel case filed by a professor of UP Baguio to Jesusa Paquibot as Editor-in-Chief of Outcrop. This was after the earlier charge of libel was dismissed on November 2011 by a different prosecutor.

On January 19, 2012, Outcrop filed cash bond to recall or set aside the warrant of arrest. The original amount of ten thousand was reduced to five thousand five hundred after a motion to reduce bail was made. The amount of money raised and used for bail was garnered overnight through donations from the UP Baguio students, Outcrop alumni and others.

On February 07, 2012, in the scheduled arraignment, the respondent pleaded not guilty.

On March 07, 2012, the pre-trial was held.

On March 08 and 09, 2012, the defense requested the Court for a mediation process with the complainant. While the process went on, the complainant and the respondent were not able to settle the terms of mediation. The complainant wished that the respondent apologizes for the lampoon article it approved of publishing and which intends to defame her. The respondent and her legal advisers disagreed to these terms for they find it to be self-incriminating and similar to a guilty plea.

With the failure of the mediation process to settle the case, the initial trial was set on April 23 where the Professor testified as the private offended party.

On May 15 and 16, 2012, Professor Anna Christie, now Dean of the College of Arts and Communication of UP Baguio, testified as a witness.

On May 22 Joshua Anne Therese Tan, a Communication student at UP Baguio testified as a witness. The next day, May 23, Ms. Tan was cross-examined by the defense then the side of the private complainant presented another witness, Nelly Rae Castro, also a Communication student at UP Baguio.

On June 19, Amer Amor, an instructor at UP Baguio was presented as the last witness of the private complainant. The side of the private complainant was given ten days to a summation of its evidences to which the defense will have seven days afterwards to make comments on.

As of now, the defense plans to return the case to the Judicial Dispute Resolution where again it will try to settle the case with the complainant by agreeing on the terms of the public letter. Ms. Paquibot of Outcrop and CEGP together with her legal advisers and confreres are open to apologizing to the Professor but only for the distress the lampoon article caused her and nothing else.

In relation to this, CEGP Baguio-Benguet conducted a Round Table Discussion on Libel last June 29 at the Session Hall of the Baguio City Hall. Rowena Paraan of the National Union of Journalist of the Philippines served as the main speaker. CEGP and NUJP Baguio-Benguet also relayed the situation of the campus press in the region and the synthesis respectively. Members of CEGP Baguio-Benguet and the local media (Bandila, Northern Dispatch, Sunstar Baguio, Bombo Radyo) also participated.

CEGP Baguio-Benguet is still calling for support statements from its member publications in the region and other members of the Guild nationwide. It also seeks the support of the mainstream media which is likewise prone to the threats of powerplay in the current system where libel is only one manifestation. It unites with the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines in its call to Decriminalize Libel and prevent criminal libel from depriving not only the right of media practitioners to freedom of expression but more importantly, the right to information of the public.

For other related materials, check on these links:

https://www.facebook.com/notes/up-baguio-outcrop/rootcrop-anatomy-of-the-libel-case-against-outcrop/256939927708783

https://www.facebook.com/notes/up-baguio-outcrop/no-backing-down-a-statement-for-jesusa-paquibot-current-outcrop-editor-in-chief-/255314551204654

https://cegpcordillera.wordpress.com/2012/02/01/loquitor-statement-regarding-the-libel-case-against-outcrop/

https://cegpcordillera.wordpress.com/2012/02/06/support-statement-for-jesusa-paquibot/

Break of Dawn: A briefer on the case of the University of the East Dawn


“What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.” –Salman Rushdie, Booker Prize awardee

 

In essence, the University of the East (UE) administration has abolished the Dawn, the official student publication.

This was the first time in decades that the Dawn has not released an issue for the opening of the schoolyear. Students and other members of the UE community were asking the expected questions, “Nasaan ang Dawn? Bakit walang release ang Dawn?” However, almost everyone had the same speculation: it was a sanction for releasing an “offensive” lampoon issue followed by very critical opinion pieces.

 

Paralyzed operations

What happened was a systematic crack down on the publication. After the lampoon issue was released November last year, the Dawn received a “collective statement” from the UE-Manila university student council. The statement was a written complaint against the publication, which, the council claimed, released an issue that was a “great disrespect to UE…a great damage to our image.”

For three weeks in December, the Dawn, a weekly publication, was not able to circulate copies. There was no clarification whether the fund was withheld or not. The publication’s operations were paralyzed when 2011 ended.

Around this time, the editor in chief of The Dawn was no longer reporting to the editorial board. She was able to withdraw around P120, 000 from the Dawn account. However, she left an unpaid obligation of P33, 000 to the contracted printer and the staffers were not able to receive their honoraria. She also dropped all her classes this semester and could not be reached.

 

Manual collection

To prevent the “disappearance” of the editors in chief who were given discretion over the fund, the administration had to set up measures, said UE President Esther Albano-Garcia in an open letter to the students. In March this year, the administration met with the student councils of both UE Manila and Caloocan, and the Dawn editorial board. It was agreed upon in this meeting that the university would collect the fund (as per previous practice, the Dawn publication fee, which is P50 per student, will be included in the list of miscellaneous fees to be paid upon registration) to be disbursed according to set guidelines.

But on March 27, Garcia released an open letter to the UE students, stating that it is her “final decision that the university will no longer collect the Dawn fee starting this Summer 2012.” She said the Dawn representatives in the meeting showed sincerity in complying with the plan (the university will collect the fund but the disbursement will be according to guidelines agreed upon by the administration, councils and editorial board), but the March 12-18 articles “essayed their aversion to the proposal.”

This was her sole reason for imposing a manual collection scheme, in which the Dawn staff, composed of more or less 20 individuals, will have to collect P50 from each of the more than 6,000 students in both campuses of UE. This impossible task has effectively crippled the institution. In the first semester, less than 100 students paid the publication fee, amounting to only around P3,000, only 0.3 percent of the usual collection.

The Dawn was still able to publish a summer issue because they still have left-over funds (around P300,000 cumulative fund left from the previous terms). When the summer issue was released on May 14, the Student Affairs Office (SAO) informed the staffers through a letter that the term of the ad interim editor in chief has ended on March 31. Therefore, the staff should not have released a summer issue because from March 31 onwards, nobody in the ad interim editorial board has the “legal personality…to carry out any other activities in connection with the Dawn,” the administration claimed.

The statement that the term of the ad interim editor in chief has ended on March 31 was questionable, because according to the “Policy Guidelines of the Total Student Care Program: On Matters Concerning Student Publication,” a document governing the affairs of the UE student publications, the term of the editor-in-chief shall be limited to one school year and one summer. Hence, the term of the interim editor in chief should have ended after the summer term, or beyond March 31.

It was also last summer that the staffers were blocked from enrolling because of the administrative case. They were allowed to enlist subjects only after they signed a waiver, in which it was stated that they are enrolled until the administration releases a decision that is not in their favor.

 

On June 4, the first day of classes in UE, no Dawn was circulated. There was no editorial board.

 

No staffers

On July 23, the SAO administered a “qualifying examination” for all staffers. Anyone who wishes to be part of the Dawn must pass the exam. It was curious, however, that even those who already passed the exam a year or years before must also take the test. By the publication’s practice, staffers who already passed the test need not retake the exam.

The members of the ad interim editorial board were not allowed to take the exam because of a pending case regarding the lampoon issue. In essence, they were expelled from the publication.

The administration then informed the staffers that nobody from the 32 students who took the exam passed the test. They did not post results. There was no transparency, just the cold, definite statement that nobody passed the exam.

As if the crackdown was not enough, the administration filed a libel case against the editorial board. Three of the Dawn artists from UE Caloocan already received a subpoena.

 

One of the staffers who tried to conduct an interview for an article was reportedly told by an administrator that the Dawn does not exist anymore. He, or the administration for that matter, was wrong. In fact, they were wrong on numerous instances and they committed serious violations of Campus Journalism Act of 1991 and their own university guidelines (this is not to mention the serious breach of student democratic rights):

  1. The manual collection scheme does not have any basis. According to Article 7 of the UE “Policy Guidelines of the Total Student Care Program: On Matters Concerning Student Publication,” the “editorial board, in coordination with the school administration, may provide a system for the collection of publication fees from the students.” Therefore, at some distant point in the past, both parties had agreed on automatic collection, meaning the university shall collect the publication fee upon enrolment, meaning the publication fee is included in the list of miscellaneous fees to be settled upon registration. And this has been the practice since time immemorial.  

The only way for the collection scheme to be changed is when the editorial board, not any other          student organization or institution, and the administration have agreed on shifting to manual collection. In this case, the administration did not even consult the editorial board. In fact, it was only the president who decided that the manner of collection be changed.

By all means, the administration had to collect the publication fund that was not collected during the months of manual collection. Failure or refusal to do so can serve as a ground for a case.

Moreover, according to the Campus Journalism Act of 1991, in no way should “the school administration concerned withhold the release of funds sourced from the savings of the appropriations of the respective schools and other sources intended for the student publication.”

This is not the first case in which the administration imposed a manual collection scheme after the publication has written articles that earned the ire of the school officials. In various instances, this scheme has trimmed down the funds of critical student publications, thus restricting their capacity to circulate copies, to hold trainings for the staffers, and to conduct other relevant activities, as in the case of the Angelite of the Holy Angel University in Pampanga. It has been a tried and tested method of suppressing campus press freedom.

2. The qualifying examination is invalid. By practice, the staffers who passed the qualifying exam a year ago or years ago need not retake the test. On what basis, then, did the administration, without consulting the editorial board, require all staffers to take the test? Also, there is no school policy that prohibits students facing an administrative case to take the qualifying examination.

3. The convening of the screening committee, which administers the qualifying examinations, has violated the provisions of the Policy Guidelines of the Total Student Care Program. The members of the committee should include one media practitioner acceptable to “both school administration and the editorial board” and two past editors in chief “to be chosen by the outgoing editorial board.” However, it was only the administration that selected the members of the committee and did not involve the editorial board in the process. Hence, the qualifying examination administered by the committee is invalid.

The UE administration should bear in mind that the student publication is one of the concrete manifestations of students’ democratic rights in the campus. An institution can hardly claim that it is democratic if a student publication does not exist. Needless to say, a publication is an indispensible vehicle for information dissemination and exchange of ideas. Historically, the student publications served as the alternative lens at a time when the vibrant press was gagged and only the crony press operates.

It is clear that the UE administration has tried almost all the methods to shut down a publication that is beginning to speak against what it deems as unjust policies and questionable fees. Freedom of expression lies on the idea of opening spaces for a healthy discourse, a debate in which ideas are refined and pitted against one another. The truth will emerge in the competition of arguments in the “marketplace of ideas,” as Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. said.

But the administration, instead of addressing the concerns and engaging in free discourse, has chosen to incapacitate the publication, even violating its own guidelines in the process. It has even filed a libel case against the staffers. Let us remember that the libel case is a criminal case, and to file such a case against a student is tantamount to saying that he or she is not a budding journalist whose venue for training is the academe, that he or she stands on the same ground as professional media practitioners, and that the premise of academic freedom can do little to exempt him or her from being a defendant in such a case.

The disciplinary cases filed against the staffers can never be enough justification for withholding the funds or ceasing the operations of the publication. For the publication was established by the students for the students, and no other force or institution can abolish the publication or suspend its operations through various means. 

For months now, the university has been in the dead of the night, if truth and knowledge is the sunlight that pierces through the darkness. The student publication, the primary venue in which the students’ voices will be heard, is an essential vehicle of truth and knowledge. The UE administration should know that it could not keep the sun from rising, it could no longer keep the students in the dark.

Sgd.

 

Pauline Gidget Estella

National President

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