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Filipino broadcaster files libel suit against newspaper reporter, editors

On 24 March 2014, a broadcast journalist filed a libel complaint against a reporter and the editors of a broadsheet that published a news report that named him as one of three broadcasters who were said to have received bribes from a state-owned corporation that was allegedly used by senators and congressmen to divert government funds.

TV5 news anchor and commentator Erwin Tulfo named Philippine Daily Inquirer reporter Nancy Carvajal, editor-in-chief Letty Jimenez Magsanoc, news editor Artemio Engracia Jr., and managing editor Jose Maria Nolasco in the libel complaint.

A news report that aired in TV5's newscast Aksyon said that Tulfo's reason for the complaint was that Carvajal's news report was malicious.

"Sometimes journalists are sued for libel and it's a big hindrance from work . . . but I think this is the only way to let them (the media audiences) know I'm telling the truth," Tulfo said in the Aksyon report.

A report in the Inquirer said Tulfo is seeking P12-million (some USD260,000) in damages.

Carvajal's 19 March 2014 report in the Inquirer said her sources named Tulfo and dzBB AM radio talk show host Carmelo Del Prado Magdurulang as having received checks for P245,535 (some USD5,500) in March 2009 from the state-owned National Agribusiness Corporation (Nabcor) as payoffs "in the guise of 'advertising expenses'." A third broadcast journalist was said to have received P2-million (some USD44,000) but was not named by the source because she had no documents to prove it.

Nabcor official Rhodora Mendoza claimed in Carvajal's report that then Department of Agriculture secretary Arthur Yap instructed Nabcor president Alan Javellana to pay off prominent broadcast journalists "to stop criticisms of a Nabcor project," which was used to course government funds from senators to fake non-government organizations (NGOs).

In the same Aksyon news report, Tulfo admitted receiving the amount from Nabcor, but insisted that the transaction was for advertisements that aired on his then radio program, Birada (Diatribe), for dzXL Radio Mindanao Network (RMN).

After Tulfo filed the complaint, the Inquirer released a statement saying it was standing by the story.

"We published the news story after careful investigation by our reporters and editors. It is fully supported by the statements of two witnesses and a paper trail showing that actual payment transpired," the Inquirer statement read. "The Inquirer is motivated only by its commitment to report the truth."

TV5 for its part said in its own statement that it stands by Tulfo's denial but that the network takes the allegation seriously and is conducting its own investigation.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
What other IFEX members are saying
  • Radio anchor sues newspaper for libel

    A radio broacster [Carmelo Del Prado Magdurulang] filed a libel complaint against a national daily newspaper and two former government officials on 26 August 2014. The complaint stemmed from a March 2014 report that named the radio broadcaster as one of three broadcasters who were said to have received bribes from a state-owned corporation allegedly used by senators and congressmen to divert government funds.

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