Stop ‘bullying’ media with libel — TUCP

Published by rudy Date posted on November 18, 2008

by Paul M. Gutierrez
from People’s Journal

THE Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), called on the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) to “stop bullying the press” with libel complaints, saying journalists who have been highly critical of the state-run pension fund’s management “are merely doing their job as guardians of the public interest.”

“Scornful criticism by the media forms part of the occupational hazards of public office. If GSIS officials or other government executives for that matter cannot stand the heat that naturally comes with public office, then they should abandon their posts,” Herrera said.

Herrera also reminded GSIS officials headed by president/general manager Winston Garcia that no less than the Supreme Court has declared that when faced with scornful criticism, public officials “should not be onion-skinned,” suggesting that they should take the accusations in stride.

“Officials that directly oversee tens of billions of pesos worth of public funds, or funds entrusted to them as custodians, such as the GSIS, should accept the fact that they are naturally subject to greater public accountability, compared to other executives that do not handle such large sums,” the labor leader added.

Herrera made the call after Garcia last November 10, filed eight libel complaints before the Pasay City Regional Trial Court against seven print journalists and the president of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers.

Charged were Philippine Star opinion editor Ramon Lim and columnist Federico Pascual Jr.; Business Mirror opinion editor Lynn Ressureccion and columnists Raul Valino and Lito Gagni; Manila Times editor-in-chief Rene Bas as well as columnist Dan Mariano; and, ACT president Antonio Tinio.

Garcia also threatened to file additional libel complaints against other journalists, saying their names and adverse stories were still being compiled and reviewed by his lawyers.

But Herrera said among public officials, the least he expects to file a libel complaint was Garcia, noting the latter’s family has been running their own newspaper in Cebu for the last 26 years.

“They surely know the significance of a highly critical press in safeguarding the public interest,” he said.

Herrera added that the GSIS chief came from a long line of politicians and public officials in Cebu where Garcia also once served as councilor.

Winston, the labor leader noted, is the son of Rep. Pablo Garcia of Cebu’s second district, and the brother of Rep. Pablo John Garcia from the third district. Winston’s sister, Gwen, is also Cebu governor.

Herrera further advised Garcia that instead of “tormenting” his media critics with libel, the pension fund should be “more open to public criticism, to be more transparent in all their financial transactions, and to just dutifully answer all the issues raised against them.”

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