Jan. 21, 2010. This is the day a miniscule blogger was picked on by a pea-size brained Philippine government official. A blogger named Ella of Blog ni Ella is now facing libel charges from an article about those “rotting” merchandise inside the DSWD warehouses.
If you guys can remember, the Philippines took a beating from typhoon Ondoy last October 2009. It was October 23, 2009, when this site issued an article in reference to the original article of Blog ni Ella regarding the state of of some government relief efforts in some warehouses owned by the Department of Social Welfare and Deveopment (DSWD).
And the DSWD was in charge of those goods that were donated through government channels. Big chunks of those items donated came from the international community and from UNICEF.
As per the blogger’s original article, that have created other opinion pieces all over the blogosphere and into social networks to mainstream media, the relief items were just sitting in the department’s warehouses. This was at a time when all were busy with relief efforts from the devastating effects of the floods where people have died.
In the said Inquirer report, the National Bureau of Investigation filed a libel complaint as requested by then DSWD Secretary Esperanza Cabral, who is now Health Secretary, claiming the blog entry had “malicious imputations against her, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and its employees.”
Now what is wrong with this? Quite a few I would say.
First, the blog article in question, as we can find in most blogs, is a matter of opinion. If a person makes a statement that is, as Cabral said, contrary to the facts, it may not necessarily be libelous. On the other hand, a statement can be seen as an expression of fact or opinion depends on whether or not the person making such statement would be in a position to know such facts.
Therefore, if I call Secretary Cabral a stupid moron, it is more likely to be regarded as an opinion than if such a statement was made by her secretary. It is precisely because I wouldn’t have a chance to personally know her, so my statement on her being such a such would merely be categorized as that, an opinion.
Second, if assuming for argument’s sake that the article may be malicious as Ms. Cabral stated, it clearly had no actual malice. It simply means that the person who made such statements had no way of knowing that such observations and statements were actually false, if indeed they were. If I saw the same thing, even as those pictures led us to see, I would have the very same observation myself. And as a matter fact I have.
And given the circumstances surrounding the relief items and the hurried necessity of the relief efforts as compared to the activity inside those DSWD warehouses, anybody would come to the same conclusion.
The article in question is also a comment on a matter of public interest. Now I’m pretty sure we all agree that the issue is of public concern. Not only Ms. Cabral is a public servant, and by that, we the public pays for her salary, and all the “rotting” items were considered public and the property used for storage were publicly owned.
And we, as the public, have the right to question know if our funds and resources are being used properly or are being diverted for some other purposes that what is originally intended, don’t we?
Besides, NBI’s argument that “if Ella was sincere in bringing out the alleged corruption, she should have asked the Ombudsman to investigate” was pathetic at best. A citizen’s sincerity is not the issue here. Sincerity is not a matter of law that would suffice for an investigative bureau to waste its precious time. Sincerity is for politicians and government officials to look for and for us the public to find in them.
I think the NBI should be better off hunting the likes of Jason Ivlers than going after amateur bloggers. This move is clearly an implied threat to bloggers who express personal observations and opinions against the government.
We need to remind Ms. Cabral that she is not in kindergarten. Tattle-taling is not an option here. If she wants to go first grade, she needs to understand and accept the fact that praises and adulations are not the only things she had to expect.
And what’s more, it is not only in school where bullying is not permitted, it is in society as a whole.