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'A mockery of democracy'

By NEWSBREAK

MANILA, Philippines—The author of a hard-hitting book on the Supreme Court said that the libel charges filed against her by a Supreme Court justice sends the message that journalists could not perform their duty of demanding accountability from public officials without fear of being penalized.

“Truly, media is effectively considered to be the fourth branch of government which checks on the inner workings of public governance. Thus, to punish me for writing the questioned book would be a mockery of democracy,” Marites Danguilan Vitug, author of “Shadow of Doubt: Probing the Supreme Court,” said in her response to the libel complaint lodged against her by SC Justice Presbitero Velasco in May. Vitug filed her counter-affidavit on Thursday at the Manila City Hall.

Velasco sued Vitug for alleging that he intervened in cases on behalf of his former law firm, the Fernandez, Velasco Grapilon law offices even as he was already a justice undersecretary from 1995-1998. Vitug also wrote about the volley of opposition against Velasco’s nomination to the High Court in 2002 and 2003. The watchdog Bantay Katarungan said that Velasco used his post at the Commission on Settlement of Land Disputes for his personal benefit and that Chinese businessmen paid for his golf tournaments.

In his complaint, Velasco said that the claims are baseless and malicious and sought P1 million in damages. This is the first time in recent memory that a sitting justice has filed a case against anyone. It’s also the second case filed by Velasco against Vitug. Last year, he slapped her with libel charges

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over her story on the alleged role he played in his son’s successful bid for a congressional seat.

In her counter-affidavit, Vitug said that she conducted extensive research and various interviews for her book. She was able to interview Magdalo Peña, who accused Velasco of intervening in behalf of his law firm even if he was already at the justice department. She also pointed out that the other criticisms against Velasco were raised by a legitimate civil society group, Bantay Katarungan.

The founding editor of Newsbreak said that she included the complaints against Velasco in her book because these mirror the “flaws in the selection and appointment process in the Honorable Supreme Court, a process, evidently, of public interest.”

Vitug also challenged Velasco to prove that there was malice on her part when she wrote about the said allegations. She said that she wrote about them because it was part of her duty as a journalist to show what reforms were needed in the judiciary, and not just to attack Velasco.—Newsbreak

 

CATEGORY: Justice System, Media, The Judiciary
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  1. Johnny Lin says:

    Si Velasco parang nagaalukay sa Smokey Mountain, napadaan dun si Marites at nasabi na amoy mabaho ang damit na suot ni Velasco. Dinemanda siya, kasi ano ang pruweba ni Marites ilang araw nang suot ni Velasco ang damit. Ganyan ba ang klase ng isipan ng Justices natin? Mahabaging Diyos, pagpalain po ang demokrasya namin!

  2. Jesus Mary Hao says:

    I am so sad. Why attack a journalist who is helping and showing to the people of the Philippines of what are behind the walls of a “non transparent” branch of the government? So sad.

    “She said that she wrote about them because it was part of her duty as a journalist to show what reforms were needed in the judiciary, and not just to attack Velasco.”

  3. Jesus Mary Hao says:

    Hahahahaha! You made a simple scene of the matter! Two thumbs up!

  4. Is that guy Velasco working as a publicist for you Miss Vitug? Be prepared for additional reprints of your book. Would love to get my hand on one ASAP.

  5. Evangeline Eriksson says:

    I am going to buy your book Marites.

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