Cabral’s libel case, bad for blogging

Secretary Esparanza Cabral, formerly of the DSWD and currently with the Department of Health. Photo grabbed from the DSWD website.

Secretary Esperanza Cabral is apparently harassing the blogger who blogged about the relief goods stockpiled in warehouses of the agency she used to head in the aftermath of supertyphoon Ondoy (Ketsana). She has filed a libel case against Ella Ganda for supposedly defaming her, the men and women of the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the agency itself.

Cabral is committing a grave mistake for which she would probably shame herself before the court which will hear the libel case. The subsequent events after Ella Ganda published her controversial post — Cabral admitting that there indeed were plenty of relief goods in DSWD warehouses and Cabral accepting the offer of citizens to help in repacking them to speed up distribution, the online community’s response to such call for volunteers — would only confirm what the blogger wrote. In fact, Ella Ganda did the country a favor by ensuring speedy and transparent distribution of these relief goods for their intended recipients.

It is doubtful too whether Cabral, the entire DSWD, the National Bureau of Investigation and the state prosecutors could prove malice on the part of the blogger. I think the blog post in question was an expression of concern over how the government was perceived to be working at a time when tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands were waiting for relief aid. There is no indication in the blog post that the blogger maliciously wrote about the relief goods she claimed to have seen “rotting” in one such DSWD warehouse. By “rotting”, she may have meant being left there even amid the dire situation of Ondoy evacuees.

Authorities have so far failed to identify the person behind Ella Ganda so we suspect this will delay the legal proceedings. But if she surfaces and she fights back, I am hopeful the online community and ordinary citizens would rise up and back her up.

Cabral, an alter-ego of President Arroyo, should not use her powers to intimidate Ella Ganda and consequently the blogging community into a false sense of objectivity. She must recognize that her position carries with it the responsibility of accepting criticism and fair comment from the public she has sworn to serve. Criticism is part of the territory she has placed herself into.

[Of course, there are opposing views on this issue, but I think Cabral is going overboard in her drive to save face. She could just have answered back by publishing a full accounting of relief goods that passed through the DSWD and other government agencies, when they were received and from whom, whenand where they were distributed, etc. The government owes such a report to the donors and the citizens to whom these agencies and officials are accountable.]

We owe it to ourselves, future bloggers and netizens and our readers to defend our fundamental rights to free expression, to redress of grievance, to fair comment, to hold government accountable and to exchange of information without threats of persecution a la Cabral.  If it goes unchallenged, it would be bad for blogging, sending a chilling effect on the online community.

Otherwise, blogging and the internet would be useless, toothless and bereft of the hope for great possibilities as we have seen in the great bayanihan after Ondoy. That would be a sad terrible day when our rights and the medium we have grown to love would itself “rot”.

122 Comments

  1. observer

    Who defines truth? The one accused? …Or the accuser?

    Is this a battle for the truth or an attempt to redefine freedom of the press as freedom that recognizes no borders, overlapping the rights and freedom of others notwithstanding?
    http://www.zumel.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=14&Itemid=2
    http://tungkab.wordpress.com/2007/06/17/peryodista-kontra-libelo/

    Who defines freedom? The one who exercised it? …Or the one denied of it?

    Should anyone be allowed to trample on another person’s freedom without fear of repercussion whatsoever?

    Where does freedom start? Where does freedom end?

    Who has the necessary machinery to harass, to silence truth?

    Who’s harassing who?

  2. opiniononissues

    Apparently, my post here, similar to what I posted in Global Voices and other sites has earned Ella’s ire and she devoted her entry today to discuss just that.

    I replied to her this morning but as of this posting she still hasn’t approved it.

    Although I noticed she already has approved a number of comments from different people and has already revised her post a number of times, I am still crossing my fingers. Hopefully, she’ll approve it.

    In the event she doesn’t though, I’ll post the link of my reply here in respect of the fact that this is one of the sites where I posted the comment which has caused “a teeny-weeny rise out of [her]”.

    Here’s the link:

    http://issuesopinions.wordpress.com

  3. ella

    @jigs;

    “to ella: just because you got more than 500 comments on your post doesn’t mean you were right.”

    Ito ba ang na-gets mo sa comment kong yon? I expected more from you, jigs. You disappoint me. Tsk bilib na sana ako.

    “so bakit natatakot si ella?”

    Hey, how did you conclude na natatakot ako? Where did that come from? Hindi ko alam na close pala tayo hehe. Nakita mo yata akong nagtatago sa ilalim ng kama ko eh.

    I-prove mo nga na NATAKOT AKO…ngayon at last October?

  4. ella

    @glaiza,

    are you the same glaiza who commented in my blog:

    “Hay naku Ella girl! wag masyadong pansinin ang mga hirit ng kung sinong opisyales na tinatamaan dyan. Ang pagsasabi ng totoo, kahit kailan ay ‘di nangangahulugan ng paninirang puri. It just happened na madaming echoserang frog dyan na guilty at affected dahil malamang sa hindi totoong may kasalanan.”

    Hmmm…I really wish you’re not the one who wrote this in my blog. Sana magkapareho lang kayo ng nick.

  5. ella

    @ Melai,

    Hello, gurl! Dito lang pala kita makikita kay Tonyo. Na-miss na kasi kita sa blog ko. Musta ka na?

    @Tonyo,

    Thanks for being a gracious host.

  6. ella

    @tonyo ulit,

    Pasensiya ka na. Masyadong late na ang mga replies ko. Ngayon lang kasi ako nakabalik dito eh. Alam mo na busy sa pagtatago hehe I think mas nakakatawa ‘to “lol”

  7. Joseph (Pong)

    @observer and opinionissues
    How observant you are guys! pwede kayong maging scientist!tsk tsk
    @ella
    kapag ang puno madming bunga talagang binabato. kapag ang mga naatasang maglingkod sa gobyerno ay walang ginagawa ay binabato din. you just simply did what is right at least sa kasagsagan noong ondoy time ay kumilos sila ng mas mabilis. government shall practice (policy) consistency (kahit sa mga pinapalabas nilang statements) as BDO’s Battle cry Consistency earns trust. You are consistent, hindi ka nga takot, sila ang hindi consistent no wonder walang tiwala sa kanila ang madlang pilipino.

  8. miko servo

    @jigs ay naku, itong si jigs, akala mo kung sinong editor, tingnan nyo what he did to sunstar weekend, anyone interested in reading sunstar weekend pre and post jigs.

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