By Macon Araneta | FilAm Star Correspondent
Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III appealed to online news site Inquirer.net to take down their stories linking him to the 1982 rape and murder of the late sexy star Pepsi Paloma.
Sotto clarified, “Please note that I am making the appeal without the intention of trampling on your freedom of speech or of the press. In fact, I am with you in protecting those constitutionally enshrined rights when I filed a bill amending Republic Act No. 53.”
RA 53 exempts the publisher, editor, or reporter of any news publication from revealing their sources for information obtained in confidence. In June 2016, Sotto filed Senate Bill Number 6, seeking to amend RA 53 to include online media in the law’s coverage.
“Just like everyone, I am for the truth – a ‘balanced news,’ so to speak,” added Sotto in his letter to Inquirer President Paolo Prieto.
He described in his letter, dated May 29, as “malicious” the imputation of a crime against him.
“The rape of Pepsi Paloma” and “Was Pepsi Paloma murdered?” – were both written by United States-based columnist Rodel Rodis and published in March 2014.
Sotto also requested the Inquirer to take down a March 2016 news article on Sotto’s denial that he used his political affiliation to influence the court decision on the Paloma rape case.
“I believe there was malicious imputation of a crime against me. These kinds of unverified articles have been negatively affecting my reputation for the longest time,” he wrote the Inquirer.
“My efforts to clarify my side were somewhat ineffectual by reason (that) the (aforementioned) articles were shared by your readers to social media, and those readers who knew nothing about the issue took them as the truth considering that those reports came from a well-trusted source like Inquirer.net,” also said Sotto.
“If the Inquirer agrees to his requests, a dangerous precedent will be set. Sotto is cyberbullying the Inquirer,” Rodis said in his Facebook post.
Inquirer said Rodis had sent his comment through email last June 16.
“But his act of posting this request on social media is his own decision. Inquirer.net has nothing to do with it,” Inquirer said.
Inquirer.net also issued a statement acknowledging Sotto’s right to make such requests, citing particularly his claims that the articles contain unverified facts and baseless allegations.
“Also, to be fair with the Senator, he has relayed this request to Inquirer.net much earlier through his staff,” said inquirer.net. It said that they have been receiving similar requests, citing “reasons ranging from inaccuracy to being publicly vilified.”
“We have acted on these requests judiciously and made decisions based on our own investigation and based on our journalistic values and principles. This is the reason why we’ve also asked Mr. Rodis to comment on the request,” Inquirer added.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) denounced Sotto’s request to the Inquirer, saying it was a “brazen attempt to suppress freedom of the press and of expression.”
“While we can understand the senator’s discomfiture with these articles, we feel he is overstepping his bounds by zeroing in on the Inquirer.net articles, particularly Sotto’s denial on white-washing the Pepsi Paloma case, which NUJP said was a straight news report,” said NUJP.
“We point out that all three articles Sotto wants taken down would not have been posted had they not gone through Inquirer.net’s stringent vetting and editing,” it added.