The Long View: Let them be anathema

The Long View
Let them be anathema

By Manuel L. Quezon III
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:03:00 06/08/2009

The law, the maxim says, is harsh, but it is the law. And there is nothing harsher than our existing libel law, of which I’ve written extensively in the past. The Penal Code provisions date from a time when we were under foreign sovereignty and the laws aimed at the preservation of that sovereignty. And so, as any lawyer will tell you, truth is considered no defense in cases of libel.

Well, let me qualify this. Truth is a defense in libel cases if: 1. The imputation pertains to a crime (unless the imputation is made against government employees relating to the discharge of their official or public duties, in which case it doesn’t matter whether the imputation pertains to a crime); and 2. That the publication was made with good motives and for justifiable ends – probable cause for belief in the truth of the statement by the person accused of libel is enough to acquit. After a lengthy, protracted and expensive legal process, our system being imperfect as it is.

Much as I have pointed out the underpinnings of our existing libel law, it is here to stay, and, indeed, will soon be fortified. Our libel laws will become harsher still. Makati Rep. Teodoro L. Locsin Jr. says the House, when the Third Regular Session starts in July, will adopt in full the Senate’s Right to Reply Bill, dispensing with the need for the Bicameral Conference Committee, and that the resulting enrolled bill will then lapse into law without need of the President’s signature.

Unlike Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who famously quipped she eats death threats for breakfast, I am not the sort of writer who glories in libel cases. I have often stated in public that only the stupid get stuck with libel cases. I try not to be stupid, though I can be rash.

On June 4, Jacinto D. Jimenez, Manuel M. Cosico and Eleanor K. G. Rabuy of the Romulo Mabanta Buenaventura Sayoc & De los Angeles law firm sent me a letter. They were writing on behalf of their client, former Jesuit Provincial Romeo J. Intengan, S.J., with reference to my May 18 column, “Moral intensification.” Saying I had “moved beyond outright disparagement,” and that their client has been experiencing mental anguish and serious anxiety, they demanded, on behalf of their client, satisfaction by June 11.

With regard to my May 18 column, the following passages are the ones Father Intengan’s lawyers zeroed in on as offensive:

“Consider the dilemma of the Jesuits whose past election of Romeo Intengan as their leader has enabled him to use the residual prestige of his having been a past Jesuit Provincial to provide the moral and political underpinnings for the liquidation of the Legal Left. That prestige has accorded him a prominence he has deftly used, politically, and conferred impunity because he is immune from scrutiny.

“Two sides of the same coin: an Archbishop of Manila who can privately tell the President to resign but shrinks from publicly making the call; a former Jesuit Provincial who helps plot the assassination of suspected communists; both wield a power neither deserve or should even be able to wield.”

Father Intengan’s counsel categorically state that it is utterly false for anyone to believe that their client has been complicit in criminal or immoral activities or saying something against the teachings of the Catholic Church. Father Intengan has condemned extrajudicial killings.

Therefore the demand is absolute, specific and clear: for me to issue a formal apology in which I recant my statements (as reproduced above and by his counsel) against Father Intengan.

Bearing in mind the wholesome example of the days of old, when Holy Mother Church only invoked the secular arm’s punishments if straying children refused the paternal correction of Her shepherds, I thank Father Intengan, through the firm of Romulo Mabanta, for this opportunity to recant.

I abjure any and all malicious imputations concerning Father Intengan.

I abhor any statement that fosters the impression he has ever, at any point in his life before or since he entered the priesthood, broken, much less rebelled against the law or our duly constituted authorities, or counseled any violence or rebellion or any word, act, or deed whatsoever that would do harm to any group or individual of any kind for whatever purpose.

I condemn as impious, pernicious and offensive to decency and Christian values, any opinion that is of the stubborn, contrarian (because unwarranted) belief that Father Intengan has, by commission or omission, done anything subversive of faith, morals and the law.

It is a cause of deep regret to me, that I have caused Father Intengan mental anguish and deep anxiety arising from the possible besmirching of his reputation. As this was never my intention, let me put forward a formal apology for what his counsel have classified as unfair, erroneous and wholly-undeserved allegations made against their client.

In testimony to this, as requested by Father Intengan’s counsel, I am excising the offensive passages from the column that caused the good Jesuit such undeserved anguish, and which might serve to besmirch his reputation.

I ask anyone who has reproduced these passages to extirpate them wherever they have been reproduced; let them be anathema.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

16 thoughts on “The Long View: Let them be anathema

  1. Let us not forget the contributions of Jacinto D. Jimenez, Manuel M. Cosico and Eleanor K. G. Rabuy of the Romulo Mabanta Buenaventura Sayoc & De los Angeles law firm. How they gave you th opportunity to recant and abhor the MISTAKES you have committed. May the record show that all matters relating to Father Intengan be anathema.

  2. Man does not live by bread alone but mental anguish nourishes the soul for those who chose to follow Christ.

    Did Father Intengan break his priestly vow just to embrace the lawyer’s legal weapon of libel?

    His actions does not match his faith.

  3. Brilliant Ardeen! Let us extol the altruism and magnanimity of these lawyers for their leniency in punishing the writer for his opinion on a public official.

    Post these writer’s CV’s so we can sing praises to their good deeds!

  4. And oh by the way, the law firm also provides notarial services. Remember the names and the firm:

    Jacinto D. Jimenez, Manuel M. Cosico and Eleanor K. G. Rabuy of the Romulo Mabanta Buenaventura Sayoc & De los Angeles law firm

  5. Ah Galileo you escaped imprisonment! House arrest for life is not that bad. Besides, they didn’t take away your pen. Rest assured you will be proven right and they will admit their error before the millenium is over.

  6. Rumor Mongering was a Presidential Decree during the Marcos
    Era. It was one way to muzzle everybody to talk openly. You
    cannot talk, if you have no proof. What has lead this to?

    Unchecked Dictatorship. Abuse of Power. Authoritarianism.
    The Dictator and his cahoots can just rob the Filipino people
    with their eyes open.

    Is this what all want?

  7. as a practicing lawyer in new york and connecticut, i believe this is a kind of libel claim that cannot prosper in both jurisdiction, if not in all states of america.

    i realize, given the position the catholic church occupies in philippine society, how much of an uphill struggle mlq3 would have had he chosen to take them on in the name of press freedom.
    i think philippine libel laws will remain anachronistic, if not retrogressive, over the next hundred years.

  8. I have little or no idea who Father Intengan is or what he has been up to.

    But as to the word, ANATHEMA: “Let it be done”.

  9. What can you say about these comments by Mr Tulfo:

    A journalist, particularly a columnist, should stand by what he or she perceives to be the truth and suffer the consequences if need be.

    The aftermath of telling the truth could come in the form of a libel suit with the possibility of going to jail, or harm to his person.

    If a columnist is not too sure about his facts he should shut up.

    Only fairies in a beauty parlor chatter in gossip. A newspaper column is not a beauty salon.

    One columnist says that his colleagues who “get stuck with libel cases” are stupid.

    The same columnist ate the strong words he said earlier about a very prominent personality after being threatened with a libel suit by the latter’s lawyers.

    Which is worse, being stupid or being cowardly?

    I’d rather be a stupid columnist jailed for his convictions than a free man without a backbone.

    A cowardly columnist, no matter his eloquence, loses his credibility sooner or later.

  10. The libel law is unconstitutional on two grounds:

    Congress can only punish action, not speech; so criminal libel is unconstitutional.

    The law on libel presumes malice of the libelous statement. But malice is an element of the offense. So the presumption shifts the burden of proof from the prosecution to the accused. It is elementary that the prosecution must prove every element of the offense.

    The CJ Puno memorandum directs the RTC to impose fines instead of imprisonment. So what is the danger?

    As for a civil suit, let the priest prove his mental anguish. Isn’t suffering a spiritual plus?

    Then again, it’s your life. But this would have been a good fight; and one that would have enriched Philippine jurisprudence.

  11. J, they are proof of the punchy style that’s made him such a popular columnist; and of course he is entitled to his opinion. some have different opinions, interpreting in the manner of galileo; others, from a tactical approach, whether it is better to charge into the enemy or outflank it; and some others who make the distinction that a columnist is not a suicide bomber; but those are all interpretations the writer has to accept as the readers’.

  12. Funny. Ramon Tulfo picking on Manolo as a coward. Ramon Tulfo is the most stupid gossipers who made gullible Filipinos believed that a hotel collapsed in Baguio City in 2002. Gossips masquerade as columns under a gun slinging style sells in PDI. It is the same Ramon Tulfo during the funeral called the fans of Fernando Po, including Senator Rene Saguisag as illiterate, uneducated, irrational and stupid morons.

    Even funnier is that the extortionist Ramon Tulfo learns to muzzle his gun a bit and settles to badmouthing like say coward this time. In July 2006, NBI filed five counts of extortion charges against Ramon Tulfo and his brothers Raffy and Erwin. After all, morons expecially a family of morons can learn.

    Kuya Mon, please smile!

  13. J on “I’d rather be a stupid columnist jailed for his convictions than a free man without a backbone.”

    J, you are too naive. So far, the only person who stood his ground, convicted and jailed was Erap. But he is still guilty of corruption charges and plunder. So there is nothing commendable even how much calcium he had on his spine.

    In contrast, we have Madame President who can change her shades like a camellion. But one thing is sure, she is not stupid.

    You need to tread the water to know if your motto really works.

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