ABS-CBN chairman, journalists post bail for libel

Posted at 02/18/13 5:26 PM

Kapamilya network says libel case has no basis

MANILA (UPDATED) - ABS-CBN Chairman Eugenio 'Gabby' Lopez III and several current and former news personnel posted bail on Monday in connection with a 9-year-old libel case filed by rival station, GMA Network.

A Quezon City Regional Trial Court had issued arrest warrants against Lopez, Erwin Tulfo, Lynda Jumilla, Beth Frondoso, Maria Progena Estonillo Reyes, Annie Eugenio, Dondi Garcia, Luis Alejandro, Jose Ramon Olives, Jesus Maderazo, Luchi Cruz-Valdes, Jose Magsaysay Jr. and Alfonso Marquez.

Tulfo, Frondoso, Alejandro, Cruz-Valdes, Magsaysay Jr. and Marquez are no longer with ABS-CBN.

In a press statement, Bong R. Osorio, head of ABS-CBN Integrated Corporate Communications, said "the respondents to the libel case have voluntarily surrendered to the court and posted bail in accordance with law. They nevertheless firmly maintain that the libel charge has no basis in fact and law."

The case stems from a complaint filed by GMA Network in 2004 after ABS-CBN accused its rival of using without permission, exclusive footage of the arrival in the Philippines of overseas Filipino worker Angelo dela Cruz following his release by Iraqi militants.

GMA Network used the exclusive video of dela Cruz which it obtained from the foreign news agency, Reuters. Reuters bought the video from ABS-CBN with the understanding that it would not be used by other media organizations in the Philippines.

Osorio said on Monday, "In truth, it was the complainant who used ABS-CBN footage without its authority and consent and was thus charged by ABS-CBN with copyright infringement."

"It is unfortunate that the respondents are being pilloried as criminals, when in fact, it was ABS-CBN whose rights were violated. They are confident that this libel suit will eventually be dismissed," Osorio said.

Atty. Regis Puno, counsel for ABS-CBN, said that the network has a pending petition with the Court of Appeals questioning the Department of Justice's (DOJ) resolution that found probable cause against the accused.

Puno said it was unfortunate that the DOJ proceeded to file the charges in court.

"Itong pangyayaring ito ay 2004 pa, magsa-sampung taon na. Imbes na hintayin muna ang katapusan ng mga proseso at mga pagdinig ng Court of Appeals at Supreme Court ay sinampahan na nila ng libel. Pero hindi naman sinampahan ng tinatawag nating copyright infringement," Puno said.

Osorio said "the respondents will avail themselves of all legal remedies to question the findings of probable cause for the arrest warrants issued by the RTC of Quezon City."

Lopez retired from ABS-CBN last December but stays on the board as chairman.

(Disclosure: ABS-CBNnews.com is the news website of ABS-CBN Corp.)