Close

Support Global Voices

To stay independent, free, and sustainable, our community needs the help of friends and readers like you.

Donate now »

See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

Philippines: Cabinet member sues blogger

Blogger Ella Ganda is facing a libel lawsuit in connection to a post she wrote last October. Ella alleged that relief goods intended for typhoon victims are being hoarded in a government warehouse owned by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

The Philippines was hit by a powerful tropical storm last September which displaced half a million people in Luzon Island alone. The DSWD was the major government agency in charge of coordinating relief efforts throughout the country. Responding to the appeal of the government for more volunteers, Ella went to a DSWD warehouse to help in the repacking of relief goods.

Ella’s expose was picked up by the mainstream media. DSWD officials denied that the agency was hoarding relief goods but they admitted that the agency lacked volunteers. DSWD Secretary Esperanza Cabral (now the Secretary of the Department of Health) issued this statement in response to the blog report of Ella:

We would like to assure all of you that the relief goods will reach the intended beneficiaries as they become necessary and will be used only to assist them. However, the relief goods don’t all go out at the same time and an empty warehouse is not proof that the goods were used properly just as a full warehouse is not evidence that the goods are being hoarded.

dswd
warehouse

Three months after reporting what she witnessed in the DSWD compound, Ella was charged with libel by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). This was requested by Secretary Cabral who said that her reputation was maligned by Ella. Secretary Cabral and the NBI have been trying to identify the real name of Ella. They want Ella to answer the charges and to take some polygraph tests.

This is not the first time that a blogger was charged with libel in the Philippines. But this is the first time that a Cabinet member, in cooperation with the NBI, has charged an anonymous blogger with a libel suit.

What are the reactions of Filipino bloggers? Most are supportive of Ella.

FOO Law and Economics believes the case is weak

I would volunteer a common-sense opinion. I believe that Ella’s postings are fully within the definition of “fair commentary” in the jurisprudence on libel. In the jurisprudence, fair comment is a sufficient defense if the subject matter of the libel case is a matter of public concern.

Resurgence 2.0 warns that the libel suit sends a chilling effect on bloggers

I saw the blog during its height. There’s nothing libelous about it. The blogger stood with nothing to gain — other than the unsolicited fame the blog resulted from. If there was anything Ella was about during that time, she was sincerely bothered by the fact that people were hungry and homeless and without clothes and the government doesn’t seem to care.

This sends a chilling effect on bloggers. Blogging — and social networks — as we now know, is the future of media. It may not be as formal as the print or even TV, but I will argue that it’s the fastest and even more accurate source of information nowadays

Carlo's Think Pieces insists: “It is not libel, it is free speech.”

What I found was a proper blog by a concerned citizen re the relief goods which apparently were not being distributed promptly to the typhoon victims. Nowhere in that blog post did she say that relief goods were “rotting” – the word she used was “inaalikabok” (which means “gathering dust”). She was decrying the lack of volunteers to do the repacking work, and even suggested that NGOs or the military could help in this work. She in no way accused the Secretary or the DSWD of corruption.

I think that Secretary Cabral is overstepping her authority and being arrogant, by trying to silence Ella and her blog. Her libel suit is totally without merit. Ella’s blog told the truth, and it was done without any malicious intent. It is not libel, it is free speech.

Barrio Siete shares a similar point

First, the blog article in question, as we can find in most blogs, is a matter of opinion. If a person makes a statement that is, as Cabral said, contrary to the facts, it may not necessarily be libelous. On the other hand, a statement can be seen as an expression of fact or opinion depends on whether or not the person making such statement would be in a position to know such facts.

Reacting to the Ella libel case, Technograph urges bloggers to be ready to back up their statements in their blogs, and apologize if proven wrong

Personally, I now find the accusations of “Ella Rose” less credible. If the NBI is to be believed, she never took steps to back up her statements, including requesting “an investigation from the Office of the Ombudsman or any law enforcement agency.” Whether or not “Ella Rose” fights the charges off or not, remember bloggers, be prepared to back up what you say, and to apologize if you’re wrong!

Journalist Jigs Arquiza advises Ella to face the charges.

to all the rest who really don’t get my point and who think that ella is being treated unfairly: it’s your right to side with ella. i am not saying all of you are wrong. all i am saying is that there is always more than one side to a story. ella did not disclose all the facts, did not try to get certain information, did not practice responsible blogging, and is now hiding behind the defense of “freedom of speech”.

a lot of bloggers feel they can say anything in their blogs because they can remain anonymous. and like i said, if ella feels that what she posted was not malicious, then she should come out and face the charges

that is the thing most bloggers don’t understand, that when you make your thoughts public, then these are not personal anymore, rather, these become remarks that cause reactions.

that is what happened. ella posted, cabral got pissed, ella should face the consequences. anyway, it’s up to cabral to prove malice, right? so what is ella afraid of?

8 comments

  • @Jigs A: I believe there is something called presumption of innocence, which means Ella does not have to bear the burden of proof.

  • opiniononissues

    Malice generally involves the intentional infliction of physical, mental, psychological, or financial damage to another party.

    Now how do you determine intention?

    1. Do you base it on the blogger’s action in response to her suspicion?

    This PGMA directive sounded suspicious to me then.
    ***So she volunteered then took photos inside the warehouse.

    2. Do you base it on the accused and the accuser’s history and connections, if any?

    There are claims that:

    FORMER SOCIAL WELFARE and now Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral is reportedly using her office to harass a blogger who exposed
    the allegedly rotting relief goods at the warehouse of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

    Ramon Tulfo
    http://services.inquirer.net/mobile/10/02/01/html_output/xmlhtml/20100130-250222-xml.html

    And that:

    Cabral, an alter-ego of President Arroyo, should not use her powers to intimidate Ella Ganda
    http://tonyocruz.com/?p=2773

    If there’s an allusion to motive because of political connection then you may be interested to check this link:
    http://www.bulatlat.com/news/6-32/6-32-libel.htm
    for this info:

    42 Journalists Face Libel Raps from Arroyo’s Husband
    Bandera (six counts, Tulfo’s column “On Target” inilabas noong Jan. 26, May 23 at 27, June 6,8 at 17)

    27. Eileen Mangubat (publisher)
    28. Beting Laygo Dolor (editor-in-chief)
    29. Jimmy Alcantara (associate editor)
    30. Raymond Rivera (circulation manager)

    The Beting Laygo Dolor :

    Of Philippine News Online:
    http://philippinenews.com/article.php?id=5380

    who started PCIJ (Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism ) alongside Sheila Coronel, Malou Mangahas, Lorna Kalaw-Tirol, Howie Severino and David Celdran.
    http://preciousanne.blogspot.com/

    Editor- of:
    1. Bandera
    2. Prime Asia and Pinoy Global Access
    http://www.upjournalismclub.org/gallery/photos/suit-of-cards-a-forum-on-libel/
    3. Playboy Philippines
    http://www.bworldonline.com/Weekender072508/main.php?id=focus1
    4. Business World
    http://www.grabeh.com/forum/index.php

    CONTRIBUTING EDITOR of:
    http://www.filglobe.com/files/augpage22forum.pdf

    Same Beting Laygo Dolor who released this:
    http://philippinenews.com/article.php?id=5380
    Donated goods sitting in DSWD warehouse
    Published, October 23, 2009

    … after Ella released this:
    http://www.ellaganda.com/?p=1759
    Aanhin pa ang damo kung patay na ang kabayo? (A special report from a volunteer)
    Published, Oct 21st, 2009

    Same Beting Laygo Dolor who co-wrote the articles appearing here:
    http://pinoybsn.blogspot.com/2006/10/arroyo-to-nurses-retake-board-test.html
    http://bolanon.com/forums_topic_view.aspx?page=1&tid=3363&fid=2929&=desc

    …with the girl whose name appears here:

    http://services.inquirer.net/mobile/10/01/22/html_output/xmlhtml/20100121-248693-xml.html

    …and whose identity is confirmed here:

    http://forums.seo.ph/showthread.php?t=10191

    Re: DSWD vs Jade? – 01-22-2010, 11:36 AM
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by kickmoko
    teka maihabol ko lang..member din ba dito si jade?
    Yes. Si vlette

    3. Do you base it on the snowballing imputations the blog entry has spawned?

    a. Like the blog entries of her fellow bloggers like: http://gurlalien.blogspot.com/2010/01/para-kay-ella.html

    Wow… di maka get over? bakit kaya? well… ang sabi niya, hindi daw dapat palampasin ang mga ganitong ‘paninira’ sa gobyerno. huh? pero bakit? Alam mo madam, kung di ka talaga guilty, dapat madali kang makaka move-on. eh bakit parang hanggang ngayon eh hurt na hurt ka pa din sa mga nabasa mong blog post? dahil ba the truth hurts? at kahit pa na hindi na ikaw ang mei hawak ng DSWD eh nag file ka pa din ng kaso?

    yung mga againsta kay ella, obvious na obvious na related sa DSWD. kung makapag post eh damang dama nila every word.

    Whose alias appears here:
    http://forums.seo.ph/showthread.php?s=81b8794c5836bf5d9aae7608177a1b3f&t=5216

    b. Or the published articles of media men like:
    Ramon Tulfo
    Whose article: It pays to be honest
    http://services.inquirer.net/mobile/10/02/01/html_output/xmlhtml/20100130-250222-xml.html
    states:

    FORMER SOCIAL WELFARE and now Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral is reportedly using her office to harass a blogger…

    The same group also allegedly went to the Parañnaque residence of the Dolor family, as Cabral was reportedly convinced that Ella was a member of that family.

    Same Tulfo who happens to appear here:

    42 Journalists kinasuhan ng Libelo

    Bandera (six counts, Tulfo’s column “On Target” inilabas noong Jan. 26, May 23 at 27, June 6,8 at 17)
    27. Eileen Mangubat (publisher)
    28. Beting Laygo Dolor (editor-in-chief)
    29. Jimmy Alcantara (associate editor)
    30. Raymond Rivera (circulation manager)

    http://zumel.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=14&Itemid=2

    As confirmed from this column:
    http://tulfo.net/column1.htm

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Press Freedom, Global Voices, Asteris Masouras, Tosk59, RuFreeman and others. RuFreeman said: Philippines: Cabinet member sues blogger http://ping.fm/XcCqo […]

  • opiniononissues

    In my online readings of the DSWD-blogger brouhaha, I have come across two online personas who are quite insightful in way they dissect the issue, the way they try to be balanced in their views and the way they zoom in on details that prove material to the issue at hand.

    Here are links to Danny Arao’s Posts:
    http://risingsun.dannyarao.com/2009/10/24/pahaging-sa-responsableng-blogging/
    http://risingsun.dannyarao.com/2009/11/01/pahaging-sa-responsableng-blogging-2/
    http://risingsun.dannyarao.com/2010/01/26/filipino-bloggers-should-help-decriminalize-libel/

    and Jigs Arquiza’s comments.
    http://globalvoicesonline.org/2010/02/07/philippines-cabinet-member-sues-blogger/
    http://tonyocruz.com/?p=2773&cpage=2#comments

    With the media furor this issue has created and the resulting reactions from solons, it is perfunctory that we allow more room for this type of in-depth analytical blogging approach. Our reactions and non-reactions will help contribute to the Cyber Law platform these influencers (media, solons, and the blogging world) may later shape, and this DSWD-blogger case may be one benchmark they’ll base it on.

    ***I posted the links which I have come across so far regarding this timely national issue, on their sites as well.

  • I find it amazing that politicians and government agencies would waste time and money on this. There are far more important problems to attend to in the Philippines!

  • Ellaganda has mentioned my post in this site in her most recent blog entry. I thought it but proper to post the link of my reply to her aspersions in your page, since apparently my posts here caused a “teeny-weeny rise out of [her]”.

    I actually already sent my reply to the entry she initially addressed to opiniononissues but since up till now, my comment hasn’t been approved yet, I’ll post a link to the site where I uploaded the reply instead.

    Here’s the link:

    http://issuesopinions.wordpress.com

  • @Opiniononissues,
    I am in awe at the extensive research you have done in an attempt to discredit Ella.

    Do you have a stake on this issue? What do you get from doing this seemingly ‘demolishion job’? Don’t you have other things to do than try to dismiss ella’s points in every website that supports her?

    I hope you’re not from DSWD. I do hope you’re not some spin doctors for Sec. Cabral either.

    On this post, I say, government office is a public accountability. Do your responsibilities, you make people happy and satisfied. Otherwise, bear with public scrutiny and criticism.

    Had ella not posted her “controversial” blog, would ordinary citizens care to check DSWD during that time? I guess not. People have been used NOT to rely solely on government agencies to do their jobs well. Proof of this is the number of volunteers NGOs and TV stations got.

    Truth is, no one completely trusts the government.

    In the first place, if DSWD immediately distributed those relief goods, this issue would not have came up.

    • I am in awe at the extensive research you have done in an attempt to discredit Ella.

      Discredit? Wait, are you saying Ella’s discrediting herself? Because the truth is, if you look at the post, I just presented details viewable on her blogs and links relevant to the expose presented.

      Do you have a stake on this issue?

      Yes, the same basic stake that any net user (including you) or those affected by net users have. Interested to know what that is? Properly drafted cyber laws and and freedom of speech and expression laws founded on justice, fairness and responsibility.

      What do you get from doing this seemingly ‘demolishion job’?

      Demolition job? Oops, stop right there. Don’t project your intentions on me.

      Would hope for a better cyber law platform and responsible blogging and net ethics be a good enough answer for you? Because certainly that’s my primary motivation. And yes, fairness and discussions based on facts and not just plain outbursts.

      Don’t you have other things to do than try to dismiss ella’s points in every website that supports her?

      So researching and posting on a critical issue for the cyber arena automaticall translates to dismissing Ella’s points? Did that post dismiss her points for you? That question’s meant not in a sarcastic way. I really wanna know because truth be told, the only reason I shared it with people is for them (you included) to weigh matters, balance things out, in the light of all available details on the net.

      There are different ways of looking at those details, it just depends on how you are wired, and what principles you hold. I wouldn’t go as far as thinking for other people and imposing my views on anyone. If for you, it seems like the post dismissed Ella’s points, that’s your view of it. I’ll respect that. I, on the other hand have a different take.

      I’ve seen a lot of points and opinions and sides on the DSWD issue by surfing and researching and I know whatever I know about the issue would still be lacking as compared to what Ella, Sec. Cabral and the courts know, and that the issue will all be up to them to settle. They have all the necessary details, we only have the net, our mind, our heart and our sense of responsibility to back us up.
      If you notice there, I didn’t include any opinion, there was no conclusion. I just pasted the details I gleaned from my research, no hee-hawing about what I think it means because my only purpose is to study the issue.

      Why do I want to study the issue? Because I want to see discussions based on details and facts, i want to see discussions borne out of didactic reasoning and careful weighing of matters rather than spiteful and baseless repartees borne out of emotion or anger or flock-mentality alone.

      It would be careless to pit one side against another: bloggers vs. govt., powerful vs. non-powerful, freedom of speech vs. libel… No use in inciting anger from any of the factions. It would just compound the problem, involve more people, and distract and veer us away from the real issue.

      Bloggers vs. govt., powerful vs. non-powerful, freedom of speech vs. libel… those are really critical and general areas we shouldn’t tread unless armed with much research, studies and strong will and convictions. As I see it, we have too much of the two latter and we’re a bit lacking on the two other.

      If nobody’s gonna do the research and studies, then I will. At least the icing on the cake will be, there will be more fair and responsible discussions weighing the different sides to see, less baseless, rumor-mongering or hate-inciting discussions from ANY faction to tire my eyes on .

      It’s more interesting to read different views, different takes when you know they’re grounded on a careful dissection of the matter. Though I did but a simple research, the additonal insights I would read from those sharing opposing views doing analytical discussions would be the bonus. More insights, more learning.

      Sad that the post is being quashed because you find fault in the information being presented.

      I wonder why though when they are actually but quotes from the actual site itself and links and details on the peope who released the story to us. That would even strengthen the veracity of the report, if you choose to see it that way, wouldn’t it?

      Why quash the information if there’s nothing wrong with the story presented?

      I don’t see why you teetotalled it as dismissing Ella’s points.

      As I stated my primary premise, we all have our own opinions and take on the issue.

      I just did your research for you.

      You can do the thinking.

      You have your own mind.

      I hope you’re not from DSWD. I do hope you’re not some spin doctors for Sec. Cabral either.

      I defintely am not. Neither of the two.

      Just curious, since you’re pointing at them, are they they only ones capable of researching? Of being concerned? Of wanting fair and didactic discussions?
      For quite honestly, these were but my motivations.

      On this post, I say, government post is a public accountability. Do your responsibilities, you make people happy and satisfied. Otherwise, bear with public scrutiny and criticism.

      I’m with you on what government post should be. Not with you entirely on the logic of people approval and criticism though. You’re half-right, but half-right shouldn’t be enough, should it? We can consider the other half, too, can we?

      Had ella not posted her “controversial” blog, would ordinary citizens care to check DSWD during that time? I guess not. People have been used not to rely solely on government agencies to do their jobs well. Proof of this is the number of volunteers NGOs and TV stations got.

      No problem with Ella posting on her blog the DSWD issue, she could have done it more responsibly though, if I may say so{bracing for more attacks}. But then again that’s just my opinion . That’s as far as my opinion goes. I don’t want to add fuel to the fire. Stop. Fin. Mouth zipped. Peace, man, peace.

      Truth is, no one completely trusts the government. In the first place, if those goods were immediately distributed those goods, this issue would not have came up.

      Err, YOU have YOUR generalization right there. First premise, ergo, second premise. There, o, see, o?

      Now, I’m thinking, why are there people who, in their effort to SAVE FACE, need to do it at other people’s expense.

      I don’t know. Not a fan of jumping to conclusions.
      Anyway, you can just look at : http://issuesopinions.wordpress.com

      And I do hope you see that just like you, I too, have my opinion on the issue.

      It’s just that it was blown out of proportions, for what reason, i know not.
      Not fond of watching A vs. BCDEFGHIJklmnopqrstUVWxyZabc… to infinity battles.

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »

Guidelines

  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices!

Submitted addresses will be confirmed by email, and used only to keep you up to date about Global Voices and our mission. See our Privacy Policy for details.

Newsletter powered by Mailchimp (Privacy Policy and Terms).

* = required field
Email Frequency



No thanks, show me the site