By Pachico A. Seares
Public & Standards Editor
SunStar Cebu and SunStar Superbalita
Not for what they said on air: one, for what he wrote on Facebook; the other, for allegedly raping a girl who visited his radio station
An A.M. radio station manager, Juniño Padilla of dyRC, is sued for libel because he allegedly maligned Gerry Carillo, a lawyer-former city councilor who was billed for an unpaid P100,000 broadcast fee during the last election campaign.
An FM radio program anchor faces the prospect of being charged with rape for sexually molesting last July 4 a 13-year-old girl who went to the radio station to collect money for her mother from another broadcaster. A lawyer and instructor in two colleges, the program host lured the girl to his car where he allegedly raped her.
While the offenses are thinly related to the media work of the two broadcasters, they didn’t involve stuff they said on radio.
Juniño, against whom the prosecutor found probable cause of libel under the Anti-Cybercrime Law and the Revised Penal Code, is sued for what he wrote in four Facebook posts. Not tied to his journalism work and not a public-interest issue. He was doing a bill collector’s job.
It’s doubtful if Juniño can use defenses to libel that a journalist routinely puts up when sued: privileged communication, absence of malice, public interest. Had he been sued for a news report or a commentary on a matter of public interest, things would’ve been different.
Carillo, though no longer a city official, is still a news person. Like Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña when he sued broadcaster Bobby Nalzaro for libel, Carillo cannot say he is already a private person. He has remained a public figure though the news spotlight now infrequently focuses on him.
‘Plot’ vs. media
The news anchor who hasn’t been named in mainstream media — though he unmasked himself in social media and is now known by netizens and his fellow broadcasters and lawyers — wasn’t publicly accused over what he said on air. From the available facts, he apparently couldn’t help unzipping his pants when he was alone with the girl. A matter of controlling an erotic surge, not a journalism issue.
And indications abound that it wasn’t a plot to attack media and the law profession, a foil he had the gall to raise in denying on Facebook the talk about his having raped a child.
With the disappearance of the girl and her mother, it’s highly probable they have been induced by plea and favor to desist. But the crime’s prescriptive period has barely started (15 to 20 years still, depending upon the nature of the rape charge). And the cloud hovering over his person as broadcaster-lawyer-teacher won’t go away until his guilt or innocence is satisfactorily resolved.
Not using mic
The accusations didn’t arise over their use of the microphone. No journalism issue was raised. Like many people in other lines of work, journalists can get entangled in situations that have nothing to do with reporting and commenting on the news.
Just as their being journalists shouldn’t be used against them, they shouldn’t also use it as shield against wrongdoing.
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