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Arraignment of ABS-CBN execs on GMA-7 libel charge postponed

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08:19 PM May 7th, 2013

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MANILA, Philippines—A Quezon City court on Tuesday deferred the arraignment of 13 ABS-CBN staffers and executives, including chairman Eugenio Lopez III, on two counts of libel filed by rival network GMA-7 in a dispute over the exclusivity of a video clip on the release of a Filipino worker by his Iraqi captors in 2004.

Judge Rosanna Fe Maglaya of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court’s Branch 88 reset to June 11 the arraignment of Lopez; ABS-CBN president and chief operating officer Luis Alejandro; Jose Ramon Olives, network officer-in-charge and senior vice president for news and cultural affairs; Jake Maderazo, vice president for news operations; Luisita Cruz-Valdes, former vice-president for news productions and programs; Jose Magsaysay Jr., assistant vice president for news operations; and Alfonso Marquez, director for news operations.

Also charged with libel were broadcast journalists Erwin Tulfo and Lynda Jumilla; Beth Frondoso, executive producer of the cancelled network news program “Insider;” Maria Progena Estonilo Reyes and Annie Eugenio, respectively supervising producer and executive producer of the program “Magandang Umaga Bayan;” and Dondi Garcia, executive producer of “News Patrol.”

In Tuesday proceedings Maglaya required all 13 accused to attend their scheduled arraignment in June, saying in open court, “Lest any of the accused be subject to a warrant [of arrest], make sure to be present so we can move on to the trial.”

Maglaya gave resert the arraingment because of the absence of four of the accused—Lopez, Alejandro, Olives and Magsaysay. While Lopez and Alejandro had previously been given by the court leave to travel and absent themselves from the proceedings, defense counsel Vincent Patrick Bayhon said that Olives and Magsaysay were indisposed.

The two counts of libel were filed in court against the accused in February following a justice department finding of probable cause against the ABS-CBN executives and employees.

The charges stemmed from a complaint by GMA-7, which claimed that ABS-CBN had aired several news broadcasts and bulletins imputing to the network theft of exclusive video, particularly the arrival on July 21, 2004 at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport of overseas worker Angelo Dela Cruz, who had been held captive for two weeks by Iraqi militants.

Justice Secretary Leila De Lima had ordered the filing of the two counts of libel in a December, 2011 resolution in which she said that GMA-7 was able to prove probable cause. She cited the use of the words: “nagnanakaw ng aming eksklusibong kuha (theft of our exclusive video),” and “pamimirata ng footage (pirating of footage),” “pagnanakaw ay isang malaking krimen (stealing is a serious crime)” and “pagnanakaw ng video (stealing video),” allegedly uttered by Tulfo and Jumilla.

The DOJ resolution also said that the statements sufficed to publicly convey that GMA-7 had stolen video footage, thus injuring its reputation and diminishing public confidence in the network and its employees.

First posted May 7, 2013 | 3:21 pm

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