ABS-CBN: We Are The Victims

ABS-CBN yesterday said it will avail itself of all legal remedies to fight the libel charges filed against the station, its executives, and broadcasters by GMA-7 although the case stemmed from rival station's unauthorized use of exclusive footage.

"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," ABS-CBN said in a statement.

All ABS-CBN executives and broadcasters charged, including Eugenio Lopez III, ABS-CBN chairman and chief operating officer, posted bail last Monday after Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 88 issued arrest warrants against them.

Lopez, along with Jose Ramon Olive, officer-in-charge/senior vice president; Jake Maderazo, vice president news operations; Luisita "Luchi" Cruz-Valdes, former vice president news productions/program; Jose "Jing" Magsaysay Jr., assistant vice president news operations and Alfonso "Pal" Marquez, director news operations of ABS-CBN, appeared before the local court and posted the R10,000 bail for each count of the libel case.

Broadcast journalist Erwin Tulfo and Luis Alejandro president and chief operating officer also posted bail but did not appear in court.

Also posting bail were Lynda Jumilla; Beth Frondoso, then executive producer of the defunct news program Insider; Maria Progena Estonilo Reyes and Annie Eugenio, supervising producer and executive producer, respectively, of Magandang Umaga Bayan and Dondi Garcia, executive producer News Patrol.

Bong Osorio, head of the ABS-CBN Integrated Corporate Communications, said the station's executives and broadcasters voluntarily posted bail in accordance with the law.

However, Osorio said that the libel charge has no legal basis while ABS-CBN has been pictured as the culprit in the case even if its copyright infringement rights were violated.

He claimed that it was complainant GMA-7 who used the ABS-CBN footage of its live coverage of the arrival of an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) released by Iraqi captors in 2004, without the consent and authority of the station.

The news footage was of the July 21, 2004 arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) of Angelo dela Cruz, the OFW who was kidnapped by Iraqis.

Records showed that on Dec. 3, 2004, the Quezon City Prosecutor's Office dismissed the libel case against the respondents but recommended the filing of charges of Republic Act 8293 (Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines) against the officials of GMA 7. The infringement case was filed before the QCRTC.

But on Aug. 5, 2005, the DOJ set aside the Dec. 3, 2004 resolution of the prosecutor's office and ordered the withdrawal from the court the infringement case against GMA 7.

On June 29, 2010, the DOJ, acting on the motion for reconsideration and petition for review filed by both parties on libel and infringement cases, directed the prosecutor's office to file the corresponding information on two cases against the parties involved.

However, the Court of Appeals, Fourth Division issued a decision for certiorari setting aside DOJ resolution J-364 dated June 29, 2010 relative to the filing of violation of RA 8293 and reinstating DOJ Resolution J-134 dated Aug. 1, 2005 on the withdrawal of said case.

De Lima, however, issued on Dec. 14, 2011 a resolution denying the partial motion for reconsideration and ordered QC Chief Prosecutor Donald Lee to file two information of libel against the officials of ABS-CBN.

In her resolution, De Lima explained that the complainants were able to show that all the elements of libel are present.

"The malicious imputation was evident from the use of the words 'nagnanakaw ng aming eksklusibong kuha,' 'pamimirata ng footage,' 'pagnanakaw ay isang malaking krimen' and 'pagnanakaw ng video,' uttered by respondents Tulfo and Jumilla," the DOJ resolution said.

The DOJ added that the statements sufficiently convey to the public that GMA-7 and the individual complainants are thieves of the footages taken by ABS-CBN.

"Indeed, these words injure the reputation and diminish respect, esteem, goodwill, respect or confidence in the complainants from GMA-7," the resolution said.