The Philippine Daily Inquirer has apologized for publishing “offensive” photos of Demetrio Vicente, a witness for the defense team, on its front page on Wednesday.
“It has come to our attention that our photo of witness Demetrio Vicente on our front page today has offended some of our readers. For this we sincerely apologize. It was not our intention to disparage Mr. Vicente in any way,” Inquirer said on its official Facebook account.
Inquirer has refused to let Yahoo! PH use their digital edition front page photo for this story.
The front page photo featured four pictures of Vicente in unflattering poses with the caption: "Character witness: The many faces of Demetrio Vicente on the witness stand. He’s no ordinary witness after all. He’s the cousin of the Chief Justice whose wife sold him seven parcels of land in 1990, where he now grows bonsai.”
Vicente, who had suffered a stroke, was having difficulty speaking in yesterday’s trial, and apologized to the senator-judges if he was not comprehensible.
After the photos have gone viral on the web, Filipino netizens found them “insensitive,” “crass,” “tasteless,” and “mean,” among others.
Inquirer replied in one of the comments posted on social networking site Twitter, saying “the point was we didn’t find it funny nor was it our intention to make fun. Those were the only photos available.”
Media watchdog Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, however, deemed that the national daily broke its own rules in publishing the “unflattering” and “malicious” photos.
PDI’s own stylebook “requires editors to ask themselves when deciding what photos to publish what readers are likely to add or read into their interpretation of the photo’s content,” which Inquirer violated, CMFR noted.
“Regardless of the editors’ intent in publishing the photos, it was still in violation of the ethical mandate of humaneness, which in practice means treating sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect, not merely as means to journalistic ends,” the media watchdog added.
Vicente testified on Tuesday to disprove allegations that Chief Justice Renato Corona failed to disclose his 1,700-sq. m. Marikina property in his statements of assets, liabilities, and net worth.
Defense lawyer Jose Roy likewise defended their 70-year-old witness, saying that despite Vicente’s health condition, he was still capable to testify.
“I hope they were not mocking him for his physical condition, and even if he has suffered from a stroke, I think that his mind was very clear. His testimony was very straightforward and I have no doubt that he was certain about his documents and what they meant,” Roy told reporters before Day 29 of the impeachment trial started.