The Philippine Star
Rejoinder to Pedrosa’s June 5 column
Referred to me by my clients, Mt. David Foods Corp., Ms. Jocelyn U. Magcale and Felizardo Mangubat, chairman/president and chief financial officer respectively of Mt. David Foods Corp., is the matter of the Philippine STAR newspaper’s columnist, Ms. Carmen N. Pedrosa’s defamatory column ‘ entitled “Charting our own course; Fraudulent business damage the country” which appeared in the June 5, 2016 print and Internet issue of your reputable newspaper.
While Ms. Pedrosa starts off properly enough by confining herself to the reporting of supposed “facts” related to the filing of a criminal complaint for estafa only against Ms. Magcale and Mr. Mangubat in Spain, it later ventures into statements and imputations that border on imagination, personal opinion and unsubstantiated supposition that when taken together with the entire article as a whole, definitely and maliciously discredit the names and persons not only of Ms. Magcale and Mr. Mangubat but also that of Mt. David Foods Corp., who was not even previously mentioned by her as one of the respondents in the estafa case.
Persons are presumed innocent of any crime or wrongdoing until they are convicted with finality of the charge by a court of proper jurisdiction. The mere filing of a criminal charge does not by itself establish their guilt. The report should have duly confined itself within this parameter as is expected of a professional journalist.
Instead, Ms. Pedrosa proceeded using conjectural, baseless and unrelated defamatory statements serving no other purpose than to maliciously impute the crime of estafa as having already been conclusively committed by my clients who are further alleged by her to be liars and swindlers habitually operating on a scale that would warrant a nationwide crackdown led by President-elect Duterte. Specifically, these libelous statements are as follows: “The respondents will have to appear before a Spanish court to answer the charges. If they do not appear, they will be declared in default. If the judge rules against respondents, the Spanish Police will have to ask Interpol to issue an international warrant of arrest.” “It is unfortunate this fraud happens.” “The complaint against Magcale and Mangubat can only do damage to Spanish-Philippine business relations.”
“The Mount David Corp. claims to be a supplier to the AFP and PNP of arms and equipment and advertise its company as reliable.”
“Magcale also boasted of her connections to Lucio Co in front of Spanish businessmen.”
“Prospective businessmen should be warned of the estafa case.”
“The Duterte government can crack down on fraudulent companies to protect our country’s image of fair business.”
When read together with the article’s prior introductory statement that “other Filipinos are doing their best to give a bad reputation to our country” it becomes clear that it is definitely referring to the persons of Ms. Magcale, Mr. Mangubat and a juridical person: Mt. David Foods Corp., ascribing on them a vice or defect.
Malice is further shown when Ms. Pedrosa made the totally unrelated and unsubstantiated statement that Ms. Magcale allegedly boasted to unidentified “Spanish businessmen” that she had connections with “Lucio Co.” This bit of information has nothing to do with the report of the filing of a criminal charge in Spain. But when an ordinary person reads it together with the succeeding statement that: “businessmen” should be warned of the estafa case filed against Ms. Magcale in Spain, and the other statement that actual fraud had been committed this could only mean that the alleged “boast” of Ms. Magcale was false and fraudulent to which any businessman must avoid. This is defamatory.
Malice could also be discerned when Ms. Pedrosa included without basis, Mt. David Foods Corp. by maliciously imputing against it the crime, vice or defect of being one of the “fraudulent corporations” that should be the target of a nationwide crackdown. No other corporations are mentioned in the article. The only statement in the article relating to Mt. David Foods Corp. is the seemingly innocent allegation that it “is a supplier to the AFP and PNP of arms and equipment and advertise its company as reliable.” This however, can again be construed as false and fraudulent by an ordinary reader when he or she further reads it together with the other pertinent statement in the article related to “corporations” or “companies” that the Duterte government should crack down on “fraudulent companies”. Defamation is again present. Taken by themselves individually and separately in isolation, these aforequoted statements of Ms. Pedrosa deceptively look neutral and unbiased. But when read together with the whole article, their libelous purpose is made evident. This should not have passed your editorship’s scrutiny.
Please be advised that under Art. 360 of the Penal Code, your newspaper, its Publisher, yourself as editor and your entire editorial staff, through Ms. Pedrosa, are all criminally liable for having unequivocably made public by print and online, these malicious imputations on the good persons of Ms. Magcale, Mr. Mangubat and Mt. David Foods Corp. Ms. Pedrosa’s unedited article caused or has tended to cause, dishonor, discredit and public contempt against them.
My clients have been greatly humiliated and embarrassed by this publication that it has affected not only their personal, but business relations and livelihood, such that they are already contemplating the filing of the appropriate criminal complaint with claim for damages, costs, and attorney’s fees.
To obviate this, DEMAND is respectfully made that an immediate and sincere written admission of fault and inaccuracy of the offending article be made in your succeeding print and online issues by Ms. Pedrosa concurred in by yourself or your Publisher, as well as the total and perpetual deletion/removal of the offending article’s online version at philstar.com. – Atty.
LAWRENCE M. MIJARES, Tycoon Center Building, Pearl Drive, Ortigas Center, Pasig City