Thursday, July 9, 2009

Editor-in-Chief Jo-Ann Maglipon and PEP Win the P25-Million Libel Case Filed Against Them by Richard Gutierrez

Jo-Ann Maglipon and Philippine Entertainment Portal (PEP) have won its fight against a libel suit filed by actor Richard Gutierrez. The Department of Justice (DOJ) dismissed the case for "lack of probable cause."

It can be recalled that Richard filed a libel suit against PEP, specifically its editor-in-chief Jo-Ann Maglipon, managing editor Karen Pagsolingan, and staff writer Bong Godinez, at the Makati Prosecutor's Office last April 13 and later transferred to the DOJ because of an article posted in PEP on March 29 saying that Richard had an alleged altercation with Michael Flores at the birthday party of Zorro director Mark Reyes in Oceana restaurant on March 28.

The DOJ resolution was received by the legal counsel of PEP, Atty. Sandy Coronel of the Yorac Arroyo Chua Caedo & Coronel Law Firm, at 9:10 a.m. today, July 9.

The DOJ Resolution reads in full:

"For resolution is the complaint filed by Richard R. Gutierrez against respondent Jo-Ann Q. Maglipon, Karen A. Pagsolingan and Ferdinand "Bong" Godinez for violation of Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code [libel].

"Complainant Richard Gutierrez alleges that he is a show business personality currently playing the lead role in GMA 7's teleserye "Zorro," and that he is also a commercial endorser of various products such as Bench, Emperador Brandy, Flawless, Globe Telecoms, Metathione and Unique Toothpaste, to name a few.

"Respondents Jo-Ann Q. Maglipon, Karen A. Pagsolingan and Ferdinand "Bong" Godinez are the editor-in-chief, managing editor and staff writer of' the website Philippine Entertainment Portal ( or "PEP" for brevity), respectively. is an interactive website that features the latest news and events in Philippine show business. It caters to readers who are interested to know what is happening in show business and its readers want to be continuously updated about the latest news involving celebrities.

"On March 28, 2009, at or about 9:30 pm, complainant attended the birthday party of Direk Mark Reyes at the Oceana Restaurant, Seaside Boulevard, Pasay City, together with his twin brother, Raymond R. Gutierrez and Bubbles Paraiso. This party was attended by other show business personalities, including the cast of "Zorro," namely: Joel Torre, Epy Quizon, Leo Martinez, Michelle Madrigal, and former mainstays of the show "TGIS," namely: Bobby Andrews, Dingdong Dantes and Michael Flores.

"On March 29, 2009, at or about 2:00 am, complainant, along with his "Zorro" co-stars left the party and proceeded to his residence in Dasmari�as Village, Makati City. In the afternoon of the same day, complainant learned through his mother, Ms. Anabelle Rama-Gutierrez, that an article about an alleged incident in the parking lot of the Oceana Restaurant was uploaded and published on involving him and Michael Flores. The article reads, and thereinafter quoted:

PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) received reports alleging that Zorro star, Richard Gutierrez, and former TGIS mainstay, Michael Flores, got into a heated altercation at around midnight, March 29, at the parking lot of the Oceana restaurant located at the Seaside Boulevard in Pasay City.

The two actors were reportedly on their way home after attending the 40th birthday party of director Mark Reyes.

Sources claim that the squabble was marred with heated words being exchanged by both parties and a gun-toting incident. It was still unclear, however, whether the gun belongs to Richard or Michael. Epy Quizon, son of Comedy King, Dolphy, was also reportedly involved in the fracas.

PEP�who caught sight of Richard leaving the event together with Bubbles Paraiso and Michelle Madrigal�at press time, is still investigating the said incident.

"On March 30, 2009, PEP, through respondent Maglipon, published or uploaded a letter on their website admitting the publication of the story. Complainant vehemently denies being involved in the so-called "heated altercation," "squabble," "gun-toting incident," or "fracas" with Michael Flores, or with anyone during the party, or at anytime between March 28 to 29, 2009. Such article is a complete falsehood, a mere fabrication and only a product of respondent's imagination. Through the article, respondents made it appear that complainant is a troublemaker, a very discreditable condition considering his stature as a primetime actor and product endorser. PEP or respondents divulged his identity; and the publication of the discreditable article was attended with malice. Having known him and his family, PEP or respondents, could have easily verified the story, but they did not. In fact, it was complainant's mother who informed respondent Maglipon about the false and malicious article; hence, this complaint for libel.

"Complainant presented affidavits of witnesses Pilar Angela D. Paraiso, a.k.a. Bubbles Paraiso, Marciano Arcega Reyes, a.k.a. Direk Mark Reyes, and Michael John M. Flores, a.k.a. Michael Flores, to support his averments particularly the non-�existence of the alleged "heated altercation," "squabble," "gun-toting incident," or "fracas" with Michael Flores.

"Respondent Jo-Ann Q. Maglipon, in her counter-affidavit, avers that she is the editor-in-chief of or PEP. She vehemently denies any involvement, role or participation in the alleged publication complained as she is neither connected nor affiliated with the website where the questioned article was purportedly published; therefore, she cannot be held liable for the questioned article appearing thereat. She contends that by virtue of complainant's being a movie and television personality cum multi-product endorser, complainant is undeniably a public figure, i.e. someone who has himself actively solicited the adulation of the public and consequently arrived, at a position where public attention is focused on him as a person. Even complainant's mother refers to him as the "number one contract star" of GMA, one of the biggest media network in the country. Undoubtedly, complainant is a celebrity�a public figure. Public figures are deemed to have lost, to some extent, their right to privacy. Movie and television celebrities, such as complainant, enjoy less privacy than private citizens mainly because they themselves sought publicity and consented to it. Thus, showbiz should not be allowed to complain when they in fact receive the publicity they solicited because being such celebrities, their personalities, affairs, acts and conduct become matters of public interest and could no longer be regarded as their private business. Further, members of the press have a protected right under the Constitution, to inform the public about developments involving those celebrities, who have become legitimate matters of public interest. The reported altercation or exchange of heated words and gun-toting incident of celebrities is a matter of public interest, a story of particular fascination to the readers of It is a matter proper subject of media reportage.

"In their joint counter-affidavit, respondents Karen A. Pagsolingan and Ferdinand "Bong" Godinez avers that they are the managing editor and staff writer of or PEP, respectively. They are being sued for the article entitled "Instant Classic: Richard Gutierrez reportedly involved in a heated squabble with Micahel Flores," which was published in the website Not having any affinity with the publisher of, they cannot be made liable for the questioned article that appeared thereat. They allege that read in its entirely, the article did not impute any discreditable act or condition to any person, much less to complainant. The article in no way made it appear that he or any of the celebrities with him are troublemakers. Further, there is nothing discreditable in the words "heated altercation," "squabble," "gun-toting incident" and "fracas." They claim that the words used in the article cannot validly be taken out of context and arbitrarily interpreted in order to support a person's claim for libel. The said article never identified or pointed to complainant as the person who supposedly toted the gun.

"On the other hand, in his reply-affidavit, complainant contends that the existence and publication of the subject article is beyond question, as per the admission of respondents. Despite the removal of said article online, the damage to his reputation has been done. He alleges further that malice attended the publication of the subject article because respondents had knowledge of the falsity of their story. The words employed in said article, taken as a whole, strongly imply or suggest to a reader of ordinary intelligence that a deadly weapon was used in an incident involving him, which negatively affects, if not directly assails, his wholesome public image. Jeffrey Smith Quizon, a.k.a. Epy Quizon and Leon G. Martinez, a.k.a. Leo Martinez corroborated complainant's claim that no such "heated altercation" "squabble," "gun-toting-incident," or "fracas" happened between him and Michael Flores.

"At the outset, it bears to stress that the truth or falsity of the alleged libelous statements in the subject article is not the issue in the instant case, as the same can only be threshed out in a full-blown trial. The issue in the instant case is whether or not the facts and allegations therein presented by the parties are sufficient to engender a well-founded belief that the crime of libel has been committed, and that respondents are probably guilty thereof and should be placed on trial therefor.

"Libel, as defined under the Revised Penal Code, is a public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status or circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or judicial person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead. Thus, the elements of libel are: (a) imputation of a discreditable act or condition to another; (b) publication of the imputation; (c) identity of the person defamed; and (d) existence of malice.

"Although elements (b) and (c) may appear to be present in the subject article, elements (a) and (d) was not sufficiently established.

Source: PEP

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