Filipino TV broadcasters Raffy and Erwin Tulfo were sued for libel after reportedly calling a police officer a thief on air almost three years ago.
But that wasn’t all they said. Raffy Tulfo is also accused of calling him “a shameless, thieving policeman who went around pointing his gun to scare off people” and Erwin Tulfo is accused of saying he is “a cop who steals water and even had the gall to be angry when caught and censured,” according to The Philippine Daily Inquirer;s report.
The police officer, Manlangit, had complained about the comments at the time to a Phillipines government agency regulating movies and television. He said his young child saw the report calling him a thief, an ABS-CBN News news story from 2012 reported.
In the U.S., libel is a civil matter, so the police aren’t involved. But in the Philippines, it is a criminal offense. According to CMFR-Philippines, a blog for the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, because it is a criminal offense, you can be arrested and kept in jail before conviction.
“Libel’s being a criminal offense has also made it specially troubling for journalists even prior to conviction, since anyone accused of libel can be arrested, and unless able to post bail, imprisoned pending the outcome of the case,” the center wrote.
Along with the lawsuit, arrest warrants were issued for criminal libel collaring both journalists in late June and bail was P6,000 each, or about $137 U.S.
The prosecutor, Quezon City Assistant Prosecutor Ferdinand Baylon, made comments about the decision to allow the case, the Star reported. Baylon said:
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“This is clearly an imputation of a crime and had the effect of besmirching the reputation of the complainant. The truthfulness of the allegation (against the complainant) is immaterial.”
While the Tulfo brothers are sued for making the comments about the police officer, two others working for their program weren’t sued. Baylon decided against Maglangit’s request to sue two staff members of the Tulfo’s show as well, according to the Manila Bulletin.
The police officer, Maglangit, wanted to sue field researcher Mark Prindian and segment producer Melvin Navarro for not fact checking the thief claims, but the prosecutor decided to not include them because of a lack of evidence. “Baylon exonerated Pridian and Navarro from the case since their participation in the remarks made are unclear and unfounded,” the Bulletin reported.
TV5, which airs the program, issued a statement to the Inquirer about the lawsuit. Corporate communications head Peachy Vibal Guioguio said:
“We have not received the information from the fiscal’s office yet, so we cannot issue any statement.”
Rafffy Tulfo paid the bail money June 24, the Philippine Star reported, noting that this is just one of many libel lawsuits against him. “He said the latest libel charge is the 38th case filed against him,” according to the Star.
Earlier this year, Erwin Tulfo filed a libel lawsuit against the Philippines Inquirer over a March story claiming he and a radio talk show host were bribed to stop criticizing a government-owned organization, as iMediaEthics wrote at the time.
iMediaEthics has written to TV5 for comment about the lawsuit. We didn’t see any listing for Abubakhar Manlangit on Google.