Friday, August 14, 2009

Who died? Aquino or Arroyo?

Reputable news publications committed the “greatest” sin in journalism when they announced to the world that a living person was dead.
It didn’t help that the person attributed to have died was the President, the highest government officer of the land, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
This happened during the burial of former President Cory Aquino.
Some publications, among them the Manila Bulletin, wrote that the casket about to be buried was that of President Arroyo, instead of former President Aquino.
This monumental mistake highlights the fact that journalists, are only humans.
They too commit mistakes.
Indeed, to err is human.
Good thing, Malacanang, nay the President, the one who was published to have “died”, is not planning to take legal action.
In fact the Palace was magnanimous.
Malacanang said this should have been an “honest mistake,” devoid of any with malice whatsoever.
Case closed.
However, if journalists mistakenly think there can be no legal action on these kinds of mistakes, they could be wrong.
Legal history tells us that when a publication is negligent with their facts, particularly then it wrongly/erroneously casts a person in a bad light, they can be liable for damages.
Let us re-visit the case of Eugenio Lopez versus court of appeals, decided by the Supreme Court in 1970.
This story gets us back to 1956.
A sanitary inspector named Fidel Cruz assigned to the Babuyan Islands sent a distress signal to a passing United States Airforce plane.
This US airforce plane relayed the message to Manila.
Fidel Cruz was not ignored.
An American Army plane dropping on the beach of an island an emergency-sustenance kit containing, among other things, a two-way radio set.
Fidel Cruz, the sanitary inspector, utilized the two-way radio to inform authorities in Manila that the people in the place were living in terror, due to a series of killings committed since Christmas of 1995.
Losing no time, the Philippines defense establishment rushed to the island a platoon of scout rangers led by Major Wilfredo Encarnacion.
Upon arriving at the reported killer-menaced Babuyan islands, however, Major Encarnacion and his men found, instead of the alleged killers, a man, the same Fidel Cruz the sanitary inspector, who merely wanted transportation home to Manila.
In view of this finding, Major Wilfredo Encarnacion branded as a "hoax," to use his own descriptive word, the report of Fidel Cruz.
That was the term employed by the other newspapers when referring to the above-mentioned incident

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