Truth and fairness

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Monday, May 19, 2014


THE decision of the Philippine Daily Inquirer to publish the contents of the hard disk that the parents and the former lawyer of Benhur Luy gave to the newspaper on April 27, 2013 can be an interesting topic of discussion.

The Inquirer, probably imbued with the good intention to fully inform the public about the extent of the multi-billion-peso Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam involving Janet Lim-Napoles, published the hard disk’s content in a series, with the seventh one focusing on media people said to have received money from Napoles.

Interestingly, the Inquirer actually named such respected media personalities as Korina Sanchez of ABS-CBN and Mike Enriquez of GMA as each being the intended beneficiary of a P50,000 cash gift that Luy’s disbursement records said was received by a Mon Arroyo. Sanchez, Enriquez and Arroyo have, as expected, denied such claims.

But the Inquirer was more careful with another media personality listed in Luy’s records as having collected more than P2 million from officials of the National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor), the government agency used as conduit for the scam. This media personality was merely described as a “prominent TV and radio host.”

In refusing to name the said media personality, the Inquirer rationalized that “two former Nabcor officials, who have applied to become state witnesses, have yet to provide documentary evidence.” Yet, I doubt if the Inquirer, in following up the cases of Sanchez and Enriquez, got “documentary evidence” to support Luy’s claim about the
“cash gifts.”

I find this interesting because I heard Baligod explain to ABS-CBN’s Bandila last week about the circumstances surrounding Lu’s disbursement’s records which was already handed to the DOJ a year ago.

The lawyer claimed that he was the one who evaluated Luy’s testimony and followed up documentary evidence against those whose names cropped up in the disbursement records.

But he only focused on the years 2007 to 2009, as the Department of Justice (DOJ) had decided to file cases on personalities within that time frame first.

Baligod asked those who have Luy’s disbursement records to be cautious in dealing with their content. Some of the names in the records for example, were there based on Napoles’s say-so, meaning that Luy couldn’t substantiate their being there. That is why the DOJ didn’t include these people in the charge sheet on the PDAF scam.

Baligod was talking about legalities when they dealt with those in the so-called Luy’s list. But one can also add there the matter of fairness. When allegations against certain people can’t be substantiated, fairness dictates that we should not wave their names in public.

As a journalist, I am also in the pursuit of the truth. But my several years spent in this profession have also made me realize that the pursuit of truth should be balanced with the consideration for fairness. I cringe when a person get’s maligned for a claim that is questionable, more so because a person always has relatives that share the shame.

My point is, the surfacing of so-called “Napolists” and the disclosure of the contents of Luy’s records without putting the disclosure in proper perspective (many things have happened from April 2013 when the Inquirer received the hard disk) have muddied the public image of many personalities, even those who might well be innocent of the allegations hurled against them.

I don’t know if the ends of truth have been really served by this.

(khanwens@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 20, 2014.

Opinion

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