Senate drama sideshow: Yoly Ong and Juan Ponce Enrile’s exchange of lawsuits

Yoly_ongAs if Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile did not have enough on his plate this month from Senators Miriam Santiago, Antonio Trillanes, and Alan Peter Cayetano. As was reported a few days ago, he also has to deal with the counterclaim of Campaigns & Grey chairperson and Philippine Star columnist Yoly Villanueva-Ong. Ms. Ong filed the counterclaim in response to the damage suit Enrile filed against her last December 2012 following her October 16, 2012 column “Like Father, Like Son”. Enrile claims that the article was libelous and that it “besmirched his reputation”, and caused him “mental anguish, serious anxiety, wounded feelings, moral shock, and social humiliation.”

To read the column in its entirety, follow either of the links below:

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The Black and White Movement

According to the complaint, “The article characterizes JPE [Enrile] as liar, fraud, and manipulator. It accuses JPE of attempting to “revise history” with a devious purpose of enticing the electorate to support his only son, Juan Castañer Ponce Enrile, Jr (popularly known as Jack Enrile), an incumbent congressman in the province of Cagayan and a candidate in the upcoming senatorial elections.”

Enrile took exception to the following excerpts:

Just when we were about to forgive-and-forget Juan Ponce Enrile’s checkered past, he himself reminded us of what a wily, shifty chameleon he truly and naturally is. In Juan Ponce Enrile: A Memoir, and bio-documentary ‘Johnny’ that aired in ABS-CBN — he recants his previous recantation of the assassination attempt on him, which Marcos used as one more reason to justify Martial Law…Did he expect national amnesia to afflict Filipinos who know the truth?

In his attempt to leave an acceptable legacy for posterity and bequeath a Senate seat for junior, the nonagenarian is sanitizing his recollections instead of asking for absolution. Stem cell therapy can deter dementia but it cannot regenerate an innocent man.

We are being wooed to perpetuate the 40-years-running Enrile saga. Every night we should pray: Dear God, Make all who want our vote, be the men we want them to be.

Another misdeed associated with father-and-son is the alleged rampant car smuggling in Port Irene. In 1995, the Cagayan Export Zone Authority (CEZA) was established through Republic Act 7922, authored by Cagayan native JPE…Despite EO156 issued in 2008, which prohibited such importations, smuggling continued. Enrile countered the CEZA is not covered by the prohibition because the importers pay the correct duties and taxes. Ford reportedly pulled out its manufacturing business to protest the nefarious activities in CEZA.

For her part, Ms. Ong stands by her column, and insists she acted without malice.

According to the counterclaim:

“The statements contained in that column were made honestly, in good faith, and to protect the interest of the community and the public.”

“Plaintiff’s reputation is not the untarnished and good one that he alleges in the Complaint. It has been marred and tainted by his role in the Marcos dictatorship, his own declarations, and his other public acts and conduct.”

“Plaintiff’s act of prosecuting Defendant Ong alone constitutes harassment, malice and evident bad faith. It is meant to intimidate and silence defendant Ong and other journalists, and to place a chilling effect on their ability to write about plaintiff’s public conduct on matters of public concern.”

“Plaintiff’s above-mentioned acts have directly and/or indirectly obstructed, defeated, violated, impeded or impaired Defendant Ong’s freedom of speech and freedom to write for the press, and continue to do so; and have caused defendant damages….”

The following quotes also came from Ong:

“Initially I was unnerved because this is the first time I was ever sued for anything. But after reflecting and processing, I know I spoke the truth and that made me a bit braver,” “All the lawyers I’ve consulted said there was no libel. Many wrote about Enrile’s latest version of the real or fake assassination attempt. But as far as I know I’m the only one he sued. As a friend said, I have ‘arrived,'”

Ong also said that she would donate whatever amounts she recovers from Enrile to the victims of the Marcos dictatorship. She added that the P88 million in damages was not exorbitant considering Enrile’s amount of financial resources and standing, substantial business interests, and net worth of over P100 million based on his latest Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth.

All right then, Ms. Ong, so if you’re quick to say that P88 million is not exorbitant for Enrile, what are you really after here? Are you truly after “defending the right to freedom of speech”, or are you just milking a politician who is perceived to be corrupt for whatever it’s worth? Or worse, are you just hoping to get a bite by riding on the wave of momentum currently against Enrile?

Yoly Ong has a history of not being able to take criticism well. Perhaps that is why she was “unnerved” when Enrile sued her. Perhaps this time, with Enrile, she may have bitten off more than she can chew.

To be fair to Yoly Ong, there’s nothing wrong with calling out Enrile regarding the veracity of the details of the assassination attempt. But despite it being known that Enrile was responsible for deaths during the Marcos regime, the people kept putting him back into power anyway. In the bigger scheme of things, whether the attempt on Enrile’s life was real or not, and Enrile’s inconsistencies in his versions of it do not pass the So What? test.

And neither do the other items mentioned in Yoly Ong’s column. Focusing as well on Enrile’s son Jack Enrile, who is running in the elections this year, Ong also mentioned the case with Alfie Anido. The death of Anido has been an urban legend linked to Jack, but it has never been proven that he had anything to do with it. The Port Irene smuggling, in Ong’s own words, is also merely alleged; although it is linked to the Enrile’s, presumably because it happened in their neck of the woods, Cagayan province, once again, it has not been proven conclusively that they have direct links to it.

I don’t know if Yoly Ong sees the irony in her statement about “exposing the truth” by using allegations that have not been proven in court. Freedom of speech of course is important, but as with all other freedoms, it has corresponding responsibilities.

I don’t know about you, but the more times I read the words “allegedly” and “intrigue”, it starts to feel more like a gossip column than a proper journalistic opinion piece. Recall also that Ong wrote in a similar style in her column following the fallout of the “Pilipinas kay Ganda” tourism slogan flop.

Enrile himself isn’t squeaky clean. The recent events that transpired in the Senate are indicative of this. His role during the Marcos years will always be pointed out by both his critics and allies. That he remained an influential force in Philippine politics and national affairs is a testament to his being a wily and clever politician. Filipinos keep putting him back in government, despite being aware of his track record. So is it entirely Enrile’s fault that he’s survived up to this time without answering for any of the things he’s been accused of in the past?

Does it look like Yoly Ong’s countersuit will prosper? One thing’s for sure; despite this brouhaha being merely a sideshow to the events in the Senate, it makes for good entertainment in the circus that is Philippine politics.

We’ll need more popcorn.

28 Replies to “Senate drama sideshow: Yoly Ong and Juan Ponce Enrile’s exchange of lawsuits”

  1. What have you been smoking?

    Are you, with due respect, out of your tiny, cotton picking, little mind?

    If this stuff doesn’t matter – WHAT THE F*** DOES matter?

      1. Chill, guys. He’s just reporting some news, and reminding us that Philippine politics remains a basket of whiny crocodiles.

        1. It’s a commentary, not news.

          Mine is not a violent reaction, BTW.

          Enrile did lie about the circumstances surrounding his ambush-me and blatantly at that. He headed the senate in convicting a man for something, most lawyers will agree as a non impeachable crime. And he did it in the guise of accountability. He should at least credible to decide on a serious issue.

          We’ve all known, or at least suspected, that he and some if not most senators are liars and crooks and have tolerated it. But it doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.

        2. It matters because the veracity of a well known politician is going to be tested in court.

          I think that does matter – it matters rather a lot – and I am frankly astonished at the position taken in this column, which seems to say that because we know that politicians are liars, they can just carry on lying.

        3. Excuse me, where did I say that they can just carry on lying?

          Filipinos should have had an inkling of what their politicians-to-be were like before they put them into position, had they demanded more of them, and done their homework. Yet they chose to ignore the alarms, or gave in to some sense of sentiment, and kept re-electing people like Enrile as long as possible.

          Why paint Enrile as the only bad guy when Filipinos, who are easily swayed, are equally to blame?

          Like I said above, there’s nothing wrong with Yoly Ong pointing out the inconsistency in Enrile’s claims, but when taken against the backdrop of Filipinos repeatedly putting him in power in spite of his shady reputation and track record being known, it fails the So What? test.

        4. @ Fallen Angel – thank you for your reply, but it seems to me that, by saying “this fails the “so what?” test”, because “Filipinos should have had an inkling of what their politicians-to-be were like before they put them into position, had they demanded more of them, and done their homework. Yet they chose to ignore the alarms, or gave in to some sense of sentiment, and kept re-electing people like Enrile as long as possible”, you do imply that politicians can simply carry on lying.

          The point about Enrile’s libel action against Ong is that it is a defamation action brought in a public court, and, by bringing a counterclaim, Ong has “manned up” (sorry, guys)and made it impossible for Enrile to simply drop his claim after it has served its publicity value and “walk away”.

          The key difference, here, is that Enrile’s veracity will perforce become matter of public record, which is a very different thing to “what everybody knows”.

        5. People like yolly ong are the ones hired by these politicians to build up their image by either peddling lies or half-truths so that people like bs and enrille get elected into office again and again. Pare-Pareho Lang sila.

  2. Enrile’s turn-around on the 1972 ‘staged’ ambush is peanut compared to his other limp ‘patriotic’ posturing in his Memoir.

    Yoly Ong is a journalist. Her free speech, though less ideal from factual framework, serves the highest interest of the public. It seeks to probe the dark areas of governance. Ms. Ong report on the smuggling in Port Irene which caused Ford company to pull out its manufacturing from the country cannot be regarded as “reckless disregard for the truth” therefore, malicious. If there is smuggling in Port Irene, it does not matter if she has no proof that JPE was involved in it. It is enough that she can prove that JPE is the kingpin in the area.

  3. Enrile is the worst political opportunist, in Philippine politics. He became , one of the richest man in the Philippines. With foreign bank accounts. Same as his son in law: Honasan. The man align himself, with whoever is in power…then, do his thing. Including using public funds, to support his mistress…maybe, even the cost of buying his VIAGRA…your tax money, is used to buy the Viagra…

        1. Typical palusot of da pinoy. Do you even know which country has a dysfunctional political system and which is not?

        2. Because we’re talking solely about the Philippines.

          Let me tell you what your point actually is:
          It’s ok to be dysfunctional as long as we’re in good company.

          Typical Pinoy mediocre thinking.

          The dysfunction of other countries’ political systems is of hardly any concern/significance in this article. The focus is on our own mess.

          Maaga pa lang tigilan na natin kalokohan, ha? Let’s not drag this out with the usual non-sequitur and missing the point blurbs.

        3. well where is this perfect political system so we can compare ours? it could be that this is the nature of giving men power over their fellow citizens

          hoy domo hehe give me your non-dysfunctional country so i can proceed to enlighten you 🙂 just one example go go go hehehe

        4. BTW, you’re very on your purely nonsensical comments. You’re just embarassing yourself.

        5. But but but…

          Nothing was never mentioned in the article about looking for a perfect political system. And the dysfunction of other countries’ political systems, whatever they may be, is still of hardly any concern.

          Do try to stay on topic, please.

        6. how do you know we are dysfunctional if you dont have a functional system that we can based ourselves on? pleeeeaaaase help me hehe the noose is tightening

        7. And yet you still haven’t answered my question: What do other dysfunctional systems, if any, in other countries, and looking for a system to compare the Philippines against have to do with the content of the article?

          To me it’s simple: Nothing.

          But in the Philippines, a shady character like Enrile gets elected to government positions, more than once. And incompetents like Erap and Noynoy get elected to posts way above their level of ability. That’s dysfunction for you right there.

          I’m assuming, of course, that this excellent explanation will still fly over your pointed head.

        8. since you admit political systems like ours are inherently broken, then your article is discredited.

        9. Tsk tsk, small minds nga naman talaga…

          It’s not my problem if you started on to the thread of “dysfunctional political system”, and the search for a perfect one, even if those aren’t really the main points in the article.

          I bet that you didn’t even read the article in its entirety, and thus failed to grasp the main points.

          You didn’t even explain why my article is discredited. Not that you can, anyway.

          In your little mind, the Philippines is excused from being dysfunctional because other countries are. Unfortunately, that’s not even true for people who actually use their brain.

          Come back only when you’ve got something more substantive to blurb about, ha?

  4. Nothing moves in Cagayan, let alone Port Irene, without the imprimatur of the Enriles. They practically “reign” over that province.

    Yoly Ong and Enrile deserve each other.

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