(Screenshot of the PDI investigative series on the pork barrel scam published in 2013, taken from Bulatlat.com)


The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines is disappointed over the decision of the Philippine Daily Inquirer management to expunge its groundbreaking stories on the P10-billion pork barrel scam in exchange of dropping a libel case filed against them seven years ago.

The unfortunate move is a complete departure from the Inquirer’s longstanding journalistic tradition of fearless and courageous reporting, a legacy that its late editor-in-chief Letty J. Magsanoc and countless other journalists have stood and risked their lives and names for.

It is not only a huge setback for press freedom in the country, but it spreads a chilling effect among the ranks of the media besieged by attacks that have never been more brazen since the fall of the dictatorship.

The Inquirer management, chaired by lawyer Raul Palabrica, entered into a compromise agreement with broadcaster Carmelo Del Prado, who filed a libel suit against the company and five of its editorial managers and reporters over a 2014 story linking the radio personality to pork barrel bribes from the National Agribusiness Corporation.

Under the three-page compromise agreement, the Inquirer management submitted to the following: issue a public apology to Del Prado on the paper’s front page and Inquirer.net’s main page; provide the newsman with P1.5 million worth of advertising space; and worse, purge 10 particular articles linking Del Prado to the scam from both the paper and the website’s news archives.

Three of the five named in the libel case—former executive editor Joey Nolasco, former news editor Artemio Engracia, Jr., and former reporter Nancy Carvajal—refused to sign the agreement, leaving them to face the legal battle on their own without the backing of the management.

The stories were part of the paper’s series of award-winning investigative reports on the pork barrel scam, which prompted a government-wide investigation into the scheme that siphoned billions of public funds intended to benefit poor Filipinos.

The Inquirer management’s tragic decision to submit to capricious demands sets a dangerous precedent and emboldens the powers that be to exploit criminal libel to restrict and gag the press from ferreting out the truth and live up to its duty in keeping the public informed. This only highlights the NUJP’s call to decriminalize libel and put a stop to the use of lawfare to silence the free press.

The NUJP lauds Mr. Nolasco, Mr. Engracia, and Ms. Carvajal for standing by their stories and not bowing down to pressure.

The Union also expresses its support to Inquirer’s journalists and stand with them at this difficult time. We urge them and the community of independent journalists to restore their courage by continuing the Inquirer’s long and vibrant history of fearless reporting and upholding their right to publish, especially during these dangerous times when we need it most.

National Directorate