No legitimate, self-respecting media platform can possibly greet Annabelle Rama's Cease-and-Desist Letter of April 14, 2009 with anything but shock and exhaustion.
The shock comes from the fact that most everyone knows by now that the Constitution protects the rights of media in no uncertain terms: "No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press..." (1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, Bill of Rights, Article III, Section 4). I wager that most media platforms will not even bother to respond to a letter like this.
And the exhaustion comes from PEP's penchant for doing the right thing: We apologize when we're wrong. We clarify. We correct.
Last March 30, 2009, I posted an Editor's Note on this site—which I kept unmoving at the top tier of our Breaking News for three days straight—to apologize for uploading a piece on Richard Gutierrez that had yet to be fully researched and investigated. The next day, March 31, in a press conference where television, print, radio, and the web were all represented, I again apologized for what I called a premature and inadvertent uploading. [Click related story here.]
Now we go out of our way once more to explain ourselves—even in the face of the shocking C & D Letter—as further proof that the apology PEP issued to Richard Gutierrez, Epy Quizon, Michael Flores, and to our readers is one that we take very seriously.
Thus, we now address every point raised by the C & D Letter.
STOPPING ALL ARTICLES/COMMENTS. The C & D Letter asks for something really grave—and impossible to give. It asks that we stop any coverage of Richard Gutierrez and shut down all comments about Richard by PEP users, a.k.a. the PEPsters.
The C & D Letter demands that "PEP's publisher Summit Media, its editorial staff headed by Jo-Ann Maglipon and Karen Pagsolingan, and its writers to immediately, upon receipt of this letter, CEASE AND DESIST from publishing any further articles and/or comments about Richard Gutierrez."
There is no other way to say it.
This is an affront to a free press.
It is cavalier about free speech.
It totally misrepresents the nature of public figures.
And it is dismissive of the public's right to know.
(Incidentally, in the interest of fact and accuracy, the Letter's authors should note that PEP is not owned by Summit Media but by PEP Inc. A more complete research will show that these are two distinct entities.)
We received the C & D Letter on April 14, 2009. Today, we are still printing articles and comments on Richard Gutierrez, as they come. Tomorrow, we will still be doing the same thing.
Let us not forget who we are talking about here. This is Richard Gutierrez, a movie star who, in the words of his mother and talent manager Annabelle Rama, is "the No. 1 na artista" in the land. [Click related story here.] The 25-year-old Richard is, therefore, by every measure a public figure. And PEP—being a site that carries reports, opinions, features, blogs, videos, podcasts, and photographs of and about public figures—will continue to do its job of reporting on Richard Gutierrez, for as long as the public is interested in him.
In brief, no one shall storm what the Constitution protects.