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UNA demands equal billing for its reply

By: - Reporter / @TarraINQ
/ 05:21 AM March 20, 2016

The United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) has asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to compel the Philippine Daily Inquirer to publish with the same prominence its reply to the paper’s report on Vice President Jejomar Binay’s alleged transfer of P100 million to Hong Kong through the same remittance firm involved in the $81-million money laundering scheme now under investigation at the Senate.

UNA on Friday filed before the Comelec a verified claim invoking the right to reply to the PDI report, saying that it was “intended to tarnish” the name of Binay, its standard bearer.

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An exclusive Inquirer front page story on Thursday said Binay had routed P100 million to Hong Kong through Philrem Service Corp., the same remittance firm tagged in the transfer of $81 million in stolen funds from the Bangladesh central bank to fictitious bank accounts in the Philippines.

The story on Binay was based on a report by the Anti-Money Laundering Council.

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The Inquirer published UNA’s comments denying the story alongside the original report on the same page on the same day it came out.

The complaint, filed by UNA secretary general Jose Virgilio Bautista, said the PDI report was meant to undermine Binay’s presidential bid, and it “put UNA in a bad light.”

“The article was clearly intended to tarnish the reputation and besmirch the name of Jejomar C. Binay in order to discredit him in the public, and thereby diminish, if not destroy, his chances of winning in the May 2016 elections,” Bautista said.

UNA invoked Section 16 of Comelec Resolution No. 10049, which gives all registered political parties and candidates “the right to reply to charges published or aired against them” on the same page or section as the assailed article.

Not what the law intends

To election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, however, the provision that UNA invoked applies only in situations where a rival candidate made the accusation, not when a media organization publishes a report based on other sources.

“This is not the right to reply that the law intends…If it is an ordinary report, then freedom of the press must be upheld,” Macalintal explained when reached by phone yesterday.

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He said the provision only applies when it is a political opponent that airs the allegation, “not to news items made by a media entity based on reliable sources, subject of course to balanced reporting where the other side is always taken into consideration.”

“Otherwise, with every other report that comes out in the papers, they (politicians) will invoke the right to reply,” he said.

If that happens, he said, “where is freedom of the press there?”

UNA had imputed ill motive to the Inquirer for its stories on Binay, citing a report two days before the questioned story about how Binay received billions in kickbacks from infrastructure projects in Makati City during his term as mayor, based on a report by the Anti-Money Laundering Council.

The Binay camp said AMLC had since corrected its initial report, clarifying that Binay only had one bank account containing P1.7 million, and not 242 accounts containing billions in funds.

Binay has a pending P200-million civil claims suit against the Inquirer, AMLC officials and 12 others for “conspiring to destroy his reputation and, consequently, to derail his presidential bid.”

The Vice President is facing a string of corruption allegations, all of which he has denied, attributing the reports to a purported organized effort to derail his presidential bid.

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TAGS: Comelec, Commission on Elections, Jejomar Binay, UNA, United Nationalist Alliance, Vice President Binay
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