Jo-Ann Chats

Richard Gutierrez shakes hands with PEP

Filed under: Feature — admin at 5:21 pm on Tuesday, February 9, 2010

After almost a year, PEP and the Gutierrezes have made peace.

This was the result of the behind-the-scenes work of Atty. Annette Gozon-Abrogar and Ms. Lisa Gokongwei-Cheng,  two officers of the Philippine Entertainment Portal, who are responsible for brokering this peace.

For those not in the know, Richard Gutierrez  filed a libel suit against the Philippine Entertainment Portal on April 13, 2009, claiming that an April 13, 2009 article in the site had caused him harm, hurt, and humiliation. He decried that the article, which reported “a heated altercation” and “fracas” between him and another actor at a showbiz party, was inaccurate.

I withdrew that article within minutes of learning that serious questions were being raised against it and, worse, that the article did not have either the side of Richard and the other actor mentioned in the alleged incident.

Within 24 hours of that withdrawal, PEP uploaded an apology to Richard and the other persons mentioned in the article, and within 48 hours of that same withdrawal, I had called for a tri-media press conference to apologize before the nation in behalf of my staff.

After another four weeks, when we had completed a more thorough investigation and discovered that, indeed, no altercation or fracas had occurred, and that the events witnessed by our reporter  had been misread,  PEP again released an apology. This time, it took the form of a four-part series detailing both the investigation and the correction.

Nonetheless, Richard remained dissatisfied, and proceeded to file a libel suit. As respondents, he named me, as editor in chief of PEP, Karen Pagsolingan as managing editor, and Ferdinand “Bong” Godinez as writer.

Today, February 9, or a long eleven months after, we gathered in the office of  Secretary Agnes Devanadera of the Department of Justice and buried the hatchet. Present were Richard  and his parents Eddie and Annabelle, Richard’s lawyer Angelica Ynares-Santiago, Atty. Annette Abrogar, Karen, Bong, our lawyer Felicitas Aquino-Arroyo, and Secretary Devanadera.

The arrangement was that I was to read the official PEP apology in front of the persons present, plus the media who had been invited to cover the amicable settlement. This, I did. The statement consisted of two paragraphs that PEP carries in its breaking news of February 9 (CLICK HERE). At the end of this reading, Richard and I were to shake hands. This we did. Secretary Devanadera extended her hand and said that all three of us had to clasp hands. This, we did.

Previous to the reading of the official apology, however, I read aloud a personal note that I had written for  the Gutierrez family. I had been asked to do this by my lawyer, Atty. Fely-who had taken over from her law partner Atty. Sandy Coronel, who had recently given birth—because Richard’s camp wanted more assurance that the PEP apology would be sincere.

I suppose all that legalese shears official statements of any emotional content, which makes them difficult for parties to read. I agreed. On the way to the DOJ, I scribbled my thoughts.

Here are those thoughts:

When we began PEP almost four years ago, we had the Gutierrez family as allies and friends. We found pleasure in that relationship. We would never have done anything willfully to destroy this relationship.

Certainly, the circumstances under which we meet today are not the most desirable or comfortable. I also wish we had not disturbed the courts for something that we, given our small friendship and uninterrupted goodwill in the past, could have managed on our own.

Be that as it may, we are here for something that may actually count in our future. I hope that this all leads to relations that will grow better and kinder as the days unfold.

It is integral to our profession to report both the pleasant and unpleasant. In performing this duty, however, we  can not allow ourselves to transgress the rules of journalism, and on the rare circumstance that we do, we return back to those same rules, which tell us that we must correct our mistake. In this instance, we correct ourselves—and, beyond that, apologize most sincerely.

I take pride in the fact that we, the Philippine Entertainment Portal, are a media platform that will do the right thing. I hope this fact is appreciated.

Bong Godinez is a young but fine reporter whose misstep with this story has only made him more diligent and intelligent.

Karen Pagsolingan is an earnest editor without bad habits or bias, who has only grown wiser with this experience.

For my part, I, as editor in chief, know that there is no darkness in my spirit toward the Gutierrez family—then or now.
Annabelle Rama has been a happy and charming ally, if a volatile one, for key stories that we have researched, and for this, we are grateful.

Eddie Gutierrez has, in my experience, treated us only with civility in the most trying of circumstance, and again, for this we are grateful.

The rest of the Gutierrez family have generally kept their peace even when their instincts must have prodded them to do otherwise, and again, for this we are grateful.

But in the end, Richard Gutierrez, accepting our apology, has shown a magnanimity that we may have earned but can only leave to his good nature to give. For this, we are most grateful.

Trust that PEP will remain a site that provides fair and accurate coverage, even when circumstances are not the most desirable. And we trust as well that the Gutierrez family will maintain their good will with us, as they have with the entertainment industry all their lives.

Thank you.

POSTSCRIPT. Elsewhere in the site are answers to the questions we have been asked multiple times today: Has PEP’s credibility suffered because of this settlement? Why is the apology being offered only now? What happens to the coverage of PEP of Richard Gutierrez after this? Is Annabelle Rama going to the YES! 10TH Anniversary party on February 23? The answer to the last is YES. As for the rest, we will have stories posted in Breaking News today and in the days to come that answer these questions. Karen, Bong and I have also given interviews to nearly all the TV stations about other matters. I hope that given all this, we put a closure to this, and begin to live our lives again.