“When the public’s right to know is threatened, and when the rights of free speech and free press are at risk, all of the other liberties we hold dear are endangered.”—Christopher Dodd

RMN Iloilo anchormen sued for libel by Department of Education (DepEd-6) Regional Director Ramir Uytico received unprecedented moral back up from no less than Iloilo City Mayor Geronimo “Jerry” Trenas and City Councilor Ely Estante, among other local supporters who disagreed with Uytico’s unpopular move.

At the rate the ruckus’ popularity escalates, we won’t be surprised if even some of Uytico’s office personnel will also sneer at the attempt to muzzle the freedom of the press and expression. 

In my opinion, Uytico’s beef against broadcasters Henry Lumawag, Novie Guazo, Regan Arlos, and Israel Vincent “Don” Dolido isn’t worth a minute in the court room if it emanated from a harsh criticism based on Uytico’s function as a public official. 

Press freedom, according to Thomas Jefferson, is better abused than curtailed. 

A public official like Uytico can’t claim immunity from media attacks for it’s the media’s primordial duty to scrutinize Uytico, et al and—to some extent—make him mad as a public official.

If Uytico, et al are mad, that means Messrs. Lumawag, Guazo, Arlos, and Dolido are doing their job—and are contributing something positive for democracy.


If they are very mad, they forget the fundamental reality: they aren’t employed in private companies and, thus, they need to get out of the kitchen because they can’t stand the heat of public debate and democratic conversation.

In this age of social media, Jo Koy, Taylor Swift, Alexa and Siri, you still have time to sue for libel against crusading broadcast journalists? In terms of genuine public service, it’s a titanic leap backward. 

Whatever the genesis of the Uytico-RMN tiff, we leave the matter for the prosecutor’s office to decide, but we can’t help but express our 25-centavo worth of sentiment as a community journalist and as a “survivor” of 38 counts of libel cases (the highest number for any local journalist in the country in 1999): the case or cases won’t prosper—with due respect to the prosecutors handling the case or cases.

A libel case filed against the Fourth Estate will leave a distasteful mark in the public official’s career and reputation and smear his legacy.  


EVEN if we didn’t hit her office order directly, then Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS)—now Department of Education (DepEd)—Regional Director Pilar Pascual was reportedly upset that we criticized the way the office order was circulated—or “not circulated” to the intended parties. 

In her Regional Order No. 7 dated March 9, 1998, Pascual mandated all school division superintendents, administrators, principals of schools under DECS to comply with Department Order No. 66 series of 1997 to acquire the uniforms in one form, cloth pattern and color tones as prescribed on the issuance.

“In order to get the same quality nearest to the authentic original entry of the required gala set, the complete uniform sets produced by Elizabeth Hammonds is recommended,” stated Pascual’s Regional Order No. 7.

According to the Order, Hammond’s “volume production for the four complete sets are (sic) made of textile material, which is durable, wrinkle free, soft, heavy draped, and ‘wash and wear’ kind, the same as one used for the original winning gala design sample.”


The Order added: “With the 1997 clothing allowance allocated and received last year and the 1998 clothing allowance which is expected to be released soon, the amount is sufficient to buy the materials. The budget required to purchase the four sets of ready-to-wear uniforms is P3,450 for the teaching group and P3,550 for non-teaching group, while the pre-cuts clothing materials with complete accessories will cost P2,700 for the teaching group and P2,800 for non-teaching group considering the difference for materials used.”   

To make the long story short, several teachers in Iloilo reportedly used their clothing allowances to purchase sub-standard uniforms from unaccredited suppliers after Pascual’s Order failed to reach them. 

Some school superintendents, in cahoots with unscrupulous suppliers, allegedly “blind-sided” some of them into purchasing uniforms not prescribed in Department Order No. 66.

School teachers duped into buying substandard uniforms were hard-pressed to produce their uniforms as the Order mandated them to “acquire all four sets not later than the opening of classes in June 1998.” 

Did some DECS officials make monkey business and earn millions of kickbacks?

That’s the main meat of the matter and Pascual wasn’t supposed to be piqued with our series of critical stories in the Sun.Star Iloilo if she was in good faith.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two daily newspapers in Iloilo.—Ed)