What are we to make of a request by Senate President Vicente Sotto III to an online news site to remove three “unverified articles” that he says have hurt his reputation by making “malicious imputations of a crime” against him?
Copies of the letter that Sotto sent to Inquirer.net just days after he was elected Senate president became public knowledge when its US-based columnist, Rodel Rodis, posted it on his Facebook page.
In the letter, Sotto asks the online news site to remove two stories by Rodis (“The Rape of Pepsi Paloma” and “Was Pepsi Paloma murdered?”) and another by Totel de Jesus (“Tito Sotto denies whitewashing Pepsi Paloma case”).
The articles, published between 2014 and 2016, refer to the gang rape of a 14-year-old starlet, Pepsi Paloma, in 1982, by Sotto’s brother and two other showbiz associates, and suggest that Sotto “talked” her out of pressing charges after he visited her and put a pistol on the table in front of her.
Sotto denied his alleged role in covering up the rape, but curiously, now asks that the story about his denial also be taken down.
Inquirer.net has issued a statement recognizing Sotto’s right to request the articles to be removed, but said it has yet to make a decision.
In his letter, Sotto says he has no intention of trampling on the freedom of the press, and points out that he is all for protecting the constitutionally enshrined right.
“Just like everyone, I am for the truth—a ‘balanced news,’ so to speak,” Sotto said.
Another online news site, Rappler, reports that Sotto confirmed his request that the articles, which he called “libelous,” be removed.
“I’d rather that they take it down than file charges in court,” he added, suggesting his next course of action, should his request be turned down.
Of course, by seeking to have the articles removed, Sotto has managed—at least in the short term—to put the issue in the public eye again. If his intention were to quash the speculation about his role in covering up the 1982 rape, doing this most certainly will have an opposite effect.
The bad publicity will likely linger even more if he files a libel suit.
And even if Inquirer.net buckles and pulls the stories, they will live on in the internet and social media.
Perhaps, in the flush of success at being named Senate president, Mr. Sotto took to heart Winston Churchill’s words that history is written by the victors. Churchill, however, never had to deal with the internet or social media, and Mr. Sotto, from all indications, has yet to learn how.