Palace mulled criminal charges vs Rogas, Tulfo

By Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 12 2010 06:34 PM | Updated as of Oct 13 2010 07:57 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Malacanang on Tuesday admitted that the legal team reviewing the Incident Investigation and Review Committee’s recommendations had thought of filing criminal charges against broadcast journalists Michael Rogas and Erwin Tulfo.

Chief presidential legal counsel Ed de Mesa has essentially confirmed the contents of a draft of the review obtained by ABS-CBN News where Rogas and Tulfo were recommended to be criminally charged as an accomplice.

"There were initial proposals or opinion that they should been, could actually be held liable as accomplices or for reckless imprudence, but in the end there’s a... it could not hold water in court or it was not certain so the most prudent thing to do was to refer it to the KBP (Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas) or appropriate organization of the media," he said.

De Mesa admitted he was in the opinion that both broadcasters who interviewed Rolando Mendoza shortly before the assault had to be charged criminally but that he was convinced in the end that the matter should just be referred to the KBP.

“Initially I was of the opinion, there was basis to hold them, some of them personally liable criminally,” de Mesa said. “But as I said it was not an exact science, in the end after discussion, I was also convinced it was probably better left to the KBP to decide.”

“We were considering criminal charges against Rogas because his conversations with the hostage taker could have provoked the hostage taker to shoot the hostages. I am not saying he did, just a possibility. That was considered,” he added.

In the case of Tulfo, de Mesa said the RMN anchor "violated express orders of the police not to talk with the hostage taker.”

In the end, the Palace decided to tread carefully when it came with media.

“We respect the right of media to… and we highly value press freedom and so thatis why were very careful in coming up recommendations against members of the media,” he said.

But De Mesa said anyone not satisfied with the legal review can still file a complaint against Rogas and Tulfo.

"Anybody has still a different opinion, anybody can initiate the appropriate complaint agaist Mr. Rogas and Mr. Tulfo. That can still be initiated against anybody,” he said.

It’s up to the public now to judge.

“You can judge for yourself whether or not they actually gave aid and comfort to the hostage whether they made misrepresentations to him, if they provoked him to do anything which could have harmed any of the hostages,” he said.

De Mesa maintained there was no law violated by those spared from the charges. Hence, he says, it would be “futile” to file charges against them.

“In the case of the other respondents, there was no crime committed. Unless if you can point out anything to us anything they did that amounted to crime. Mistake in judgment is not a crime. Most cases, what was committed by them was error in judgment, negligence, failure to do their duties which is administrative in nature,” he said.