MANILA (UPDATED) - Online news website Inquirer.net's articles on the rape and death of '80s star Pepsi Paloma earlier questioned by Senate President Vicente Sotto III were no longer accessible as of Wednesday.
Links to the news article “Tito Sotto denies whitewashing Pepsi Paloma rape case” and column pieces "The Rape of Pepsi Paloma" and "Was Pepsi Paloma murdered?" could no longer be accessed.
"The articles on the Pepsi Paloma case are currently under review and are unavailable at the moment,” Inquirer.net's management said in a statement.
Clicking on links to the stories https://globalnation.inquirer.net/99861/the-rape-of-pepsi-paloma, and https://entertainment.inquirer.net/191427/tito-sotto-denies-whitewashing-pepsi-paloma-rape-case redirects users to Inquirer.net's homepage.
The link https://globalnation.inquirer.net/100369/was-pepsi-paloma-murdered, meanwhile, sends readers to Inquirer.net's statement.
The removal of the articles came following Sotto's request for the site to take the stories down on claims that these had a "malicious imputation of a crime" against him.
The senator's request was made public on social media by U.S.-based columnist Rodel Rodis, who wrote the column pieces.
Rodis earlier said that if Inquirer.net heeds Sotto's request, it would set a dangerous precedent.
"If the Inquirer agrees to his requests, a dangerous precedent will be set. Sotto is cyberbullying the Inquirer," he said.
Sotto's request letter to Inquirer was dated May 29, 2018, just a few days after he was elected Senate President.
Inquirer.net said on June 23 that it would "defer" publishing Rodis' pieces as it investigates his articles linking Sotto to Paloma's rape and death.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, meanwhile, lamented Inquirer.net’s move.
“July 4, 2018 will forever be remembered as one of the darkest days in the annals of Philippine journalism. It is the day when the online arm of the newspaper long regarded as one of the beacons of press freedom in the country caved in to the demands of a two-bit comedian turned Senate President,” it said in a statement.
“And yet, it is also a day of affirmation. Let us, the community of independent and freedom-loving Filipino journalists, resolve to strengthen our ranks even more and resist all attempts to prevent us from fulfilling our duty to serve the people’s right to know and be their watchdog against government’s abuses."