Cheche Lazaro, PROBE and The Wire-tapping Case filed by GSIS

I’ve known Cheche Lazaro through two live interviews (here and here). It is such an honor to be interviewed by her. I am aware that most TV hosts get their research materials from their assistants but in all those interviews, she personally wrote down notes about me before airing live. She verified all the materials given to her and didn’t just take her assistants’ word for it.

So when Ricky Lim (Associate Dean of AIM who I met in a Bloggers’ Roundtable) sent me an email about her sister, I was just appalled. Cheche has been charged for wiretapping by GSIS, when her Probe Team tried to do a story on unfair compensation practices. Cheche had explicitly told GSIS that she was recording their conversation beforehand. She had offered them all the airtime to present their side of the story. In the end, because the story was negative, GSIS is now charging her with criminal offenses.

Cheche is the only one facing the wiretapping case at the moment. ““They have made it a point to singularly point me out as the person who wiretapped the whole conversation that they alleged was wiretapping. That is not true,” she said.

““I think this is intimidation of the press. They are trying to send a message to the press and using me as a sample for this kind of a message.”

Cheche Lazaro’s Statement on the wire-tapping case filed by the GSIS against her
May 8, 2009

It is mind-boggling why I am being singled out for prosecution for following the tenets of responsible journalism. If raising the concerns of underpaid public school teachers deprived of their benefits by a publicly accountable government institution and giving my accuser the airtime to explain her boss’s side of the story are now considered crimes under our laws, then I plead guilty.

This is a small price to pay for bringing a perfectly legitimate public interest issue out in the open. Probe will not be intimidated into submission. I just wish my accuser will play fair and hire private lawyers instead of using government lawyers (from the GSIS), whose salaries are incidentally paid for by, among others, the teachers shortchanged by the questionable policy of the GSIS and private citizens like me who pay taxes.

In the last 22 years, Probe has carved a niche in the industry and won recognition here and abroad for consistently adhering to time-honored journalistic values of accuracy, fairness and objectivity. My team and I have no plans of changing the way we work just to accommodate the personal agenda of people in power.

****Ms. Lazaro will post today before Judge Josephine Vitocruz of the Pasay Metropolitan Trial Court, Branch 47, before 1:30 p.m.

Here is the PROBE Memorandum on the case Ella A. Valencerina vs. Angelita A Ressa et. al where the PROBE respondents respectfully pray that the Complaint be dismissed outright for lack of probable cause.
Probe Memorandum for Violation of RA 4200 , The Anti-wiretapping Act

They were given a chance to air their side. Like her brother Ricky , I am biased , of course. That bias has basis. Through the years, she has proved her credibility and responsibility as an esteemed media personality. It is pathetic that GSIS wants to cloud the issue by filing a wire-tapping case against the PROBE team.

I know Cheche can take care of herself. But really, where is the justice and fairness of this all?

Other Updates

Statement of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines on the anti-wiretapping case against Cheche Lazaro

The issuance of a warrant of arrest against respected broadcaster Cheche Lazaro related to the wiretapping case filed by an executive of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) once again debunks government claims that it is serious in protecting the rights of journalists and upholding press freedom.

The case is obviously meant to harass Lazaro and send a warning to other journalists who are just doing their role as watchdog of government and society.

Rather than be amused by the absurdity of the case filed by GSIS Vice President Ella Valencerina, we view the case with alarm especially that it comes from a top official of a government agency that should be transparent to media and the people in all its dealings.

We call on our colleagues to condemn this recent attack on the press and to be vigilant against measures curtailing press freedom.

For reference:

Sonny Fernandez

NUJP Secretary General

Below is a statement of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) on the Anti-Wiretapping suit against Cecilia ““Cheche” Lazaro.


THE SUIT against Cecilia ““Cheche” Lazaro alleging that she wire-tapped her own phone conversation with the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) Vice President for Public Relations and Communications is as dangerous as it is absurd.

The suit is based on the airing of several minutes of the Probe episode of November 12, 2008 during which GSIS Vice President Ella E. Valencerina reiterated her refusal to be interviewed by Lazaro. In the course of that phone conversation, Lazaro clearly informed Ms. Valencerina that the conversation was being recorded.

The absurdity is not limited to the basis of the suit. As a government agency charged with custody of a mass of information on such government employee concerns as salary loans and retirement benefits, the GSIS should be the last to display the secretiveness and oversensitivity to the media that make public information so problematic in this country.

But Ms. Valencerina’s own statements during her conversation with Lazaro, as well as those in a letter she sent earlier in response to the Probe request for an interview, provide a clue as to why she filed the suit.

In both instances Ms. Valencerina referred to the alleged bias of ““Lopez-owned media entities” as the reason for her and her superiors’ refusal to present their side of the issue. This suggests that Ms. Valencerina and/or her superiors see the incident as an opportunity to get back at those ““entities.” Lest the public has forgotten, the GSIS is the lead government agency that has been trying to gain control of the Manila Electric Company, or Meralco, which, like ABS-CBN, is among the ““Lopez- owned entities” for which the present government has a demonstrated antipathy.

It doesn’t matter that Probe productions is not part of ABS-CBN, and is an independent entity. The point of Ms. Valencerina and her superiors is to somehow get back at ABS-CBN through Lazaro and Probe.

Unfortunately the suit has implications beyond its serving the ends of the GSIS leadership. It joins other attempts by government agencies to silence the media through harassment and intimidation, which over the last several years has characterized government policy towards the independent press.

As whimsical as the suit may be, it sends a warning to journalists that government agencies will find an excuse no matter how absurd to prevent the press from looking into such public issues as the GSIS premium-based policy, the subject of the Probe report. CMFR is certain, however, that in this as well as in the other instances of harassment it has resisted, the press will not be intimidated– and that, as Che Che Lazaro said in a statement, the press will continue to do its work of bringing to the attention of the public information on the issues that concern it, and will not bend to the wishes of the powerful


Related News

Cheche Lazaro eludes arrest, posts bail over wiretapping case, by GMA News TV

GSIS VP hit for ‘press intimidation’, by ABS CBN

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  • danni

    thank you for writing about this.

    the way i see it, the gsis is just scared and trying to do everything they can to cover their tracks. what the don’t realize is that the truth will come out no matter how hard they try. so it is only a matter of time.

    this ella valencerina is not so smart. she is a corrupt person going up against [someone known to be] a clean person. this only proves that she is scared. she knows her time is up.

    if i were valencerina, i’d be shitting my pants right now.

    • yeah divert the issue and wasting precious resources of taxpayers to file this stupid case.

  • It’s time that someone takes up the cudgels for GSIS members. I hear a lot of horror stories of members where they had to go back and forth for their papers or transactions to be processed, only to come up empty handed every time!

    • kawawa din naman ang mga teachers. I can’t believe the GSIS are wasting their time and resources on a case like this instead of helping the teachers get their retirement benefits.

  • giewee

    i used to work for PPI and i was very sad by this news. Ma’am Cheche was and IS always fair when it comes to issues like this. I don’t see why such complaint prospered in the court. I’m very very disappointed with our government–why not clean up their act if they don’t want media prying on them?

    • I am sure you know how Cheche’s work ethics are. I am sad as well.

  • belle vega

    It is too sad that Ms. Lazaro is being singled out by GSIS. I am also a government worker for 35 years. The premium-based policy of GSIS implemented few years ago, was so UNFAIR because they made such the policy retroactive to those who have become GSIS members since the ’80s. I can empathize with that teacher complainant because we have many colleagues here who retired with just a meager pay (not even enough to buy their medicines!) due to such unfair premium-based policy of Garcia.
    I hope the case will open an expired Can of Worms in the GSIS structure. Garcia is so powerful and influential to be touched by this administration.
    Ms Lazaro, we are behind you…. thanks for taking the cudgels of the lowly government workers.
    More power!

    • The real issue is not the wire-tapping case against Cheche Lazaro. I wonder who is taking the cause of these poor teachers. Maybe her feature opened a can of worms.

  • Ricky Custodio

    What’s happening to our country? I believe in groups raising awareness that we can make a change, like Ako Mismo. But how can we make this change if some people will do everything just to make people who helps initiate changes to shut up? Like the case of Mr. Jun Lozada. What has happened to the NBN-ZTE Deal probe?

    Just a curious question.
    I hope we’ll find the answer.

    God save the Philippines..

  • The suit filed against Che-che Lazaro is clear demonstrations of curtailment freedom of the press.The right of the filipino people to information as provided for under our constitution article 3 sec. 7 ,is inevitabe in the case at hand.
    May the court dismiss outrightly for lack of merits.
    Thank You

  • The suit filed against T.V journalist Che-che Lazaro is a clear demonstration of harassment and curtailment of freedom of expression anchored under atricle 3 sec 7 of the constitution.The right of the people to information shall not be abridge.
    Hope that the court may dismiss the complaint outright!

  • Jet Alzate

    On the wiretapping case against Ms. Cheche Lazaro

    “When the Pasay City Court issued a warrant of arrest against Ms. Cheche Lazaro, I initially opted not to issue a statement. I thought there was nothing more to say except, perhaps, to let the wheels of justice take its usual turn. My silence was a gesture of respect for the system.

    “However, after hearing and reading the statements made by the camp of Ms. Lazaro in the news, I feel compelled to say something, without delving further in the case – for this is the sole responsibility of the officers of the court – but to clarify the false impressions that were peddled in the media.

    “First, I want to make it clear that the Government Service Insurance System is in no way involved in the case of Violation of the Anti-Wiretapping Act which I have filed against Ms. Lazaro. I filed the case before the Pasay City Regional Trial Court on my own volition, without any instruction or direction from my superiors in the GSIS.

    “It is a case arising from my feeling that my right to privacy, guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, has been violated. I am, after all, entitled to my rights, in this case, Section 3 of the Bill of Rights, which states: ‘The privacy of communications and correspondence shall be inviolable except upon lawful order of the court, or when public safety or order requires otherwise as prescribed by law.’

    “Contrary to what the camp of Ms. Lazaro has been quoted as saying, this is not media harassment. I have dealt with countless media persons and those I have met and those who know me can attest that I am the last person capable of harassing members of the press.

    “The case, above all, raises the timely question: Are the media allowed to violate the individual rights of a person? I was asking the court if the media could simply call you up, record your conversation, and broadcast it for the entire world to hear; all these, without your knowledge, much less, your permission.

    “There is no grand conspiracy. There are no devious schemes. Definitely, there is no concerted effort to stifle press freedom. I pursued my rights, taking the route of due process, without the need to engage in a publicity stunt.

    “There is, however, a silver lining to the already tense predicament I am in for going after an influential broadcast journalist. Somehow, I received and continue to receive numerous encouragements from, surprisingly, members from the media.

    “Apparently, there are many media persons who are as interested as I am to understand the parameters of honest and fair methods of gathering news. Unlike Ms. Lazaro, they are not A-list TV journalists. Most of them are reporters who go to their beats daily, send out summaries to desks, and file stories before deadlines. These are hard-working journalists who want to know: does the fame and status give Ms. Lazaro the immunity to break journalism ethics and break the law? Does the stature of being a ‘veteran broadcast journalist’ and journalism profession let one off the hook?

    “Among journalists, this case will enable the profession to define, in tangible terms, the Philippine Journalist’s Code of Ethics, which among others, require journalists to ‘not violate confidential information or material given her in the exercise of her calling” and “resort only to fair and honest methods in her effort to obtain news, photographs and/or documents and properly identify herself as a representative of the press when obtaining any personal interview intended for publication or airing.”

    “I am a believer of the significant role journalists play in a democratic system. They are the watchmen, protecting us from wrongdoings taking place both in government and private sectors. But even journalists are not infallible. They can have their share of wrongdoings. And when journalists do wrong, how can we – especially private individuals – protect ourselves from them?”


    • jurbinsky

      If I call you and we have a teleconversation, will it be a crime if I let people know concerning their public trust?

      I have been away from the country for a decade now, I am not aware that what transpires on a telephone conversation between a journalist and a government employee/official can be used to file a case of wiretapping.

      Here in the West, I may have to splice the lines, decrypt the messages and use them for something sinister other than publish what the messages were.

      • phil lawyer

        obviously you are not aware of the philippine law regarding the subject. recommend for you to google ra4200 and read section 1 of said law.

    • doris

      mahiya ka nga, kahit kanino ka magtanong na government employee, walang sasang-ayon sa iyo, kun puede nga lang kami ang magdemanda laban sa inyo ni garcia

  • danni

    to valencerina:

    when you break the law and invade the rights of other people (i.e. the teachers) you in turn lose your rights. you have no right to be as corrupt as you are being. the bottom line is you are taking from innocent people. STOP.

    the bigger issue here is the rights you’ve taken away from retired school teachers. you are so unbelievably self-centered. it’s pathetic. we could do with less people like you in this country.

  • ramon castillo

    I believe that the government should stop intimidating journalists
    that exposes incompetence but rather focus their energy on
    doing the best for the people.

  • Joey

    I am not surprised. With a president like GMA, who has transformed curtailing the truth and lying through her big teeth into art, what would you expect from other government underlings?

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  • hi noemi,

    i wonder if you might be liable under the same law for publishing through your blog, a transcript of the “illegal recording”.

    RA 4200 penalizes those who communicate the contents of an illegally recorded conversation or to furnish transcripts. i noticed that the memorandum available on your blog contains a transcript of the allegedly “illegal recording” in which case, you’re personally distributing or making available the “unlawful recording.”

    of course, i doubt you or any other blogger would be sued. still, it’s worth thinking about.

    btw, many thanks for your help in iblog5.

    mabuhay ka!


    • Oooh I asked my husband regarding this and he says memorandum are public documents. Now if Valencerina wants to, let her.

      It was my pleasure to help out in iblog5 and hope to help out in future iblog events.

  • Ivy

    So shocking to hear about this! Ms. Cheche Lazaro is one of the best journalists around, with clean reputation. Can’t say the same for GSIS and Winston Garcia….well he is definitely acting in accordance to the rest of GMA’s allies…the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree….

  • doris

    government employee din ako, at wala ni isa sa amin mga gov’t employee ang natutuwa sa palakad ng GSIS, ninanakaw nila ang mga pera namin ng harap-harapan, ang kataka-taka ang tagal at ang dami ng reklamo pero di mapalayas ang garcia na yan, kun pwede lang at kung may tutulong sa amin willing kami magsampa ng class suit laban sa garcia at valencirana na yan, ang kakapal ng mga mukha!