Cabaero: Sotto���s Request

SENATE President Vicente Sotto III is invoking his “right to be forgotten” or, to be specific, for a part of his past with regard the Pepsi Paloma case to be forgotten by the Filipino online reader.

He has the right to make the request, as pointed out by the Inquirer.net that received Sotto’s letter. Inquirer.net is the online platform of the newspaper Philippine Daily Inquirer. But there was no mention that the media company would grant Sotto’s request.

A letter to the Inquirer.net dated May 29, 2018, or just days after Sotto was proclaimed Senate President, asked that the media company’s website remove or take down articles titled “The Rape of Pepsi Paloma,” “Was Pepsi Paloma murdered?” and “Tito Sotto denies whitewashing Pepsi Paloma rape case.” In those articles, Sotto was named as the one who coerced Pepsi Paloma, a young actress, into withdrawing any action for her rape allegedly by Sotto’s brother and two others. All three were comedian hosts of the noontime television show “Eat Bulaga!”

The articles, two were written by Rodel Rodis of the Inquirer.net US bureau and one by Totel V. de Jesus also of Inquirer, were published in 2014 and 2016. Paloma died over 30 years ago reportedly by suicide.

Sotto’s request was made public by Rodis, who uploaded the letter to his Facebook account.

Anyone who feels aggrieved by an online report has the right to ask that it be taken down so that the article would no longer be accessible by the public. The ones who invoke this informal “right to be forgotten” are usually those who committed light felonies in their youth such as taking part in bar brawls or those related to teenage angst and unbridled hormone rushes. But there is no assurance the report would be removed online. It would be up to the media organization to assess the request based on procedure and standards to be kept.

Senate President Sotto was not a teenager when he allegedly used threats to dissuade Paloma from pursuing the rape charges. He reportedly used his being in government at that time, although he denied this by pointing out that the alleged rape took place in 1982 while he started his political career as Quezon City vice mayor in 1988.

Sotto is a public official, the highest in the Senate now, thus his life would be under scrutiny no matter the decades that have passed. He is unlike the former teenagers, now adults, who realized their error and saw how their past mistakes could haunt them as they begin their careers and families.

News organizations have procedures to deal with requests to delete material. Even if the request is granted, there is no assurance that the story or a part of it would not show on Google or on websites and computers that have downloaded the material.

Sotto’s case is different from those of the teenagers. The online reports on Sotto were on his alleged abuse of authority or position. His request cannot be granted on that ground. His letter is also ill-advised. Instead of keeping the reports away from the public, his letter made people curious about them.

This news has been published by title Cabaero: Sotto���s Request

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