|The scorned Jessica Soho of GMA-7 (Left) and the irreverent Vice Ganda of ABS-CBN TV|
BY MORTZ C. ORTIGOZA
In the monologue of Filipino comedian Kim Idol (a cross of minuscule North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and principal massacre suspect Zaldy Ampatuan) he differentiates Maganda (pretty) and Pangit (ugly) in the Philippines.
“Ang maganda ginagawang sales ladies sa TriNoma (part of Ayala high-end malls) , ang pangit ginagawang tag hulog ng sapatos sa loob ng kisami ng Manuela. Bawal siya dumungaw dahil baka makabawas pa sa siya ng customers. Ang maganda ginagawang talk show host sa TV, and pangit ginagawang field reporters. Tingnan niyo si Susan Enriquez (crowd roared) napaka gandang babae pero bakit ginawang field reporter ng GMA-7, baka ano pa ang mangyayari sa bata na iyon!”
Until now sales ladies at the shoe section of Manuela Mall and Susan Enriquez did not sue with slander or libel Kim Idol.
When publisher Larry Flynt asked his editor at the pornographic magazine Hustler in 1983 to write a Q & A satire, with emphasis on the “First Time” slogan of liquor’s Campari between a fictitious Hustler staff and Baptist renowned minister and conservative political activist Jerry Falwell, all hell broke lose.
Here are the excerpts of the Q & A for the readers’ perusal and appreciation if the parody merits a libel case:
FALWELL: My first time was in an outhouse outside Lynchburge, Virginia.
INTERVIEWER: Wasn’t it a little cramped?
FALWELL: Not after I kicked the goat out.
INTERVIEWER: I see. You must tell me about it.
FALWELL: I never really expected to make it with mom, but then after she showed all the other guys in town such a good time I figured “What the hell!”
INTERVIEWER: But your mom? Isn’t that a bit odd?
FALWELL: I don’t think so. Locks don’t mean that much to me in a woman.
INTERVIEWER: Go on…
FALWELL: Well, we were drunk off with our God-fearing assess on Campari ginger ole and soda – that’s called a fire and brimstone – at that time. And mom looked better than a Baptist whore with $100 donation. INTERVIEW: Campari in the crapper with mom… how interesting. Well, how was it?
FALWELL: The Campari was great but mom passed out before I could come.
INTERVIEWER: Did you even try it again?
FALWELL: Sure… lots of time. But not in the outhouse between Mom and the shit, the flies were too much to bear.
INTERVIEWER: We meant the Campari.
FALWELL: Oh, yeah. I always get sloshed before I go out to the pulpit. You don’t think I could lay down all that bullshit sober, do you?
The ad carried a disclaimer in small print at the bottom of the page: "Ad Parody—not to be taken seriously." The magazine's table of contents also listed the ad as "Fiction; Ad and Personality Parody."
Unlike the furious Reverend Falwell and the offended Baptist congregation all over the U.S, there was a deafening silence on the parts of the sales ladies at Manuela and Miss Enriquez.
When comedian Vice Ganda (Jose Marie Borja Viceral in real life) spoofed recently in a concert the multi-awarded lady version of the late Louie Beltran the stout talk show hostess Jessica Soho of GMA-7 TV by the following monologue I quoted from the blog “thoughtskoto”:
“Imagine-in n’yo kung pa’no kaya kung nag-bold na rin si Jessica Soho. Ang launching n’yang pelikula ay ‘Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Sobra’ . Napanaginipan ko nga rin ‘yan si ano e, si Jessica Soho nagpapatimbang. Nakakatawa nung nagpatimbang kami umakyat si Jessica Soho sa weighing scale. Pag-akyat ni Jessica Soho tumunog ang weighing scale: ‘One at a time. One at a time. One at a time.’ So bumaba ulit si Jessica Soho, nagalit.” “Umakyat ulit ng weighing scale si Jessica Soho. Tumunog ang weighing scale: ‘Please don’t play with the machine. Don’t play with the machine. One at a time. I told you one at a time. Don’t play with the machine.’ Nagalit si Jessica Soho.” “Last try na talaga. So umakyat ulit si Jessica Soho sa weighing scale. Tumunog ang weighing scale: ‘You weight 180 per kilo.’ So ayaw na n’yang magpatimbang ulit.” “Ang hirap nga lang kung si Jessica Soho magbu-bold. Kailangan gang rape lagi. Sasabihin nung rapist: ‘Ipasok ang lechon!’ Sasabihin naman ni Jessica: E, nasa’n ang apple?’” “Nakakatawa nga ‘yan, e. Meron daw boyfriend dati si Jessica. Narinig ko lang naman sa mga hindi mapagkakatiwalaan. Ninakaw daw noong boyfriend yung panty ni Jessica. Tapos pinalabahan. Noong dinala sa laundry ang tsinekan: comforter.”
Colleagues of Soho like Arnold Clavio and my province mate Maki Pulido at GMA-7 were up in arms at the horse faced Vice Ganda by accusing him of bad taste and impropriety. Soho even joined the fray by declaring: “I could let the fat jokes go but he had to go so far (on rape).”
Unlike Susan Enriquez whose media savvy is to stop killer storms and tame erupting volcanoes , Soho, who, probably thought she should be respected more because she awed the Who’s and Who of the country because of her incisive multi-awarded program, thought she has the moral authority to rebuff the irreverent Vice Ganda.
Unlike Falwell, Miss Soho did not sue with slander or libel with millions of pesos of moral damages Vice Ganda and ABS-CBN that showed the concert in the bootube.
But what if Soho has charged Ganda with oral defamation? Would the case prosper in court?
Allow me to delve on the legal merits of the case: Since the courts of the Philippines borrow a lot of jurisprudences in the United States, her former colonizer, I am sure ABS-CBN TV funded high rollers defense lawyers of Vice Ganda would emulate the arguments of the attorneys of Larry Flynt in the First Amendment (Freedom of Expression in our Constitution) that has been the main argument in the classic case Hustler Magazine, Inc versus Falwell.
The following are the summary how the case progresses from the lower court to the Supreme Court: The Reverend Falwell sued Flynt, Hustler magazine, and Flynt's distribution company in the U.S District Court for the Western District of Virginia for libel, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Before trial, the court granted Flynt's motion for summary judgment on the invasion of privacy claim, and the remaining two charges proceeded to trial. A jury found in favor of Flynt on the libel claim, but found in favor of Falwell on the intentional infliction of emotional distress charge, and awarded Falwell $150,000.
Hustler petitioned for a Certiorari the United States of Court of Appeals (CA) why it should not pay for the $150, OOO award.
But the CA upheld the decision of the lower court for the financial award. Hustler petitioned with a Certiorari the decision of the CA in the U.S Supreme Court for grave abuse of discretion.
Here thus was the decision of the U.S Supreme Court for the recovery of damages for libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress that was decided on February 24, 1988: The Court held that in order to protect the free flow of ideas and opinions on matters of public interest and concern, the First and Fourteenth Amendment ( Privileges or Immunities Clause) prohibit public figures (Like Soho) and public officials from recovering damages for the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress by reason of the publication of a caricature such as the ad parody (just like what Vice Ganda did at the offended Miss Soho) at issue without showing in addition that the publication contains a false statement of fact which was made with "actual malice. “With knowledge that the statement was false or with reckless disregard as to whether or not it was true (The State's interest in protecting public figures from emotional distress is not sufficient to deny First Amendment protection to speech that is patently offensive and is intended to inflict emotional injury when that speech could not reasonably have been interpreted as stating actual facts about the public figure involved. Here, respondent (Falwell) is clearly a "public figure" for First Amendment or Freedom of Expression purposes, and the lower courts' finding that the ad parody was not reasonably believable must be accepted,” The Court opined. It continued that "outrageousness” in the area of political and social discourse has an inherent subjectiveness about it which would allow a jury (or the Regional Trial Court in the Philippines) to impose liability on the basis of the jurors' (or Judge’s) tastes or views, or perhaps on the basis of their dislike of a particular expression, and cannot, consistently with the First Amendment, form a basis for the award of damages for conduct such as that involved here.
With an 8-0 votes the case was dismissed by the U.S Supreme Court in favor of the smut Hustler’s tongue-in-cheek interview of Reverend Falwell who disclosed he had sex with his mom with the goats and the horses as silent witnessed to the hilarious incident.
I bet ya, the same precedence will happen in the Philippines court incase the horse faced Vice Ganda is sued by the smarting lady version of his “immensity” TV broadcaster non-pareil Louie Beltran because parody, satire, and jokes from comedians are not given credence by people as truth. These things are there, protected by the Freedom of Expression clause, to amuse people even at the expense of public figures.
If Soho wanted to recover any damages and see Vice Ganda behind bar incase the latter repeat his stage stunts, she (Soho) should leave the lime lights and become a non-public figure by say a franchisee of Lydia’s lechon, as this work description seems not to be protected by the Freedom of Expression clause.
(You can read my selected columns at http://mortzortigoza.blogspot.com and articles at Pangasinan News Aro. You can send comments too at firstname.lastname@example.org).