Inquirer.net has taken down online stories about the late actress Pepsi Paloma after Senate President Vicente Sotto III made a request that it do so.
The articles, "The Rape of Pepsi Paloma" and "Was Pepsi Paloma Murdered?", can no longer be accessed on the Philippine Daily Inquirer's online site as of July 4. When clicked, the links to the stories direct online readers to the Inquirer homepage.
Sotto had written a letter to Inquirer.net asking it to take down the articles written by US-based columnist Rodel Rodis, which alleged that Sotto was involved in a whitewash of the actress's rape case.
He expressed confidence that the news organization would remove the articles on its website, adding that the stories were all fake news.
"The articles on the Pepsi Paloma case are currently under review and are unavailable at the moment," Inquirer.net said in a statement on Wednesday.
'A day of mourning'
The National Union of Journalist of the Philippines (NUJP) has condemned Sotto for his "brazen attempt to suppress freedom of the press and of expression."
Calling July 4 "one of the darkest days in the annals of Philippine journalism" because of the removal of the articles, the NUJP also excoriated Inquirer.net for giving in to Sotto's request.
"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," the NUJP said.
"It is the day when Inquirer.net disowned its own editorial policies and standards—and its writers—by willingly taking down stories it had posted as far as four years ago that harp on Vicente Sotto III’s alleged role in the cover up of the rape of Pepsi Paloma," it added.
"At a time when freedom of the press and of expression has come under the worst attacks since the Marcos regime, this humiliating self-censorship betrays not only the spirit in which the Inquirer was founded, it betrays a profession whose practitioners have fended and continue to fight off all attempts to muzzle it even if it has cost our ranks 185 lives since 1986," said the NUJP. — Anna Felicia Bajo/BM, GMA News