Gloria Arroyo mugshots and the Inquirer’s seeming inconsistency

Please read my fictional interview with Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo here!

A website which describes itself as a “search engine for Official Law Enforcement records, specifically booking photographs” has published alleged mugshots of former Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who has been charged with electoral sabotage last Friday.

Gloria Arroyo's alleged frontal mugshot (taken from noted that the two-side photographs first “appeared on a number of social networking sites” on November 20, while the frontal mugshot was sent “from a highly reliable source” a day after. The website added this disclaimer: “No guarantee of authenticity is made therein.”

Are these photos authentic? Senior Police Superintendent James Bucayu of the Southern Police District (SPD) says yes, while Interior and Local Government secretary Jesse Robredo says no.

In a report by’s Ira Pedrasa, Arroyo lawyer Jose Flaminiano said it will be up to the Pasay Regional Trial Court (RTC) whether to release her mugshots, adding that they “won’t bother to file a motion regarding that issue.”

Let me note the inconsistency committed by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the first Philippine media outlet to publish these still unauthenticated photos. In a report titled “Arroyo faces more troubles” (which is their banner story in today’s issue) written by Leila Salvatierra and Philip Tubeza, the photo caption goes: “Mug shots of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as shown from www.” Note that the story was posted at 12:27 AM.

“Mug shots of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as shown from www.” (click image to see the caption)

However, less than two hours later, a photo used in the article titled “Most wanted Arroyo mug shots surface in cyberspace” by Miko Morelos has this lengthy caption: “These mug shots of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo did not come from the Pasay City Regional Trial Court which has refused to release the police photos. Sources who requested anonymity sent the photos to the Inquirer” (emphasis mine). The story was posted at 2:15 AM.

"Sources who requested anonymity sent the photos to the Inquirer” - or copied from

Is there any difference between the two sets of photos? Did the Inquirer claim ownership of photos not originally sent to them? I’m not saying they are being dishonest. I have this theory: PDI may have indeed got the photos from another source – which explains why watermarks are no longer visible in the second set of photos.

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Mark Pere Madrona

The Filipino Scribe (TFS) is managed by Mark Pere Madrona, a multi-awarded writer and licensed professional teacher from the Philippines. Mr. Madrona earned his master’s degree in history from the University of the Philippines-Diliman last 2020. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in journalism cum laude from the same university back in 2010. His area of interests includes Philippine journalism, history, and politics as well as social media. Know more about him here:

23 thoughts on “Gloria Arroyo mugshots and the Inquirer’s seeming inconsistency

  1. was the first to publish the two side views. Later on published the third frontal view. 20 minutes later PDI publishes their set, which was a different set than That set PDI published didn’t have the text on one of the images but did have on two others, you can see it below.

    What’s the difference? Possibly different people leaked it at different agencies.

  2. There’s a reference to that text here

    “In a radio interview, clerk of court Joel Pelicano said the photos he viewed via, the national newspaper’s online edition, were “almost the same” as the ones the police submitted to the sala of Branch 112 presiding Judge Jesus Mupas on Monday morning.
    He said the only difference was the text below the INQUIRER photos, which contained the case reference number.”

  3. ” I have this theory: PDI may have indeed got the photos from another source – which explains why watermarks are no longer visible in the second set of photos.”

    That’s because PDI actually had three sets altogether. One from, one without the text, and one with.

  4. I believe the PDI may have been in contempt of court, so it’s up to the RTC judge to cite it. But PDI cannot be prevented from publishing because of the law on “prior restraint”: freedom of the press means no censorship.

    Of course, if PDI did not publish, the blogosphere would have. PDI, like most mass media, was after readership.

    It’s the same justification for the infamous “perp walk” practice, notably in New York, which would have been illegal in more civilized places like France.

    1. Being a journalism graduate, I know about that po. The Supreme Court, on the other hand, reversed an NTC order banning the playing of Hello Garci tapes in public. So, freedom of the press is pretty hard to overcome.

  5. Mark, I told you I am not interested in politics and all that, but my sympathy goes with PGMA this time. I can’t imagine why people rejoice with the predicament she’s currently into. Just saying …

  6. Hi markpere: further thoughts on this topic.

    1. If you don’t own a photo, can you publish it? Ordinarily no, but a public “work” such as a mugshot is not subject to copyright.

    2. But if the mugshot was “stolen,” and you believe it was a public “work,” can you go ahead and publish it? Stolen items revert to the state, and when it comes to copyright law, again, there is no copyright infringement.

    3. If the mugshot was a “derivative work,” not really the original, the author of the derivative has copyright. But maybe he wants anonymity, so he won’t complain (at least, not in the courts). Of course, PDI owes him a “favor.”

    So it seems that the PDI legal boys thought it through and decided to take their chances. Without a formal court order, there cannot be contempt, or at least they can argue due process, good faith, etc., since, after all, they are not subject to prior restraint.

    1. Hi, Mr. Orlando. Thanks for that explanation. I’m sure my readers will find that useful. I think the public nature of these photos is already a settled issue. The issue I raised toward the latter part of my post is this – did PDI get the mugshots on their own or they copied it from As one commenter pointed out, both scenarios are true.

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