Gabriela Women’s Party denies supporting Deniece Cornejo
Gabriela Women’s Party strongly denied in a statement released Saturday that anyone affiliated with its organization has expressed support for Deniece Minilette Cornejo, the woman who accused television personality Vhong Navarro of rape.
In a report aired on news program 24 Oras last Thursday, correspondent Sandra Aguinaldo implied that the said women’s rights group is backing Cornejo, a 22 year-old freelance model. The segment featured a phone interview with Alnie Foja, a lawyer for Gabriela.
In the recorded interview, Foja explained that rape survivors should not be prejudged and subjected to ‘victim blaming.’ “Hindi madali para sa isang biktima ang lumantad at ilahad ang istorya ng panggagahasa na nagawa laban sa kanya,” she said, noting that doing so ruins a woman’s privacy.
Watch the two-minute report here via YouTube. Apart from Foja, renowned women’s rights lawyer Lorna Kapunan was also interviewed. GMA News used its interview with Foja on two online articles which as of this time has already been taken down (click here and here).
So, how did this issue blow up? In a Facebook post, the lawyer said she was “made to understand” that Sandra (Aguinaldo) was merely doing a public information segment about rape in general. “That 24 Oras quoted my statement while showing footage of Deniece is DELIBERATELY MISLEADING and MALICIOUS,” Foja wrote (emphasis on the original-TFS).
In a letter addressed to GMA Network, Foja explained that “it has been the long standing policy of Gabriela Women’s Party and Gabriela National Alliance NOT to comment on issues that (they) have no first hand knowledge about.” She added: “In this specific case between Ms. Deniece Cornejo and Mr. Vhong Navarro, neither parties have sought our assistance or opinion.”
Here’s her complete letter:
We would like to call your attention to an article published online as well as a news report aired over 24 Oras last January 30, 2014 that explicitly stated our group’s support for Ms. Deniece Cornejo. We would like to clarify that we issued no such statement.
It has been the long standing policy of Gabriela Women’s Party and Gabriela National Alliance NOT to comment on issues that we have no first hand knowledge about. In this specific case between Ms. Deniece Cornejo and Mr. Vhong Navarro, neither parties have sought our assistance or opinion.
We would like to clarify that the interview conducted by your reporter, Ms. Sandra Aguinaldo, focused primarily on the issue of rape, advance questions relayed to me were even titled as “RAPE 101”. I was likewise careful not to comment on the controversial case and even told Ms. Aguinaldo that I have not monitored it. The questions propounded to me were about rape and rape victims in general and my answers were made with no reference to any particular victim much less to Deniece. I was asked to explain how rape is committed, its impact and repercussions on the victims, the difficulty of filing cases and how the public should react to the victims’ story.
Unfortunately, the interview, I believe was maliciously spun to make it appear that we in Gabriela are supporting Ms. Cornejo. While we appreciate the network’s effort of having taken down the article immediately, we are calling for a public apology and a clarification from the network so that the audience may be enlightened on the truth. Moreover, we hope that the network will exercise caution in the treatment of future stories.
Atty. Alnie Foja
So, what lessons can be derived by professional journalists, bloggers, and researchers from this episode?
1. An interviewer needs to be truthful to his/her interviewee all the time. If they intend to use the information they are seeking to obtain in a certain way, they should be forthright about it.
2. Avoid taking statements out of context.
3. Never assume anything unless your subject specifically said so.