HomeManilavol. 5 no. 1 (2009)

The Aves de Rapiña Libel Case Retrospect on the Centennial of a Case Against Press Freedom

Jose Victor Z. Torres

Discipline: History



In October 2008, the Philippine press celebrated the centennial of a famous libel case filed by Secretary of the Interior Dean Worcester, an official of the American colonial government, against the Filipino nationalist newspaper, El Renacimiento and its Filipino supplement, Muling Pagsilang. The court case and the resulting decision became a landmark in the history of the Philippines press but also in the history of our struggle for freedom from colonial rule. This paper is a retrospect into the court case as well as the characters involved. It will also try to answer the question whether there was a legal basis for libel or was it merely the machinations of the American colonial system to suppress any show of nationalism in an era where such a display of the clamor for independence was deemed illegal. It will also delve into the history of El Renacimiento, its beginnings as a small newspaper put up by patriots, its growth as a popular nationalist newspaper in its time, and its eventual closure because of the libel case.