Matthew Miller
Aug 30, 2021

Accused of harassment, Gigil co-founder files libel complaint

Herbert Hernandez, co-founder of Philippines creative shop Gigil, has taken a leave of absence from the agency and has filed a criminal libel complaint against Denise Tee, a creative director at Wunderman Thompson.

Herbert Hernandez, Denise Tee
Herbert Hernandez, Denise Tee

Herbert Hernandez, co-founder of Manila creative hotshop Gigil, is on leave from the agency and has filed an official criminal complaint of cyber libel against Denise 'Deng' Tee, currently a creative director at Wunderman Thompson in Manila.

The complaint stems from an August 12 Facebook post in which Tee alleges Hernandez made unwanted advances several years ago at an advertising festival.

Badong Abesamis, Gigil's other founding partner, confimed that Hernandez is on leave from the agency.

Campaign Asia-Pacific has seen a copy of the criminal complaint Hernandez filed, which was stamped as received by the Department of Justice on August 26.

Hernandez is also a musician of some reknown in the Philippines and was named to Campaign Asia-Pacific's 40 Under 40 list last year. His profile has been removed from the Gigil website. 

The complaint alleges that Tee commited the crime of libel under Section 4(c) (4) of Republic Act 10175, in relation to Articles 353 and 355 of the Revised Penal Code. Hernandez claims Tee's post made "defamatory statements or imputations" that "became the talk of the town in the advertising industry".

"The same are all malicious and false," the complaint states.

Contacted by Campaign, Tee declined to comment.

The legal articles in question set forth a number of conditions for the crime of cyber libel, including that there must be "an imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect", that the imputation must be made publicly, that the imputation must "tend to cause the dishonor, discredit or contempt of the person defamed", and that the imputation "must be malicious, which means that the author of the libelous post made such post with knowledge that it was false, or with reckless disregard as to the truth or falsity thereof".

"To get to the truth, Herbert has brought the issue to the proper forum—the courts," Abesamis told Campaign Asia-Pacific. "Herbert hopes the filing of the cases will push people to responsibly use social media, so they don’t destroy other people’s reputations, businesses, and lives."

A day after Tee's Facebook post, the Philippines 4As posted a vague statement saying that "in light of recent events pertaining to an alleged breach of professional ethics, the 4As Professional Practice and Ethics Committee is looking into the matter". Representatives of the 4As did not reply to Campaign Asia-Pacific's requests to confirm that this post was in relation to the allegations about Hernandez. 

A few days later, the 4As released another statement saying that women's organisation Gabriela had agreed to "represent 4As member employees who would like to come forward to report behavioral misconduct experienced in the workplace". The organisation is committed to helping counsel and protect these women, the statement said.

Campaign Asia-Pacific has reached out to the secretary general of Gabriela for comment.

Tee's Facebook post followed soon after—and explicitly refers to—a Gigil ad for Belo Medical Group that many found offensive. The campaign, decried as engaging in body-shaming and being insensitive about the impacts of the pandemic, was pulled, and both the client and agency ended up apologising as criticism mounted. 

Robert Sawatzky contributed reporting for this story.

Update: After hearing feedback from many in the industry, we changed the headline on this article to better place Hernandez's complaint in context of events over the last few weeks. Our original headline focused on the most recent event, but in doing so failed to provide that context. Campaign Asia takes the issue of harassment in the industry seriously and would be happy to hear from anyone, anytime, who is wllling to discuss incidents. We are willing to work with such sources to preserve anonymity.  

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