Matthew Miller
Oct 22, 2021

Denise Tee files defense against Herbert Hernandez's 'baseless' libel claim

Tee, whose allegations of sexual harassment against the Gigil co-founder led several other women in the Philippines ad industry to come forward with their own stories, has filed an affidavit affirming her account of the incident.

L-R: Hernandez, Tee
L-R: Hernandez, Tee

Denise 'Deng' Tee, the Philippines' creative who in August accused Gigil co-founder Herbert Hernandez of sexual harassment, filed a counterclaim on Wednesday (October 20) defending herself against the cyber libel complaint Hernandez filed against her.

“I have no axe to grind against Herbert, but a rightful expectation that he own up to his mistake,
simply apologize, and do no more harm," Tee said in a statement provided to Campaign Asia-Pacific. "His perjurious refusal to admit his mistake and, worse, his filing of a baseless complaint, is to victimize me yet again, and to victimize other women whom he denies even exist.”

The documents Tee filed Wednesday include testimony from "other victims and multiple witnesses", according to Tee's media statement.

The incident, although it took place years ago, caused "mental and emotional trauma" and prompted Tee to tell her story, she said. “I spoke the truth. And the truth is that my perpetrator was not some unnamed, anonymous person. He existed, and he had a name and a face, and it belonged to Mr. Hernandez. As it turned out, his was the name and the face for other women as well.”

In her counter-affidavit, Tee reaffirmed the statements made in her August 12 Facebook post, which detailed Hernandez’s alleged requests for sexual favours in exchange for a jury seat at the 2015 Kidlat Awards. That post prompted Hernandez to file a cyber libel complaint against Tee on August 26.

Hernandez's complaint in turn caused an outpouring of support for Tee, and led the Philippines 4As to partner with women's organisation Gabriela, which agreed to represent women who wanted to come forward with their own accounts of work-related harassment. This led to a surge of reports, including five against Hernandez, according to Gabriela secretary general Joms Salvador, who spoke with Campaign Asia-Pacific in September (see "Sexual harassment 'rampant' in the ad industry and has been ‘covered up’: Philippines women's organisation Gabriela").

Salvador said in Wednesday's media statement that the power of Tee's Facebook post stemmed from its honesty in naming her harasser, "which in and by itself is a testament to the truth and credibility of the narration".

"A ‘blind item’ would not have achieved the same result, and would have only reflected timidity which is the usual case from women victims, which is precisely why men target them with seeming impunity,” Salvador said. “In the Philippines, it is not easy for women to complain. The process is not only arduous, but the victims themselves are often shamed as if they were the parties at fault. The usual reaction I get from women victims is: 'What did I do wrong?'”

Related:  Merlee Jayme, Dentsu International's APAC chief creative officer, was among those who reflected, in the wake of Tee's accusations against Hernandez, about how harassment can slip through the cracks—and what can be done to ensure that it doesn't. See "How did we get here? Merlee Jayme discusses why sexual harassment has permeated the ad industry").

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