Tag Archives: LIBEL

Durian Post publisher, editor post bail in libel case

            The Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 11 in Davao City has ordered police authorities to return to court the warrants of arrest issued against a local newspaper publisher and an editor-in-chief who were both facing libel charges based on the complaint lodged by former House Speaker Prospero Nograles.

            This came after Edgar Velez and Roger Balanza, publisher and editor-in-chief, respectively of Durian Post, surfaced in court and posted bail in a total amount of P20,000 or P10,000 for each of them for two counts of libel.

            Presiding Judge Virginia Europa earlier ordered the arrest of Balanza and Velez.

            Europa earlier granted the request of Velez and Balanza to reduce the recommended bail for their temporary liberty from P10,000 to P5,000 for each case.

            Europa then scheduled the arraignment of Velez and Balanza on November 19.

            Earlier, then acting Davao City Prosecutor Neopito Magno dropped the two libel cases against Velez and Balanza, but he also forwarded the two other counts before the RTC against the same persons.

            The case stemmed from four news articles written by Balanza and published on Durian Post’s issue on February 15-21, and February 22-28, 2010.

            The first article was captioned “Does he deserve your vote? Nogie shaming city before world, nation” to which Nograles described as a publication meant to discredit, defame, dishonour, and destroy his reputation since there was no effort on the part of the writer to get his side on the alleged derogatory article.

            In this case, Magno ruled that Balanza and Velez violated Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code finding that the absence of effort on the part of the writer and publisher to get the side of Nograles before the article was published, there was an intention to defame, cast dishonor and contempt on Nograles.

            Magno also noted that the article also contained some comments from the writer that imputed an act on the complainant, which he finds defamatory.

            Magno further noted that the article did not merely report the actuation of Nograles as public official.

            The second article entitled “Nogie needs P500 million to beat Inday Sara”, according to Nograles was also libelous since it accused him of resorting to vote buying, which destroyed his reputation.

            But Magno ruled to dismiss the case ruling that the article is not actionable for libel considering that Balanza is “merely asserting his opinion as to what might be the future conduct of the complainant (Nograles) for the 2010 local elections” citing a Supreme Court ruling which states that “such imputation is not libelous because intent to commit a crime is not violation of the law. This is more so, when it is a mere assertion or expression of opinion as to what will be the future conduct of another.”

            On the third article entitled “ Don’t you know that Benjamin de Guzman and Nograles doctored the COA report to show otherwise?”, Nograles claimed that it also exposed him to public humiliation, injuring his reputation and wounding self-esteem.

            It is in this article where Magno indicted Balanza and Velez. He ruled that Balanza and Velez had acted with malice when they labeled Nograles as having manipulated the COA report.

            “Although not directly stated, however, the circumstances attending the instant case lead the undersigned to conclude that malice is present,” Magno stressed in his five-page resolution.

            And on the fourth article entitled “Nogie’s expose backfires”, Nograles claimed that his reputation was also besmirched since the article portrayed him as being biased against the rights and welfare of women and children.

            But in this article, Magno ruled that there was no libel since the article was written in relation to the conduct of Nograles as Speaker of the House of Representatives.

            “The conduct or acts of public officers which are related to the discharge of their official duties are matters of public interest. A matter of public interest is common property and hence everybody may express and opinion on it. Thus, public acts of public men may be lawfully be made the subjects of comments and criticisms,” Magno said. Mindanao Daily Mirror

Nograles loses 2 libel cases against Durian Post publisher, editor

BY JESSIE L. CASALDA

Mindanao Daily Mirror

The City Prosecution Office (CPO) has dismissed two counts of libel filed by House Speaker Prospero Nograles against a newspaper publisher and its editor-in-chief but recommended the filing of two other counts of libel in court.

Acting Davao City Prosecutor Neopito Magno dropped the two libel cases against Edgar Velez and Roger Balanza, publisher and editor-in-chief, respectively, of the newspaper Durian Post but he also forwarded the two other counts of libel to the Regional Trial Court (RTC) against the same persons.

The case stemmed from four news articles written by Balanza and published in the Durian Post’s issues of February 15-21, and February 22-28, 2010.

The first article carried the head “Does he deserve your vote? Nogie shaming city before world, nation” which Nograles claimed was made to discredit, defame, dishonor and destroy his reputation since there was no effort on the part of the writer to get his side on the alleged derogatory article.

In this case, Magno ruled that Balanza and Velez violated Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code, noting the absence of effort on the part of the writer and the publisher to get the side of Nograles before the article was published., adding that there was an intention to defame, cast dishonor and contempt on Nograles.

Magno further noted that the article contained some comments from the writer which impute an act of the complainant which is defamatory and the article did not merely report the actuation of Nograles as a public official.

On the second article entitled “ Nogie needs P500 million to beat Inday Sara”, Nograles claimed that it was also libelous since it imputed to him a crime of vote buying which destroyed his reputation.

But Magno ruled to dismiss the case ruling that the article is not actionable for libel considering that Balanza is “merely asserting his opinion as to what might be the future conduct of the complainant (Nograles) for the 2010 local elections” citing a Supreme Court ruling which states that “such imputation is not libelous because intent to commit a crime is not violation of the law.  This is more so, when it is a mere assertion or expression of opinion as to what will be the future conduct of another.”

On the third article entitled “ Don’t you know that Benjamin de Guzman and Nograles doctored the COA report to show otherwise?”, Nograles claimed that it also exposed him to public humiliation, injuring his reputation and wounding his self-esteem.

In this article, Magno indicted Balanza and Velez.  He ruled that Balanza and Velez had acted with malice when they said Nograles manipulated the Commission on Audit report.

“Although not directly stated, however, the circumstances attending the instant case led the undersigned to conclude that malice is present,” Magno stressed in his five-page resolution.

And on the fourth article entitled “Nogie’s expose backfires”, Nograles claimed that his reputation was also besmirched since the article portrayed him as biased against the rights and welfare of women and children.

But in this article, Magno ruled that there was no libel since the article was written in relation to the conduct of Nograles as Speaker of the House of Representatives.

“The conduct or acts of public officers which are related to the discharge of their official duties are matters of public interest.  A matter of public interest is common property and hence everybody may express an opinion on it. Thus, public acts of public men may be lawfully made the subjects of comments and criticisms,” Magno said.

DAVAO CITY NEWSMEN FILE ANSWER TO NOGRALES LIBEL RAPS

NOGIE MIKE ARROYOTwo Davao City newsmen last week submitted their counter-affidavit to libel charges filed by House Speaker Prospero Nograles.

The respondents, Edgar Velez and Roger Balanza, assisted by their counsel, Luwill T. Al-ag, denied Nograles’ allegations in their affidavit filed before the Island Garden City of Samal Prosecutor’s Office.

They said they showed religious and sincere commitment to the truth and honest reporting in their 25 years of working as member of the media and used it as a medium to help the public.

They claimed to have published the articles but disagreed that they imputed derogatory and malicious remarks against Nograles, adding they were fair commentaries on matters of public interest.

“Under the current state of our jurisprudence, to be considered malicious, the libelous statement must be shown to have written or published with the knowledge that they are false or in reckless disregard of whether they are false or not,” the counter-affidavit stated.

The two added that the articles dealt with matters of public interests and which the public has the right to know.

The articles published on February 22-28 were based on a Commission on Audit report that the two said was a clear act of reporting deriving from a public document. They said other lines in the articles were quoted from Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

Velez and Balanza also said in their counter-affidavit that for two decades, they never cease to uphold truthfulness in the reports and comments they made, and their articles were written with utmost consideration of truth and was done out of their responsibility to the readers who deserve the truth.

Regional State Prosecutor Antonio Arellano designated Prosecutor Neopito Magno to conduct the preliminary investigation after Davao City Chief Prosecutor Raul Bendigo earlier inhibited from the case. Nograles is Bendigo’s brother-in-law.

The respondents were earlier charged with libel for allegedly maligning Nograles’ reputation.

Nograles, in his affidavit, cites February 15-21 and February 22-28 issues of the Durian Post where he claimed Balanza destroyed his reputation.

He said the respondent identified him as a candidate for mayoralty race who engages in vote-buying to win the local election.

He added that there were other articles in the issues of Durian Post written mostly by Balanza that discredit, defame, dishonor, and destroy his reputation.

Contrary to established practices of journalism, he said there was no effort on the part of respondents to get his side on all stories. SUNSTAR DAVAO

Nogie shames Davao City media before Manila journalists

Members of the local media got the shock of their life last week, with Speaker Prospero Nograles accusing them of unfair reporting.

                To make matters worse, the Speaker hurled the disparaging remark right before press people from Manila who were in Davao City last week to interview him about reports he had bolted out of his party, the administration Lakas-Kampi-CMD.

                It’s good you are here media from Manila, said Nograles speaking to the news crew of ABS/CBN and GMA7. “You are fair but the Davao media are not,” said Nograles before redfaced Davao City newsmen who were to join the interview

                Nograles said local media’s bias is shown in how the report on political rallies by both his Team Nograles and the Hugpong sa Tawong Lungsod of Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. Nograles is up against Vice Mayor Sara Duterte of Hugpong in the mayoral race.

GMA and ABS/CBN reports that our rallies have 100 to 200 people attending. When they report on Hugpong rallies, the figure is 2,000, he said. Nograles his rallies are widely attended but the television networks report otherwise.

Nograles said he would report to the Manila offices of GMA 7 and ABS/CBN how their Davao City stations are being unfair to him.

 

THE LEX ADONIS LIBEL CASE

A blast from the past

DOJ orders release of Adonis

THE Department of Justice (DOJ ordered the release from prison of a former radio broadcaster who was earlier convicted of libel from a case filed by Speaker Prospero Nograles years ago.

Ordered released from detention from the Davao Prison and Penal Farm was Alexander Adonis, a former broadcaster of Radyo Bombo.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez approved Adonis’ release based on the Supreme Court Circular No. 08-2008, which directs judges to choose the imposition of fines over imprisonment in convicting a person and, in part, through the representations made by the National Press Club (NPC).

The High Court directive was due to the initiative of Chief Justice Reynato Puno who, during one of his public speeches, said he placed a premium on freedom of the press since he considered this to be one of the touchstones of a healthy and vibrant democracy. In fact, he pointed out that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights assures each and every individual the right to express an opinion without interference.

The libel case against Adonis was filed in 2001 by Nograles before the Davao City Regional Trial Court and stemmed from the sensational “Burlesk King” controversy which rocked Davao City.

It was alleged that the “Burlesk King” referred to Nograles. Media reports then alleged that Nograles was inside a hotel room in downtown Davao City together with his paramour when they were surprised by her irate husband, supposedly a military officer, prompting Nograles to run out into the street without any clothes.

Nograles said he was obliged to file suit in court to salvage his honor and reputation, as well as that of his family, which Adonis had allegedly savaged over his radio program.

Adonis was later sentenced by the Davao court to a jail term of up to four years because he jumped bail, saying he didn’t have the means to hire a lawyer to defend him in court.

Int’l group appeals for radioman

An international journalists’ group appealed anew for the decriminalization of libel in the Philippines, after a Davao City-based broadcaster was sentenced to more than four years in prison.

“It is an affront that a journalist is in prison because he could not afford legal representation, to fight a conviction that should not be part of the criminal code to begin with,” International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) President Christopher Warren.

Alex “Lex” Adonis, a radio commentator of Bombo Radyo, was convicted by a court in a libel case filed against him and several other journalists by Davao City Representative Prospero Nograles.

“The Philippine government must take immediate action to rectify this draconian legislation,” Warren added.

Nograles’ complaint stemmed from a series of exposes on the “burlesk king” issue, which identified the lawmaker as the man who reportedly ran naked through a Manila hotel after being caught by the husband of his paramour.

Adonis was imprisoned after he failed to get a lawyer, saying he could not afford one.

Radioman cleared of libel

 After about seven years of legal battle, broadcaster Jun Digamon was cleared of the libel charges filed against him by former local TV celebrity, the alleged paramour of Speaker Prospero Nograles, over the controversial Burlesk King scandal of 2001.

“God is good…I am vindicated,” Digamon said after Judge Renato Fuentes of the Regional Trial Court Branch 17 here read the verdict.

In the decision, Fuentes said he found no evidence against Digamon in connection with his reports and commentaries over Radyo Bombo  about the alleged scandal, wherein Nograles was supposed to have been ordered to run naked in a hotel by the woman’s  angry husband when they were allegedly caught there sometime in 2001.

Nograles and the TV personality sued several media men, including Digamon.

One of those charged, Alex Adonis of Bombo Radyo was convicted and jailed at the Davao Prisons and Penal Farm (DPPF) in Davao del Norte.

Nograles withdrew the case against Digamon “after much thought and in the spirit of forgiveness and out of my own goodwill,” but the alleged paramour pursued it.

Digamon, who now works for GMA Super Radyo, said he considered the trashing of the case against him as the “end of my agony…the end of the suffering of my family.”

The acquittal, he said, only proved that justice still works.

Digamon said the charges filed against him served a lesson but it also strengthened his resolve not to be cowed in pursuit of truth.

Should libel be decriminalized?

Because many poor journalists in the Philippines are too poorly paid to hire lawyers in case they are accused of libel, should libel be decriminalized?

Because the high and mighty in government or in private tend to use the law on libel “to harass journalists and hamper the quest for truth”, should libel be decriminalized?

These are the questions National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) obviously wants debated and Congress to enact into law.  Journalists can commit libel in their “quest for truth” with impunity.

From experience, I sustain the good intentions of the NUJP proposals. In my own libel cases, I could have rotted in jail had my publishers not supported me to the hilt.

NUJP has cited the 43 cases that First Gentleman Mike Arroyo had filed against journalists as an example of harassment from the powerful.  He is not the first to have done this.  Then President Corazon C. Aquino filed a libel case against the publisher and a columnist of the Philippine Star. 

Should libel be decriminalized?  Should journalists be allowed to commit libel with impunity?  Journalists themselves should first debate on these.

Right to expose

Journalists have the right to expose wrong doings of private persons or government officials that are adverse to the people and public welfare.  Is this right without limit?

Rights clash when journalists see no limit in their exposes in search for truth and when private persons and government officials feel – with many having onion skins – that their right to privacy, name and honor is being violated. 

The libel law strikes a balance when rights clash: As exposing wrong doings is an inviolable right, to wantonly abuse such right is a crime.  The libel law constantly reminds journalists that their right connotes responsibility.

Compensation

Decriminalizing libel will not make the violation of the right to privacy, good name and honor less painful.  That will not prevent the offended to seek redress – taking the law in their hands. That is being done today; the more it will be done when libel is no longer a crime.

NUJP is proposing a dangerous option.  More than Congress would, journalists should debate this among themselves, noting carefully that they cannot claim a monopoly of rights and harassment.

Speaking of rights and harassment, there should be a balance. Under the libel law, if a journalist is proven in court to have harassed and violated the rights of someone, he goes to jail and may be required to pay damages.  But the law does not provide compensation when a journalist is wrongfully accused of libel.

Decriminalizing libel is not the remedy to such imbalance in law.  Rather, the law should be amended to award compensation to an accused journalist proven innocent. This is not a legal novelty.  In the United States, for instance, a Muslim lawyer collected $2 million in compensation for having been wrongfully accused of terrorism.

(Excerpts from the column “Comment” of Mr. Patricio P. Diaz for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. The Titus Brandsma Media Awards recently honored Mr. Diaz with a “Lifetime Achievement Award” for his “commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate.)