Oro reporter nabbed for libel

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Saturday, March 5, 2011

A REPORTER of a daily newspaper in Cagayan de Oro was arrested Friday by police operatives for libel, but news organizations decried the arrest, citing it as plain and simple harassment.

Edgardo "Ed" Maliza was arrested by Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit (Cidu) operatives at his house in Barangay Indahag, Cagayan de Oro City.

The arrest stemmed from a libel case filed by Ernesto Adobo, then regional executive director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Northern Mindanao, sometime in 2009. Adobo is now the DENR's undersecretary for Mindanao.


Maliza did not resist arrest and later posted a bail of P10,000 at the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 21.

In a talk with reporters, Maliza said Adobo was "aggrieved" and charged him after exposing alleged irregularities at the DENR-Northern Mindanao office. He, however, did not elaborate.

"Libel case is the 'surname' of journalists who want a revival of genuine public service among government employees," Maliza said.

The Cagayan de Oro Press Club Inc. (COPC) and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) Cagayan de Oro chapter viewed the arrest as harassment to media, as the two organizations called for further investigation on Maliza's case.

Lawyer Bobby Goking, president of COPC, questioned the move, saying the warrant of arrest was already issued last year but was only served on Friday.

CAGAYAN DE ORO. Reporter Edgardo Maliza (left) is being escorted by an official of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit out of the Hall of Justice after paying the P10,000 bail. (Joey P. Nacalaban)

"It was not supposed to be the ruling of the law," Goking said, as he questioned the grounds of the case when what Maliza wrote "was just plain and straight news."

Art Bonjoc, chairperson of the NUJP, also said the timing of the arrest is so suspicious.

"This is plain and simple harassment to media," Bonjoc said, as he presumed there is a conspiracy between DENR officials and the Fiscal's Office.

He advised Maliza to push through with the case and investigate if there is indeed conspiracy between these two agencies.

Last week, Edwin Iyo, also a reporter of Goldstar Daily based in Gingoog City, was reportedly harassed by Felipe Callorina, a DENR official in Gingoog.

The harassment came after Iyo reportedly wrote an alleged corruption at a DENR checkpoint in Gingoog City.

DENR-Northern Mindanao executive director Edilberto Buiser has already ordered an investigation on the alleged harassment and the reported corruption at the DENR checkpoint.

Bonjoc assured Maliza, Iyo and other media practitioners who are facing harassment that justice will be served as they would provide "good attorneys" to defend them.

"We should not take this harassment for granted. We must all be vigilant and unite as we will seek justice to the oppressed media," Bonjoc said. (Nicole J. Managbanag/Joey P. Nacalaban)

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on March 05, 2011.

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