Court acquits, convicts Oro councilor

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Thursday, April 17, 2014


JOURNALISTS should not be cowed to expose issues if the truth is on their side, said city councilor and radio commentator Zaldy Ocon whose two counts of libel were finally decided by the court Wednesday.

“Bahala pa’g kamatayon ang isilot, basta nagsulti’g tinuod, walay sapayan. Pero kung ang ilang gipanulti walay basehan, magbantay sila (It doesn’t matter if death is the punishment, as long they’re (journalists) telling the truth. But if what they say is baseless, then they better watch out),” Ocon told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro over the phone Wednesday evening.

Ocon said he was both acquitted and convicted for the two counts of libel filed against him in 2001 by retired Senior Superintendent Credo Rubio of the Philippine National Police-Northern Mindanao (PNP-10) based at Camp Vicente Alagar in Barangay Lapasan.

Judge Emmanuel Pasa of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) branch 38 handed down the verdicts.

He was acquitted for the libel case involving the arrest of a suspect who was found in possession of suspected cannabis sativa (marijuana).

Ocon said the suspect was put behind bars but was ordered released the following day.

He then asked Rubio regarding the release of the suspect over “Kuskos Batikos,” his former radio program at dxCC of the Radio Mindanao Network.

The case where he was convicted was on the issue alleging that aspiring police officers were demanded P5,000 before they can be admitted to the PNP.

Ocon said he only asked Rubio if the allegations were true, and instead he was slapped with libel suits.

When asked what is his legal remedy to the conviction, Ocon said his lawyer Mark Evangelista will file a motion for reconsideration on Monday, April 21.

In case the motion is denied, Ocon said he can still go to the Court of Appeals.

“I respect the decision of the court,” Ocon said, but he will file the motion since the court’s decision becomes final and executory if a motion for reconsideration will not be filed after 15 days.

Dismayed

Jerry Orcullo, president of the Cagayan de Oro Press Club (COPC), said the club’s officials are dismayed by Ocon’s conviction.

“We are saddened by the conviction of Zaldy Ocon. The verdict that found him guilty of having violated a law of a slave and primitive eras only strengthened our resolve to fight for its decriminalization,” Orcullo, in a text message sent to this paper Wednesday evening, said.

Orcullo added that the COPC will help Ocon ensure that he can sustain the fight until all the legal remedies are exhausted.

“We will augment his legal needs as we have lawyer-members for his continued legal battle as we plan to also take the issue to the streets,” he said.

Libel case irrelevant

For his part, Froilan Gallardo, chairman of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP)-Cagayan de Oro chapter, said the libel case in the country is no longer relevant and should not be a way to silence the media in discussing various issues.

“Libel has no place in a modern democratic society,” Gallardo told Sun*Star by phone.

Libel was introduced in the country during the American occupation as means to intimidate Filipino nationalists, and in this day and age it is no longer applicable, Gallardo added.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on April 17, 2014.

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