Court convicts Sun.Star Davao EIC, ex-publisher for libel-A A +A
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
DAVAO CITY -- The Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 18-Digos City convicted Sun.Star Davao editor-in-chief Stella A. Estremera and former publisher Antonio M. Ajero for libel after what is deemed as a derogatory news article against a public official.
Judge Carmelita Sarno-Davin, in her nine-page judgment dated December 18, 2012, stated that the court has found the defendants guilty of libel for failing to get the side of complainant Baguio Saripada, formerly of the Digos City General Services Office (GSO), before publishing the story dated July 28, 2003 entitled "32 pushers ug user mitahan (32 pushers and users surrender)" in Sun.Star SuperBalita Davao.
Saripada's name was among the 32 listed in the report.
The case dragged on for nine years under four different judges, the last of which is Davin.
Former Superbalita Davao managing editor Ely Luciano was also accused in the same case, but he passed away three years ago.
The story was from an official report from the Police Regional Office regarding persons involved in the illegal drugs trade.
The accused are penalized with a P6,000-fine or a corresponding imprisonment if they fail to pay the fine. They were also ordered to pay P200,000 to the complainant.
Davin cited the elements of libel under Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code, which include the allegations of a discreditable act or condition concerning another, publication of the said act, identification of the person defamed and the existence.
The defendants contested that the report was made in good faith and that the story was true since the source of the information came from the Police Regional Office (PRO) as relayed by the Davao del Sur Provincial Police Office.
The court, however, was not contented with the defense as the defendants should have confirmed the information from the accused. Thus, the element of malice was established.
"The accused are aware that the private complainant is a government employee, he being connected with the General Services Office of Digos City. Thus, they should have tried to verify first the truth of the statements which appeared in the journal entry of PRO insofar as private complainant is concerned before deciding to publish the same," Davin said in the judgment.
Estremera refused to comment on the judgment. She and the lawyer Ben Joseph Tesiorna were the ones present during promulgation on Tuesday as Ajero was indisposed. (Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on September 04, 2013.