NUJP dismayed on conviction of 2 Davao journalists-A A +A
Thursday, September 5, 2013
THE National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP)-Davao City was saddened by the decision of a local court convicting Sun.Star Davao’s editor-in-chief and its former publisher over a "police report".
Jessie Casalda, NUJP-Davao City chair, said NUJP rallies behind Stella Estremera and Antonio Ajero in their stand against criminal libel.
"This only proves that there is really a law which is prone to abuse. Imagine you can be jailed for a police report?" Casalda told reporters Wednesday.
In her nine-page judgment dated December 18, 2012, Judge Carmelita Sarno-Davin ordered Estremera and Ajero to pay the court a P6,000-fine "with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency" and P200,000 for moral damages to the complainant.
This after Davin found the two 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.
"Prone gyud ta labi na tong mga tao nga gusto nga i-silence ang isa ka journalist. Pwede gyud gamiton ang libel laban sa usa ka journalist (We are prone to those who want to silence a journalist. Libel can be used against any member of the media)," Casalda said.
He said he has observed that the court's judgment on libel has changed course since at least two separate courts have rendered conviction against journalists this year.
One here in Davao region, involving Estremera and Ajero, and another in Cebu against broadcaster Leo Lastimosa, who was fined with P6,000 "with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency" and ordered to pay P2 million in moral damages to complainant former Governor Gwendolyn Garcia.
"Dati lenient ang court sa mga journalists because of the freedom of speech pero karon murag sunod-sunod ang conviction (The court was lenient on journalists in the past because of the freedom of speech but conviction was recorded only recently)," Casalda said.
He said it is about time again to call for the decriminalization of libel.
Casalda said the decision of the court brings "chilling effect" to journalists.
He also added that journalists now might hesitate to make their report; that is why they need to lobby at Congress the scrap the bill that decriminalizes.
Davin, in her decision, said the element of malice was established in the article inflicting Saripada.
"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," the judgment read.
It was the police report that identified the complainant as from the GSO Digos.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on September 05, 2013.