“LIBEL is a public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead,” Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code says.

For an imputation to be libelous, it must be defamatory, malicious and published, and the victim must be identifiable.

These requisites must exist for the charge of libel to prosper.

Click here for stories and updates on the Sinulog 2010 Festival.

In the libel case that Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña filed against Sun.Star Cebu, editor-in-chief Cheking Seares, reporter Rene Martel and Atan Guardo, the factors that would make a report defamatory and malicious are simply wanting.

Malice exists when a wrongful act is done intentionally and without just cause. Atan’s complaint that City Hall tried to stop him from giving relief goods to fire victims in Calamba had a justification.

The libel case against Sun.Star Cebu, Cheking and Martel will not prosper. The privileged character of the report destroyed the presumption of malice. The news story was factual and did not have comments.

Knowing the character of Mayor Tomas, I don’t think he sought the opinion of his city attorney. It looks like the complaint was prepared in blind compliance of the mayor’s order or the city attorney would lose his chair the next day.

The city prosecutors’ office will probably welcome calls for it to inhibit from handling the case. The reason for the inhibition is not that the office is beholden to the mayor but because the complaint sucks.

Conversely, malice is apparent in the libel complaint filed against Sun.Star Cebu, Cheking and Martel because they were not included in the resolution authorizing the mayor to file the case, and yet they were charged.

***

In a scale of one to ten, the Philippines ranks eighth in illegal drugs disposal and abuse, said Tito Sotto, former head of the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB), during a lunch that followed the launching of his senatorial bid here in Cebu City on Tuesday.

That is scary. But I don’t think local governments and the police have done enough to prevent, if not totally stop, the proliferation of dangerous drugs.

The enforcement and prosecution aspects still leave much to be desired. Those who deserve to be incarcerated are set free because of lapses in the arrest of suspects and the handling of evidence.

This is aside from the fact that some rouge cops resell dangerous drugs seized from drug couriers or dealers in devious raids or arrests.

The DDB may have created the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), which is patterned after that of the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), but its personnel are not enough to enforce the anti-dangerous drugs law.

PDEA has trained agents on anti-dangerous drugs law enforcement.

But the 300 graduates are insufficient and they still depend on the support of the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation.

As DDB head, Sotto succeeded in including in the Grades 5 and 6 curriculums a subject on drugs. He said it is a special class taught twice a week by uniformed cops. He also helped provide mountain folks with alternative livelihood by planting abaca instead of marijuana.

If elected back to the Senate, Sotto said he will propose the creation of courts that will solely hear and try cases related to dangerous drugs all over the country. He said Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno supports his idea.

(elespinoza53@yahoo.com)