Thursday, October 12, 2006

Only in the Philippines

I mentioned in an earlier post the mauling incident involving a Laguna journalist cited in this report below from the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.

I wrote in my post: "Cases of attacks against journalists in the Philippines are never caught on camera. The only local case caught on-cam was the attack against Laguna-based journalist Iring Maranan by a city council in San Pablo City. The attacks received by Maranan may be lesser than (John) Mattes (who is an award-winning investigative American journalist mauled while on cam), but this does not mean that what happened to Maranan was not an attack."

We welcome the dismissal of the libel case against Maranan and fellow columnist Dodie Banzuela. Additional points for Banzuela for saying: "Where in the world can you find a public official filing libel against a journalist after beating him up? It's only here in the Philippines."

Below is the video of the mauling incident:

Libel vs 2 Laguna journalists dismissed

The prosecutor's office of San Pablo City has dismissed a libel case filed by a city councilor against staffers of a community newspaper who had published articles about the physical and verbal attacks of the said government official on one of the newspaper's columnists.

Citing the constitutional provision on the freedom of the press, assistant city prosecutor Perla Abril-Pawang dropped the libel case filed by Councilor Edgardo Adajar against the publisher and two columnists of San Pablo-based tabloid Diretso Balita.

Named respondents in the case were publisher Pual Manalo and columnists Iring Maranan and Dodie Banzuela.

In her two-page decision, Abril-Pawang noted the case "People of the Philippines vs Vilanio" where the court decided that commentaries and opinions on public officials is not libelous "when the discreditable imputation is against his public capacity" and "as long as it is might reasonably be inferred from the facts."

"(P)ublications which are privileged for reasons of public policy are protected by the constitutional guaranty of freedom of speech and of the press," she said in her decision dated October 10, 2006, a copy of which was obtained by the INQUIRER.

The case stemmed from the stories and photos printed on one of the issues of the tabloid which tackled the May 16, 2006 incident wherein Adajar was caught on video while mauling Maranan just outside the session hall of the city council.

Adajar, who also beat another journalist a few months ago, apparently got irked at the presence of Banzuela and Maranan after the two wrote a series of articles about the supposed irregularities in the purchase of a parcel of land by the city government.

The mauling incident was also shown in at least two news programs of television giant ABS-CBN.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) chapter in Laguna hailed the decision and expressed optimism that the case would be used as gauge in other libel cases.
Maranan and Banzuela are both members of NUJP-Laguna.

"The dismissal of the case against our colleagues is a positive development toward our campaign to decriminalize libel. It is even more meaningful as it came at a time when public officials abuse the principle of defamation charges to stifle press freedom," the group said.

Banzuela, on the other hand, said he was pleased with the decision of the Abril-Pawang, adding that they were really expecting a favorable decision.

"Where in the world can you find a public official filing libel against a journalist after beating him up? It's only here in the Philippines," he lamented.

Banzuela said Adajar filed the case against them immediately after he and Maranan filed libel and grave coercion charges against the councilor.

He said they firmly believed that the said councilor was also behind the threats on their lives.

(Marlon Ramos, INQUIRER Southern Luzon)

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