Monday, November 27, 2006

Still on the class civil suit

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines also releases a statement today on the class civil suit against Mike Arroyo.

NUJP supports civil case vs President Arroyo's husband

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) supports the filing of a class civil suit against Jose Miguel Arroyo, husband of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The presidential spouse has, since 2003, filed libel cases against 43 journalists, demanding at least P141 million in damages. On November 11, policemen in plainclothes attempted to arrest one of those accused by Mr. Arroyo, MalacaƱang reporter Mia Gonzales, despite the absence of a court resolution.

Mr. Arroyo, apart from being a public figure and a public officer whose actions are open to fair comment and reporting, is also a lawyer who is presumed to be knowledgeable of Philippine laws and jurisprudence. Yet Mr. Arroyo continues to harass media practitioners with his barrage of libel suits.

This spate of libel cases filed by Mr. Arroyo has brought a chilling effect on media and is a brazen affront to press freedom.

The NUJP, with its more than 500 member journalists nationwide, has committed to join the journalists facing libel suits in filing a civil case against Mr. Arroyo.

Among the basis for filing a civil case are the following provisions in the Civil Code:

* Article 32 which states that "Any public officer or employee, or any private individual, who directly or indirectly obstructs, defeats, violates or in any manner impedes or impairs any of the following rights and liberties of another person shall be liable to the latter for damages..." Among the rights enumerated are the freedoms of speech and of the press.
* Articles 19, 20 and 21of the Civil Code, which all pertain to a person's willful abuse of another person's rights.

Meanwhile, the NUJP has launched a signature campaign calling for the decriminalization of libel and an end to Mr. Arroyo's libel filing spree against journalists. Signatories of the petition have reached over 600 media practitioners, including editors of almost all major newspapers and magazines and coming from as far as the Middle East.

NUJP notes that the United States has already decriminalized libel as early as 1963.

Lawyer Harry Roque of the Roque & Butuyan Law Offices will handle the case for the journalists.

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