CMFR/PHILIPPINES – A prosecutor dismissed a libel complaint against a columnist and staff member of a regional newspaper in San Fernando City, Pampanga. San Fernando, Pampanga is approximately 67 kilometers north of Manila.
On 16 June 2011, Asst. City Prosecutor Nereo Dela Cruz issued a seven-page resolution recommending the dismissal for lack of merit of the libel complaint filed by Renato Romero against Punto! Central Luzon’s columnist Caesar Lacson, editor Joey Aguilar, general manager Gener Endona, marketing manager Joanna Nina Cordero and publisher LLL Trimedia Coordinators. Dela Cruz added that the complainant failed to present “the necessary evidence to secure conviction.”
The prosecutor said Lacson’s commentary is “part of his right to reply” and “can be considered as part of the freedom of expression of its author” as the columnist was only replying to the “statements of (Romero) to the statements of complainant (in a Sun.Star Pampanga report) titled, ‘Sector: Why no biz awardee in MOKA?’”.
Romero, president of the Pampanga Chamber of Commerce, filed the libel complaint, claiming that Punto! Central Luzon and Lacson, “with the sole intention of attacking his virtue as a person,” published on 1 December 2010 an article on the Pampanga Chamber of Commerce’s concern over the results of the search for the Most Outstanding Kampampangan Award (MOKA) 2010. The 01 December 2010 column criticized Romero for seeking clarifications from the MOKA committee on why the 2010 winner was not a member of the business sector.
Lacson claimed in his counter-affidavit that his commentary constituted fair comment. “The article ‘Romero Ululating’ is actually a rejoinder to the banner headline story ‘Sector: Why no biz awardee in MOKA?’ in the 14 December 2010 issue of Sun.Star Pampanga,” Lacson said. “As it constituted personal opinion in reaction to a publicized issue, I deemed it likewise merited a space in my ‘Zona Libre’ column in the December 17-18, 2010 issue of Punto!,” Lacson said.
Libel has been used by politicians and powerful personalities to silence journalists. Libel is a criminal offense in the Philippines.
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