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Publisher arrested in nine-year-old libel case; conviction of another publisher confirmed

(CMFR/IFEX) - The publisher of a daily newspaper in Manila was arrested on 4 September 2008 for libel, while another newspaper publisher's libel conviction was affirmed after a judge denied her motion for reconsideration.

Amado Macasaet, publisher of the daily newspaper "Malaya" (Free) as well as the tabloid "Abante" (Forward), was arrested for a nine-year-old libel case by operatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of the Philippine National Police at his office in Port Area, Manila.

Macasaet is also the president of the Philippine Press Institute, as well as director of Samahang Plaridel (Plaridel Group), an organization of veteran journalists and communicators.

Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 59 Judge Winlove Dumayas meanwhile denied the motion for reconsideration filed by Ninez Cacho-Olivares asking the former to overturn his earlier decision convicting Olivares of libel.

Olivares, publisher of the "Tribune," said she and her lawyers will bring the case to the Court of Appeals.

Dumayas had sentenced Olivares to a minimum of six months to a maximum of two years in prison and to payment of P5 million (approx. US$113,480) in moral damages and P33,732.25 (approx. US$765) in civil damages for a story she wrote about a prominent law firm's alleged unethical and corrupt practices.

Earlier in 2008, the Supreme Court issued a circular urging courts to choose the imposition of fines rather than imprisonment of journalists convicted of libel.

The case against Macasaet was filed in 1999 by former Rizal Governor Casimiro Ynares and Narciso Santiago Jr. for articles Macasaet wrote in 1999 in "Malaya" and "Abante" about a conflict between two cockfighting groups, one of which was headed by Ynares.

Santiago Jr. is the husband of administration Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago whjle Ynares is the brother of Supreme Court Justice Consuelo Ynares-Santiago.

Also included in the charge sheet are "Malaya" editors Enrique P. Romualdez and Joy P. De Los Reyes. According to "Malaya" news editor Minnie Advincula, the CIDG agents did not look for Romualdez or De Los Reyes when they came to the newspaper's office to arrest Macasaet.

Macasaet, 72, said he was surprised by the arrest as he was not informed of the libel case being filed against him.

"Normally, after the information has been filed, I would be informed. I should have been informed so I could have prepared to post bail just like (what I did) in other libel cases so the efforts of the police in arresting me and my time will not be wasted," Macasaet told "Malaya".

"This is actually the first time that I have been arrested," Macasaet said.

Macasaet was released later in the afternoon of 4 September after posting P10,000 (approx. US$216.87) for his provisional liberty.

According to "Malaya", seven other counts of libel arising from the same articles have also been filed by Santiago Jr., all of which have been dismissed for lack of merit.

Macasaet was earlier cited for indirect contempt by the Supreme Court in a decision dated 8 August and ordered to pay a fine of P20,000 (approx. US$433.74) for his columns in September 2007 alleging a P10-million bribery incident involving Ynares-Santiago.

Updates the Olivares case:

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