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Journalist jailed for libel released from prison

(CMFR/IFEX) - A Davao broadcaster was released on 23 December 2008 after spending almost two years in prison in Davao del Norte following his conviction on charges of libel. Davao is a province located approximately 946 km south of Manila. Libel is a criminal offence in the Philippines.

Alexander Adonis, formerly of Bombo Radyo in Davao City, was released from the Davao Penal Colony (also known as the Davao Prison and Penal Farm) at around 2:00 p.m. (local time) on 23 December after the Department of Justice's (DoJ) Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) approved his release. The release order, signed by DoJ undersecretary and BuCor director Oscar Calderon included 52 other prisoners, GMANews.TV reported.

Dodong Solis of the Association of Broadcasters of the Philippines' (Kapisanan ng mga Broadkaster ng Pilipinas, KBP) Mindanao Chapter and radio station Radio Mindanao Network told the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility that Adonis' release was related to his 11 December 2007 parole.

The DoJ-Board of Pardon and Paroles granted parole to Adonis on 11 December 2007 after he had served the minimum sentence for a libel case. But Davao Penal Colony warden Venancio Tesoro refused to release him when a second libel case based on the same report for which he had been convicted was filed by a woman alleged to be the paramour of House of Representatives Speaker Prospero Nograles.

On 26 May 2008, Tesoro still refused to release Adonis despite a release order by the Davao Regional Trial Court Branch 14 after Davao media colleagues paid a P5,000 (then approx. US$116.63) bail bond for Adonis. Tesoro, who only has custodial powers over prisoners, argued that the pending case disqualified Adonis from receiving his parole.

The alleged paramour withdrew the second libel case in October after Adonis issued a public apology. On 27 October, the Davao City Regional Trial Court Branch 14 dismissed the second libel case and ordered that Adonis be "released from detention unless there be other lawful grounds for his further confinement."

Upon his release, Adonis read a statement expressing his gratitude to the media organisations and individuals who helped him during his detention and worked for his release.

Adonis also explained in the statement his decision to apologise. "The decision to say sorry . . . was a hard move I took. I would like to state now the truth that while I did say sorry, it did not in any way mean a capitulation of the truth I have been pursuing nor did it mean an admission of my guilt," Adonis said.

Adonis was convicted on 26 January 2007 in the first libel case filed against him by Davao congressman Nograles. Nograles, the fourth most powerful person in the Philippines, filed libel charges in October 2001 for a report by Adonis on his alleged extra-marital affairs. Adonis, reading from a tabloid, reported on his programme that Nograles had been caught in a compromising situation with his alleged paramour in a hotel in Manila.

Updates the Adonis case:

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