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Reporter arrested on libel charges

(CMFR/IFEX) - On 4 March 2011, a correspondent for a Mindanao-based newspaper was arrested on libel charges at his home in Indahag village, Cagayan de Oro City. Cagayan de Oro City is approximately 789 kilometers south of Manila. Libel is a criminal offense in the Philippines.

Edgardo "Ed" Maliza, a correspondent for the "Gold Star Daily", faces a libel charge for allegedly maligning former Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) regional director and now Undersecretary Ernesto Adobo in two articles published in the now defunct "Azilam Review" in 2009. The case was filed before the Cagayan de Oro City Regional Trial Court in March 2010. Maliza was the publisher and editor of the "Azilam Review".

The articles, published in the 9-15 July 2009 and 27 August and 2 September 2009 issues of the "Azilam Review", reported on the alleged failure of Adobo to take action on anomalous transactions in the regional DENR office. Maliza told the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) that he reported on the alleged misuse of a Certificate of Lumber Origin (CLO) issued by the Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer (CENRO) to a businessman from Butuan City. Maliza alleged that the CLO was used to transfer another set of lumber and not what was allowed by the certificate.

The police released Maliza on the day of his arrest after the he posted bail in the amount of P10,000 (approx. US$230).

When asked why he was arrested a year after the filing of the charge against him, Maliza explained that he filed a motion for reconsideration of the resolution of the local prosecutor's office. However, Maliza claims that the prosecutor failed to act on his motion.

Maliza said he believes his arrest was in response to his recent reports on the allegedly corrupt activities of members of the Cagayan de Oro City police.

Maliza will be arraigned in April 2011.

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