(CMFR/IFEX) - 20 April 2011 - A broadcaster facing libel charges was arrested in Iligan City, Lanao del Norte, a province approximately 792 kilometers south of Manila.
At around 11:00 a.m. (local time) on 18 April 2011, police arrested broadcaster Albert Loyola, of radio station dxRJ, on the strength of a warrant issued by Branch 3 of the Regional Trial Court of Iligan City, in connection with one of two libel cases filed by local Councilor Chonilo Ruiz.
Iligan City RTC Branch 5, which has jurisdiction over the other libel case filed by Ruiz, has yet to issue an arrest warrant. Loyola's lawyer, Ver Quimco, said the councilor also filed a civil defamation case against Loyola and dxRJ.
The libel cases stem from Loyola's report on the alleged misappropriation of funds by the local city council. In 2010, Loyola allegedly called Ruiz a "liar" after the latter said he used a P14-million (approx. US$325,000) committee services budget for the snacks of those who attended the council's committee hearings. Quimco told the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) that Loyola never had any snacks when he attended the committee hearings.
Loyola was released on 19 April despite posting bail of P10,000 (approx. US$232) a day earlier, on 18 April.
On 19 April, the "Philippine Daily Inquirer" newspaper quoted Loyola as saying that "I am determined to face the cases filed by Councilor Ruiz so that the truth will come out."
Loyola's media colleagues say the case is meant to harass the broadcaster since, prior to the filing of the libel cases, Councilor Ruiz had physically attacked the broadcaster.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP)-Iligan City chapter reported that Ruiz mauled Loyola inside the dxRJ radio booth in January 2010. In a statement dated 10 January 2010, Loyola told NUJP that the councilor was irked by his reports that Ruiz had lied about using part of his budget for committee services "(to serve) meals during public hearings."
Loyola filed a frustrated homicide case against Ruiz in connection with the January 2010 incident. Lawyer Quimco said the frustrated homicide case is still pending.
Libel, a criminal offense in the Philippines, has been used by government officials and other powerful personalities to harass media practitioners. In 2006, several journalists and media organizations filed a P12.5 million class suit against then-presidential spouse Jose Miguel "Mike" Arroyo for abusing his right to sue. Between 2003 and 2006, Arroyo filed libel charges against more than 40 journalists critical of him and his wife's administration.