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Police try to arrest editor out on bail

(CMFR/IFEX) - 30 March 2012 - Despite being released on bail, an editor of a Bohol-based newspaper was nearly arrested by the Guindulman town police last 17 March 2012 in connection with a libel complaint filed by the town mayor. Guindulman is part of Bohol province, which is approximately 640 kilometers south of Manila.

The Guindulman police served Alfredo Amora, associate editor and columnist of "The Bohol Standard", an 8 February 2012 warrant of arrest issued by the Tagbilaran City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 48 last 17 March 2012 during a funeral mass for Amora's aunt. The police, however, allowed Amora to attend his aunt's funeral on the condition that the editor "surrender" the next day.

Amora told the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) that when he went to the police station on 18 March 2012 he brought a 21 February 2012 court order by the same Tagbilaran City RTC Branch ordering the recall of the 8 February 2012 warrant. Amora had already paid the P10,000 (approximately USD 230) bail bond for his temporary liberty.

In an 18 March 2012 article in the community newspaper "The Bohol Standard", Senior Police Officer 3 Bogs Janiola, the officer on duty when Amora "surrendered", said that "he was thankful for accused Amora's voluntarily showing up at the police station." Janiola added that "they were confused" about serving the warrant of arrest, noting that it was already more than a month since the warrant was issued. Philippine Rules of Court allow the serving of a warrant of arrest only within ten days from its date of receipt.

Guindulman Mayor Piezas filed two separate libel complaints against Amora in 2011 for allegedly libelous statements in his columns. The case pending before Tagbilaran RTC Branch 48 stemmed from Amora's 1 January 2011 column in which he exposed the lending business Mayor Piezas allegedly runs in the municipal hall. The other complaint, which is pending before Laoay RTC Branch 50, is based on Amora's 11 and 18 July 2010 columns "The Gospel" which allegedly described the mayor as "gullible" and a "moron".

In a phone interview with CMFR last 29 March 2012, Mayor Piezas described Amora's articles as "insulting". She said she will pursue the libel complaint even if Amora apologizes, and would not agree to any settlement.

In his counter affidavit on the second libel complaint, Amora said that "filing these libel complaints, singularly against me while sparing the Publisher, the Editor-in-Chief and the Business Manager (contrary to Article 360, Revised Penal Code, as amended); indicates a subjective action that puts under suspicion her true intent in filing these complaints."

Libel is still a criminal offense in the Philippines despite the 2011 United Nations Human Rights Committee's declaration that the Philippine libel law is incompatible with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

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