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Filipino journalist accused of indirect contempt jailed prior to hearing

UPDATE: Community journalist found guilty of indirect contempt (CMFR, 18 January 2013)

(CMFR/IFEX) - 17 January 2013 - A publisher-editor has been detained at a local police camp in Virac, Catanduanes since 15 January 2013, following an order from a judge charging him with indirect contempt of court.

Virac, Catanduanes is approximately 368 kilometers southeast of Manila.

Island Sandigan publisher-editor Carmelo Rima has been detained at the Catanduanes Police Provincial Office (Camp Camacho) for two days pending the 17 January 2013 hearing of the indirect contempt case initiated by Executive Judge Lelu Contreras of the Regional Trial Court of Virac.

Under Philippine rules of court, a court can on its initiative hold proceedings for indirect contempt.

In a 12 January 2013 order, Contreras directed Rima to explain why the court should not cite him for contempt for "an article which degraded this court, brought it into disrepute and destroyed public confidence in it." The article was published in the 7 - 13 January 2013 issue of Island Sandigan.

Contreras said Rima accused the court "without first ascertaining the truth as to when, where and how the naturalization proceedings of the governor (Joseph "Buboy" Cua) had taken place."

Cua is running for reelection this May 2013. According to a Manila Times report, Larry Que, another gubernatorial candidate, filed a disqualification complaint against Cua questioning his Filipino citizenship last 24 October 2012.

A similar complaint was filed by Que before the Bureau of Immigration.

The Island Sandigan report alleged that Contreras had helped obtain and prepare the naturalization documents of Cua, read the 12 January 2013 order. It also described the Virac RTC as a "'crime scene . . . where documents were possibly crafted to suit Cua's naturalization'."

Rima told the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines-Catanduanes chapter's Ramil Soliveres that he did not name Contreras in his article.

Soliveres said Rima wanted to post the P20,000 (approximately USD 493) bond for his release but the judge had already left for Manila. As Contreras currently oversees both branches of the Virac RTC, no one could issue an order for Rima's temporary release.

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