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Publishers acquitted, libel charges dismissed in Philippines

A court in Cagayan de Oro City acquitted a newspaper publisher from a libel charge last 28 April 2014. Meanwhile, in Metro Manila, the Court of Appeal (CA) dismissed a libel case against another publisher on 7 July 2014.

Branch 21 of the Cagayan de Oro Regional Trial Court acquitted Edgardo Maliza, publisher of defunct publication Azilam Review, of a libel charge filed by former Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Executive Regional Director Attorney Ernesto Adobo Jr.

In a 14-page decision promulgated on 28 May 2014, Judge Gil Bollozes found that there was no malicious intent when Maliza wrote articles regarding alleged corruption in Adobo's office.

Maliza was arrested on 4 March 2011 before posting a P10,000 bail (approximately USD 230 at the time).

The articles, published in the 9-15 July 2009 and 27 August and 2 September 2009 issues of the Azilam Review, were on the alleged failure of Adobo to act on anomalous transactions in the regional DENR office.

Maliza told CMFR in 2011 that he reported the alleged misuse of a Certificate of Lumber Origin (CLO) issued by the Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer (CENRO) to a certain businessman from Butuan City (approximately 1,200 kilometers south of Metro Manila). Maliza alleged that the CLO was used to transfer another set of lumber and not what was allowed in the certificate.

Meanwhile, a report from BusinessWorld said the CA has dismissed a libel case against Malaya newspaper publisher Amado Macasaet, executive editor Enrique Romualdez and former editor-in-chief Joy de los Reyes.

According to the report, the appellate court reversed two 2010 orders from Branch 36 of the Manila Regional Trial Court denying the motion to dismiss filed by the respondents, saying the Manila court did not have jurisdiction over the libel case.

The libel case was filed in 1999 by former Rizal Governor Casimiro Ynares and Narciso Santiago Jr. for articles Macasaet wrote in 1999 in Malaya and Abante tabloid about a conflict between two cockfighting groups, one of which was headed by Ynares.

Macasaet was arrested in September 2008 before posting bail. "This is actually the first time that I have been arrested," Macasaet said that year.

Joy de los Reyes, meanwhile, passed away in 3 May 2013.

Libel is still a criminal offense in the Philippines despite calls for its decriminalization. In October 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Committee urged the Philippine government to review its old libel law which it described as "excessive." CMFR and journalists' groups have been urging the decriminalization of libel for nearly two decades.

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