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Filipino city official sues newspaper for libel over mining story

The entire editorial staff and a correspondent of a newspaper in Cagayan de Oro City are facing a libel complaint over a 29 July 2014 report on allegedly illegal black sand mining operations in San Simon, an outlying village in the city. A member of the city's mining regulatory board filed the complaint on 6 August 2014.

Cagayan de Oro City is about 1000 kilometers south of Metro Manila.

Lawyer Giovani Catli filed the libel complaint against Gold Star Daily editor-in-chief Herbie Gomez, associate editor Orwin Austria, managing editor Pol Dael, lifestyle section editorial director Catherine Chu, and correspondent Ben Balce.

Catli represents quarry operators in the City Mining Regulatory Board (CMRB).

On 29 July 2014, Balce reported for The Gold Star that Watershed Areas Rural-Based Federation Inc. (Warbof) president Pastor Pansacala had alleged that Woland Development and Trading Corp. illegally mined black sand along the Iponan River in San Simon.

In Balce's report, the chief of the City Local Environment and Natural Resources Office (CLENRO), Edwin Dael, said Woland had been using the permit to mine sand and gravel issued to Catli as a member of CMRB.

In April 2014, the Department of Interior and Local Government released a memorandum ordering local chief executives to cancel the permits of those who mine black sand, in an effort to halt the erosion of shorelines.

Pansacala is included as a defendant in Catli's libel complaint.

According to a report from The Gold Star on the libel complaint, Catli accused the journalists of maligning him.

Catli said in his complaint that Woland's operations were legitimate and that Balce's report insinuated that he and Woland were into illegal operations, The Gold Star reported.

Speaking for the paper, Gomez said "We are not intimidated, and this won't distract us from our work in telling stories about the mining operations affecting the city. Miners and people in government who allow mining are the ones who have a lot of explaining to do to the people, not journalists."

This is the third libel complaint Gomez and his colleagues in The Gold Star Daily are facing this year. On 25 February 2014, Gomez posted bail after when he was about to be arrested for publishing allegedly libelous advertisements in September 2012.

On 2 July 2014, a city councilor sued a fellow councilor for libel and included Gomez and two Gold Star reporters.

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