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Radio blocktimer arrested on libel charge in Philippines

This statement was originally published on cmfr-phil.org on 15 June 2015.

A radio blocktimer facing two counts of criminal libel case was arrested last 9 June 2015 in Valencia City, Bukidnon province. Bukidnon is approximately 1481 kilometers south of Manila.

Members of the local PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group arrested radio commentator Rey Cabaraban on the strength of a warrant issued by the Bukidnon Regional Trial Court in connection with a PHP48-million libel case filed by Bukidnon governor Jose Maria Zubiri Jr. in April 2014. Cabaraban was released on 10 June after posting bail of Php 40,000.

According to a report in Sun.Star's Super Balita Cagayan de Oro, the libel case is based on Cabaraban's commentaries when he was still with dxGG 107.1 Happy FM. Cabaraban was commenting on illegal logging, mining, and the peace and order situation in the province.

Cabaraban currently hosts the block time program Radyo Rapido in dyXB-AM Radyo Juan, a radio station owned by Bukidnon Provincial Board member Rene Centillas. In Philippine broadcast practice, a blocktimer is an individual who purchases "blocks" of TV or radio time for sponsorship.

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.


Cebu broadcaster posts bail for libel


In a separate case, a Cebu tri-media personality surrendered to the local police after a court issued a warrant for his arrest in connection with a libel case filed by a former Cebu City mayor. Cebu is approximately 1,100 kilometers south of Metro Manila.

Broadcaster and columnist Pablito "Bobby" Nalzaro posted last 10 June 2015 Php 10,000 bail in the libel complaint filed by former Cebu City mayor Tomas Osmeña. Sun.Star reported that Osmeña filed the libel case after "the broadcaster…accused him of fabricating charges when he filed multiple administrative complaints against Cebu City Treasurer Diwa Cuevas before the Civil Service Commission."

The court issued a release order after Nalzaro posted bail. Nalzaro and his lawyers also submitted a motion to defer his arraignment.

Nalzaro is also an anchor of GMA Network's 24 Oras Central Visayas and the chief operating officer of dySS Super Radyo.

According to a GMA News Online report, the case is only one of the 28 libel cases filed by Osmeña against the journalist. Twenty-seven others have been dismissed.

In 2014, Cebu's provincial legal officer and head of the province's Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) also threatened to file a libel complaint against Nalzaro for "attacking" him and his family in his news program and column.

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 libel law, which it described as "excessive." CMFR and journalists' groups have been urging the decriminalization of libel for nearly two decades.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
What other IFEX members are saying
  • Radio journalist charged with libel in the Philippines

    "Cabaraban's arrest again highlights the need to revisit the criminal component libel. Too often the criminal component of libel is used by politicians to silence critics and stifle freedom of expression."



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