The obsolete, repressive law on libel is one of the instruments of oppressors to attack the freedom of speech and expression and press freedom. Since 1986, more than 180 journalists have been killed and more still suffer from oppressive libel charges.
Just recently in the Bicol region, libel again was used as a tool of corrupt officials to kill the voice of the masses craving for genuine truth and accountability.
On April 15, Wednesday, Bicol Today’s correspondent Elmer James Bandol was arrested, for the eighth time for libel charges since 1979, in his residence in Daraga, Albay based on a warrant of arrest filed four years ago without considering the motion filed by his legal counsel.
The case filed by former General Manager Eduardo Margallo of Masbate Electrical Cooperative (Maselco) against Bandol was based on his article “314 million pesos losses of Masbate power coop traced to mismanagement – NEA” published by BicolToday.com on December 14, 2011.
In Bandol’s 36 years as a veteran local journalist, he served the masses through Bicol Today for more than four years through exposing corruption by local government officials. He had 11 charges of libel but were eventually dismissed because his stories really mirror the truth.
AlterMidya as the People’s Alternative Media Network supports its active member Bicol Today in fighting for the rights of Bandol, as well as for press freedom and for the decriminalization of libel in the country.
A journalist must not be jailed for exposing the truth. He or she should not suffer from being deprived of his right to perform his duty to the Filipino people Bandol was harassed and denied due process. The Masbate prosecutor’s office has recommended the filing of libel charges against him even without preliminary investigation. Bandol filed a motion for reconsideration but it was denied by the prosecution.
Bandol is currently under the custody of the Masbate City PNP with a bail amounting to P10,000.
AlterMidya stands by Bicol Today’s position that online libel, which was filed against Bandol, as defined by the Cyber Crime Law, still did not exist as the libel complaint was filed during the period when the Cyber Crime bill was still under deliberation by Congress.
By law, online articles could not be defined legally as a “publication” since the existing libel law then was limited to printed publication and broadcast media.
Bandol’s case also highlights the need to intensify the fight against the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 and for the decriminalization of libel.
We are calling on all media groups to express their support for Bandol and the fight for press freedom.
Together with the Filipino people, journalists should stand for their rights and demand an end to impunity in killings and attacks against press freedom and the right to free expression.