2 Broadcasters Convicted of Online Libel in Cotabato

CMFR/PHILIPPINES – Two radio broadcasters in Kidapawan City were convicted of online libel Friday, 22 March 2019 on charges filed by North Cotabato Governor Emmylou “Lala” Taliño-Mendoza.

Kidapawan City is 1,605 kilometers south of Manila.

Broadcasters Eric Rodinas, anchor of Radyo Natin and Larry Baja Subillaga Jr., a freelance broadcaster, “meted an indeterminate penalty of four (4) years and one (1) day of prision correctional as minimum to eight (8) years and one (1) day of prision mayor as maximum” per the joint decision of Judge Jose Tabosares of Regional Trial Court Branch 23 in Kidapawan City. They were also ordered to pay a PHP1 million fine, PHP1 million for moral damages and PHP500,000 for exemplary damages. (“2 radio broadcasters convicted of libel”)

Mendoza pressed charges against the two for “malicious” statements posted in their social media accounts on March 14, 2017. The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that Subillaga said via Facebook that the governor was fooling the people of the province while Rodinas said the governor became rich because of a project. (“2 North Cotabato broadcasters found ‘guilty’ of online libel”) The two pleaded “not guilty” during the arraignment. Both said they will appeal their conviction before the Supreme Court.

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 84-year-old libel law which it described as “excessive.” CMFR and journalists’ groups have been campaigning for the decriminalization of libel for nearly two decades.

Online libel is a crime under Republic Act (RA) 10175, or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, which penalizes crimes committed through computers and online. The punishment for online libel is also “one degree higher” than that provided for libel in the Revised Penal Code.