LIBEL WATCH: Journalist Held by Police, Another Charged, One Case Dismissed


CMFR/Philippines – Several journalists faced libel challenges in November. One broadcaster accused of libel was held by the police, while a libel complaint was filed against another, an online reporter. A libel charge against the executives of a media organization was dismissed.

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.

Held by police

A radio broadcaster was held by the Dipolog City police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) following his arrest for libel on 18 November 2017.

Radio blocktimer Celestine “Nick” Carbonel of dxFL-FM was sued by Zamboanga del Norte Representative Rosendo Labadlabad for allegedly “spreading fake news” but it wasn’t clear whether the lawmaker was involved in the “fake news” incident himself, an Inquirer report said. A Bombo Radyo report said the case could be connected to Carbonel’s corruption allegations against Labadlabad in a report he wrote in 2010, for which the radio broadcaster was also sued for libel by the lawmaker in 2011.

A post in DXDR-RMN Dipolog’s official Facebook account said, however, that Carbonell was not arrested and had filed a motion to dismiss the charges in court.

The 2011 libel case was previously reported by CMFR. In the same report, Carbonell said that unidentified men had fired at his house.

Carbonel hosts a blocktime radio program, “Headline Balita,” Mondays to Fridays from 7:00 to 8:00 am.

Libel case vs. GMA execs dismissed

The City Prosecutor of Quezon City dismissed a libel complaint against two GMA television network officials and three others, GMA News reported.

Citing lack of factual and legal bases, the Prosecutor dismissed the complaint filed by Hector Centeno, a former lawyer, against GMA News Anchor Mike Enriquez, GMA Network Chairman and CEO Felipe L. Gozon, and three others. Centeno’s complaint was based on  the “Sumbungan ng Bayan” segment of GMA’s primetime news program 24 Oras which aired on 30 May 2016, in which it was reported that he was continuing his legal practice despite being disbarred in 2008.

Centeno also accused the defendants of “hacking” his Facebook account when they downloaded pictures posted in his page without his consent.

In a resolution signed by Assistant City Prosecutor Ronald Jalmanzar dated 13 July 2017, the City Prosecutor found that the episode in question was a “fair and factual report, without any comments or remarks, to inform the public of the non-authority of the complainant to engage into the practice of law.”

The Prosecutor added that there is no proof that Centeno’s FB account had been hacked by the defendants. Despite his argument that the photos were only viewable by his friends on the social networking site, the Prosecutor said that this is no assurance that the photos can no longer be viewed by other FB users.

DILG official sues Rappler reporter

An undersecretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) filed a libel complaint last August against a Rappler reporter for a series of reports about DILG employees’ allegedly asking President Rodrigo Duterte to fire him along with two others.

According to a Rappler report, DILG Undersecretary John Castriciones filed a complaint with the City Prosecutor of Quezon City against Rappler reporter Rambo Talabong. Talabong wrote three stories from June to August 2017 about three DILG undersecretaries, Emily Padilla, Jun Hinlo and Castriciones, who were allegedly the subject of the department employees’ corruption complaints.

Talabong also reported that the three were in “floating status,” meaning they were still undersecretaries but had been stripped of their responsibilities.

Castriciones based his complaint on these Talabong reports.

Rappler said  Castriciones was singling out Talabong, since  other news organizations also reported on the status of the three DILG  undersecretaries.

Castriciones was recently appointed as acting Secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform.