Cebu journalists face libel suit

Five Cebu-based journalists are facing libel charges for publishing stories implicating a municipal mayor as the mastermind of the P94-million bank robbery in Bogo, northern part of Cebu.

Sun.Star Cebu editor-in-chief Pachico Seares, managing editor for news Isolde Amante, news editor Maria Carmel Geverola and reporters Mia Abellana and Karlon Rama were named respondents for the libel case filedlast Oct. 3 by Bogo Mayor Celestino “Tining” Martinez III at the Officeof the Cebu City Prosecutor.

Martinez was offened by the news articles published last September 24 and October 1 in Sun Star that alleged that tha mayor financed the August 2 robbery of Land Bank of the Philippines’ Bogo Branch.

In a statement, Seares said that the stories concerned a public official’s conduct and were a matter of public interest. The libel case was aimed at harassing Sun.Star, he said, noting that other print and broadcast media also reported the allegations.

Seares added that Sun.Star included Martinez’ side in the reports and allowed the mayor’s right to reply.

Martinez said, however, that the way the articles were written “was without basis and uncalled for.” The alleged libelous articles were based> on the robbery suspect Dindo Ancero’s claims, which Martinez said were> unverified. Ancero is also a respondent in the libel suit.

The mayor said that the paper should not have carried the report had since Ancero had already recanted his allegations.

He also accused the Sun.Star journalists of publishing the reports to “please” the owners of the paper, who are relatives of his political enemies. #

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