Boracay resort owner sues broadcaster for libel

The owner of Boracay West Cove on Boracay island has filed a libel suit against a local broadcaster over several reports on the resort’s alleged violations of building laws.

Boracay island is 401 kilometers south of Manila.

Boracay West Cove CEO Crisostomo Aquino sued ABS-CBN 2’s broadcaster Ted Failon for libel before the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office on 23 April 2015. The libel charge stemmed from a March 28 report about alleged violations of building and other laws by several resorts in Boracay on the current affairs program Failon Ngayon, of which Failon is the host.

Failon is also an anchor of the ABS-CBN 2’s primetime news program TV Patrol and the radio program Failon Ngayon over radio station DZMM.

In his complaint, Aquino accused Failon of using foul language and making malicious imputations that defamed, maligned and besmirched his character and damaged the reputation of Boracay West Cove.

Failon Ngayon reported that Boracay West Cove has built structures in a forest reserve area and has been operating for years without building and business permits.

In March 2012, Failon Ngayon exposed the allegedly illegal operations of several resorts in Boracay, including that of Boracay West Cove. The program interviewed Aquino, who said that the community allows the construction of buildings first before getting permits. Several months after the expose, parts of Boracay West Cove were demolished.

Aquino told the Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility (CMFR) that since the 2012 incident Failon had been making harsh comments against the resort in his programs.  Aquino said the resort was being “singled out.” Aquino also denied Failon’s allegations and said that he has documents to prove that the resort has not violated any law.

CMFR tried to contact Failon, but has yet to receive a response as of press time.

Only last March 5, the electric supplier Central Negros Electric Cooperative filed a PHP 20-million libel suit against Visayan Daily Star columnist Modesto Sa-onoy for a column critical of the power supplier.

Two journalists so far have also been arrested for libel this year.

Hataw newspaper publisher and columnist and former National Press Club President Jerry Yap was arrested  on April 5 on the basis of a complaint for two counts of criminal libel. Yap was released on April 6 after posting bail of Php 20,000.

Ten days later, Members of the Daraga Municipal Police Office arrested correspondent Elmer James Bandol for libel on the strength of a warrant issued by the Masbate Regional Trial Court on 15 July 2012. Bandol was released on April 16 after posting bail.

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.