Jail official refuses to release broadcaster despite court order

CMFR/PHILIPPINES – A jail official refused on 26 May 2008 to release a radio commentator jailed for libel since last year despite a court order.

The warden of the Davao Penal Colony (Dapecol) in Davao del Norte has not released radio broadcaster Alexander “Alex” Adonis despite being paroled by the Department of Justice Board of Pardon and Paroles (DOJ-BPP) as early as December 2007 and the posting of a bail bond for another libel case. The parole order granted by the DOJ-BPP was received by Dapecol on February 2008. Davao is a province approximately 946 kms south of Manila.

Adonis was sentenced on 26 January 2007 to a penalty of five months and one day to four years, six months and one day imprisonment and a fine of P200, 000 in damages after a conviction in the libel case filed against him by House Speaker Prospero Nograles.

Nograles, the fourth most powerful person in the Philippines, filed libel charges in October 2001 for a radio commentary by Adonis about Nograles’ allegedly being seen running naked in a Manila hotel when caught with his alleged paramour by the latter’s husband. Adonis was unable to attend hearings for the libel case and forfeited his right to present evidence. Adonis now faces another libel case, this time filed by the alleged paramour, a female broadcaster in Davao.

“We had to inform the higher authorities before obeying the court order to release Adonis,” Superintendent Benjo Tesoro, the Dapecol warden said, according to a report by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP).

“This is why many people have lost faith in the system. We have done everything by the book, yet this has happened,” Adonis’ counsel lawyer Harry Roque said.

Roque said that he had filed for a petition for bail before Judge George Omelio of Regional Trial Court Davao Branch 17 on the libel case Adonis is presently on trial for upon knowing that the DOJ-BPP had paroled Adonis. Omelio granted bail and issued a release order after local Davao media paid the P5,000 (approximately US $116.63) bail bond for Adonis.

The Davao journalists who went to Dapecol to secure the release of Adonis were however disappointed as Tesoro refused to release Adonis. “We were hoping that Adonis could be released today…but when we arrived the warden told us he could not release Adonis because of the pending (libel) case,” Davao Today reporter Cheryl Fiel said.

Adonis had not been informed of his parole. According to Fiel, they only found out on 2 May 2008 after the “parole officer in Davao City saw us while we were trooping to the Davao Hall of Justice to protest Adonis’s imprisonment last May 2.”

A parole is the “conditional release of an offender from a correctional institution after he has served the minimum of his prison sentence.”

Last April 2008, Adonis, with the help of Roque, filed a complaint, with the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility and the NUJP as co-signatory, before the UN Human Rights Committee regarding Adonis’s plight and calling attention to the country’s archaic criminal libel law. Roque also asked the RTC to re-open the libel case filed by Nograles, on the basis of a Supreme Court memorandum urging the imposition of fines instead of imprisonment in libel cases.

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