Local electric cooperative exec files libel charges against correspondent

CMFR/PHILIPINES –The Masbate City Prosecutor’s Office has recommended the filing of libel charges against a journalist accused of maligning an official of the provincial electrical cooperative. The journalist claimed he has not been informed that a libel complaint had been filed against him at the prosecutor’s office. Masbate is a province approximately 350 kilometers southeast of Manila

In a resolution dated 26 April 2012, Assistant City Prosecutor Richard Riveral found probable cause to file libel charges in connection with Masbate Electrical Cooperative (MASELCO) General Manager Dr. Eduardo Margallo’s complaint against Elmer James Bandol, online correspondent for BicolToday.com. Bandol is a journalist based in Albay, Bicol.

The complaint is based on an article published online on 14 December 2011 alleging that MASELCO had incurred financial losses of more than P314 million due to improper “procurement procedures” and other “illegal transactions.” (“314 million pesos losses of Masbate power coop traced to mismanagement – NEA”, http://bicoltoday.com/?p=4463). The article was based on an audit report by the National Electrification Administration (NEA).

In his complaint, Margallo called attention to a paragraph calling him a “Kissing GM” which he said caused him “dishonor, discredit, public ridicule, sleepless nights, mental anguish, social humiliation, moral anxiety and contempt to [Margallo]… to his damage and prejudice.” The “Kissing GM” tag is based on some women employees of MASELCO’s filing harassment complaints against him.

In a phone interview with the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, Bandol said he was surprised when he received the 26 April 2012 resolution last 16 May 2012. Bandol said the Masbate City Prosecutor’s Offiice informed him that a preliminary investigation on the libel complaint filed by Margallo was being held. Bandol said his lawyer had filed a motion for reconsideration and asked for a copy of the original complaint.

CMFR tried to get Margallo’s side on the matter, but he refused to make any statements, while Assistant City Prosecutor Riveral could not be contacted.