Radio anchor accused of libel for interviewing candidate

CMFR/Philippines – The governor of Zamboanga del Sur province implicated a radio commentator in a libel case against a losing candidate for mayor, accusing the commentator of “using his radio program in airing (the losing candidate’s) libelous remarks” last 21 June 2013.

Zamboanga del Sur province in Mindanao island is some 1,600 kilometers south of Metro Manila.

On 24 June 2013, dxWO commentator Lito Pedrano sent CMFR a message via a social networking site asking for legal aid as he was being implicated in a libel case filed by governor Antonio Cerilles against lost mayoralty candidate Ruel “Balong” Molina.

Pedrano is a regular employee of dxWO Power 99 FM and anchors the radio program “Aksyon Balita” that airs in the morning, Monday to Saturday.

Pedrano was subpoenaed for the libel complaint on his birthday last 21 June 2013, 10 days after which he has to file a counter-affidavit to refute the evidence presented by the governor’s camp.

In the copy of the subpoena Pedrano sent CMFR, Cerilles alleged that Pedrano allowed Molina to use “Aksyon Balita” as a venue to air Molina’s libelous comments.

On 17 April 2013, Pedrano interviewed then mayoralty candidate Molina regarding the ambush killing of Molina’s 22-year old niece on 16 April 2013. (http://www.sunstar.com.ph/zamboanga/local-news/2013/04/17/mayoralty-bet-s-niece-slain-ambush-driver-hurt-278083)

In the transcript of the radio program attached to the subpoena as evidence, Molina alleged that Cerilles and his wife, former Zambaonga del Sur governor and now congresswoman Aurora Enerio-Cerilles, had “without doubt” the motive to carry out the ambush.

Cerilles and his wife were both running for public office in the May 2013 elections; the husband for governor of the province and the wife for representative of the province’s second district. Both of them won.

Molina was Aurora Cerilles’s chief-of-staff before turning against the Cerilles couple and running for mayor in the town of Kumalarang, under a political party opposed to the Cerilles’. He lost the election.

“My part was only asking Molina regarding the details of the ambush and (the) possible motive (behind) it given the fact (that) he is (a relative) of the slain victim,” Pedrano said in his letter to CMFR.

In a phone interview with CMFR last 25 June 2013, Pedrano added that he publicly reached out to governor Cerilles for comment, “I said we should wait for the results of the investigation (on the ambush) and that we are open for Cerilles to air his side. Cerille’s staff said they would address Molina’s allegations through their own radio stations and blocktime programs.”

Neither Molina nor the Cerilleses could be reached for comment as of press time.