Manila-based newspaper charged with inciting to sedition

CMFR/Philippines—The Department of Justice (DOJ) has charged the publisher and two columnists of Manila-based newspaper The Daily Tribune, a known critic of the Gloria Arroyo administration, with inciting to sedition for allegedly publishing articles that encourage the people to rise against the government.

Article 139 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines defines sedition as “committed by persons who rise publicly and tumultuously in order to attain by force, intimidation, or by other means outside of legal methods” such acts as preventing the promulgation or execution of any law, or preventing a government official in the performance of his duties.

Article 141 states that a person, “without taking any direct part in the crime of sedition,” has committed inciting to sedition by inciting others “to the accomplishment of any of the acts which constitute sedition, by means of speeches, proclamations, writings, emblems, cartoons, banners, or other representations tending to the same end.”

Chief state prosecutor Jovencito Zuno approved separate criminal charges against publisher Ninez Cacho-Olivares and columnists Ike Seneres and Herman Tiu Laurel and recommended P12, 000 bail ($240) for each.

Senior state prosecutor Philip Kimpo, who conducted the preliminary investigation, said that “the accused (have) continuously maligned and undermined the present administration.”

A 21 December 2006 DOJ ruling stated that the articles and editorials “showed grossly abusive statements against the institutions of the Philippine government as well as to its present officials and called for the booting out of this government as the only solution.” The 29 page resolution, which was mailed only last 5 February 2006, cited seven of the paper’s editorials and five of Olivares’ columns.

“Aptly, it must be understood and always borne in mind that there is a vast difference between criticism or fair comment on the one side and defamation on the other. Where defamation commences, true criticism ends,” Kimpo said in an interview over GMA7 television.

Olivares said that the charge was meant to silence her “through intimidation” and to frighten her “into going soft on criticisms against her (Arroyo) and her government” in time for the coming May senatorial elections.

“(T)he Justice Department (is) once again trying to scare me off and silence me. If they can’t do it with a bullet, they will do it through the courts,” Olivares said.

The first of the editorials cited in the charge, “Candles for Truth,” was published in September 2005.

Asher Dolina, National Capital Region chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), filed the complaint.

The CIDG is the same group that raided the Tribune office on 25 February 2007 last year after the declaration of Presidential Proclamation (PP) 1017. The raid was later declared by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional on 3 May 2006.

Arroyo issued PP 1017 on 24 February 2006 placing the country under a state of national emergency. The administration afterwards issued guidelines for the media prohibiting news and commentaries that are “subversive,” and said that the government is closely monitoring the press.

PP1017 was widely criticized and resulted in a petition by the media before the Court of Appeals asserting their constitutionally protected rights against censorship and prior restraint.

Comments are closed.