Newspaper Editor Arrested After President’s Lawyer Accuses Her of Libel

7 August 2003
Source: Reporters sans frontières (RSF), Paris

(RSF/IFEX) — In a 6 August 2003 letter to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, RSF condemned the arrest of “The Daily Tribune” editor-in-chief Ninez Cacho-Olivares. In May, the opposition newspaper had reported on corruption allegations implicating the president’s personal lawyer and some of her associates.

“Your lawyer has every right to file a suit against a newspaper if he considers he has been libelled, but it is quite improper to arrest a journalist or editor for reporting on corruption allegations,” RSF wrote, urging the president to personally intervene to ensure that Cacho-Olivares is released as soon as possible.

On 4 August, Cacho-Olivares was arrested at her home in Parañaque City after 19 warrants for her arrest were issued in response to complaints accusing her of criminal defamation filed by President Arroyo’s personal lawyer, Arthur “Pancho” Villaraza. The editor’s lawyers obtained an order for her release on bail on two of the complaints, but the police still had 17 other arrest orders.

After being detained, Cacho-Olivares said she was the victim of “political persecution.” Her lawyer said she had been arrested “to prevent her from continuing to criticise the Arroyo government.”

The newspaper based its report on recordings of conversations between Villaraza and executives of a German company involved in the construction of a new terminal of the Manila international airport. Villaraza was reported to have demanded US$20 million dollars in exchange for assisting the company to obtain the contract. President Arroyo’s husband, Jose Miguel, was not named, but there is reason to suspect that he was also implicated in the scandal.

The is the first time a newspaper editor has been arrested since democracy was restored in 1986. “The Daily Tribune” is a national daily launched in 1999. The editor and her newspaper support former President Joseph Estrada, who is currently in prison.

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