Town mayor sues broadcaster for libel

CMFR/PHILIPPINES–The mayor of a town in Cagayan province filed a libel complaint last March against a radio broadcaster for a report on the alleged “kidnapping” of an anti-mining advocate. The case was filed at the Aparri Provincial Prosecutor’s Office. Cagayan is a province approximately 406 kilometers north of Manila.

The libel complaint by Lal-lo town mayor Florante Pascual against broadcaster Rogelio Sending Jr., radio anchor and assistant station manager of dzGR Bombo Radyo in Tuguegarao City, was based on the latter’s 19 January 2012 commentary on an anti-mining rally in Lal-lo town, Cagayan on 18 January 2012.

Pascual claimed that Sending blamed him for the alleged abduction of an anti-mining resident by claiming in his program “Bombo Hanay Big Time” that the abductors were connected to the Lal-lo government.

“Considering my pro-stance in responsible mining, Mr. Sending’s deliberate and malicious remarks is intended to induce the listeners of his program that I am doing or will do everything, whether legal or not, just for mining activities to go on in Lal-lo and in the province of Cagayan and would be willing to silence those who are against it by any means,” Pascual said in his complaint.

The Mayor also said that on 20 January 2012, he saw Sending during a public hearing and decided to confront the broadcaster about his report. Sending allegedly said to Pascual “Wala na yun mayor, ok na. Yung tao umuwi lang pala (It’s ok now. It turns out that the man just went home).”

The broadcaster, however, denied mentioning any “kidnapping” incident during his 19 January 2012 program. Sending said that in his program he interviewed Isabelo Adviento, leader of a farmers’ group in Cagayan, during his 19 January 2012. It was Adviento who claimed that a certain town employee named Felix Soria had forced anti-mining advocate Renator Dela Cruz to go home and stop participating in the 18 January 2012 prayer rally against black-sand mining in Lal-lo.

(Last 4 April 2012, Adviento confirmed that he was indeed interviewed by Sending last 19 January 2012 about mining issues in Cagayan. Adviento said they did discuss how a local government employee had threatened Dela Cruz to stop him from participating in anti-mining rallies because the mayor resented it.)

Sending also denied apologizing to the mayor last 20 January 2012. “Hindi po ako nag-apologize sa kanya. Hindi po talaga iyon ang sinabi ko. Pinaliwanag ko po sa kanya ‘yung talagang nangyari (sa programa). Pinili niya lang po ‘yung sinabi ko na nilagay niya sa affidavit niya (I didn’t apologize to him. It was not what I really said. I explained to him what really happened. He included in his affidavit only what suited him),” Sending said.

Libel is a criminal offense in the Philippines. A UN Human Rights Committee resolution has declared the Philippine libel law incompatible with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.