Another broadcaster facing libel charges was arrested on 18 April 2011 in Iligan City, Lanao del Norte. Lanao del Norte is a province approximately 792 kilometers south of Manila.
Police arrested at around 11 a.m. (local time) broadcaster Albert Loyola of radio station dxRJ on the strength of a warrant issued by the Branch 3 of the Regional Trial Court of Iligan City in connection with one of two libel cases filed by local councilor Chonilo Ruiz.
Iligan City RTC Branch 5, which oversees the other libel case filed by Ruiz, has yet to issue a warrant of arrest. Loyola’s lawyer, Ver Quimco, said the councilor also filed a civil defamation case against Loyola and dxRJ.
The libel cases stemmed from Loyola’s report on the alleged misappropriation of funds by the local city council. In 2010, Loyola allegedly called councilor Chonilo Ruiz a “liar” after the latter said he used a P14-million committee services budget for the snacks of those who attended the council’s committee hearings. Quimco told the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility that Loyola never had any snack when he attended these committee hearings.
Loyola was released only on 19 April despite posting bail of P10,000.00 (approximately USD232) on 18 April.
The newspaper “Philippine Daily Inquirer” quoted Loyola as saying that “I am determined to face the cases filed by Councilor Ruiz so that the truth will come out.”
Loyola’s media colleagues say the case is meant to harass the broadcaster since, prior to the filing of the libel cases, Councilor Ruiz had physically attacked the broadcaster.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines-Iligan City chapter reported that Ruiz mauled Loyola inside the dxRJ radio booth in January 2010. In a statement dated 10 January 2010 Loyola told NUJP that the councilor was irked by his saying that Ruiz lied about using part of his budget for committee services “(to serve) meals during public hearings.”
Loyola filed a frustrated homicide case against Ruiz in connection with the January 2010 incident. Lawyer Quimco said the frustrated homicide case is still pending.
Libel, a criminal offense in the Philippines, has been used by government officials and other powerful personalities to harass media practitioners. In 2006, several journalists and media organizations filed a P12.5 million class suit against then presidential spouse Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo for abusing his right to sue. Arroyo had filed from 2003 to 2006 libel charges against more than 40 journalists critical of him and his wife’s administration.
CMFR (http://www.cmfr-phil.org) is a SEAPA founding member based in Manila, the Philippines, working to promote ethical journalism and to protect press freedom.