By Marlon Ramos, Jeannette Andrade
Last updated 06:25am (Mla time) 06/22/2007
MANILA, Philippines -- A former Philippine Daily Inquirer correspondent who now works for an Asian media outfit was detained for nine hours Thursday by a Quezon City judge despite having posted P20,000 bail in a libel case filed by a Palawan congressman four years ago.
Jofelle Tesorio, of Puerto Princesa City, was brought to the Quezon City Female Dormitory (QCFD) in Camp Caringal based on a commitment order issued by Judge Maria Theresa Yadao of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court’s Branch 81.
Instead of signing her release order, Yadao directed a sheriff at around 10:30 a.m. to bring Tesorio to the East Avenue Medical Center for a checkup and subsequently to the QCFD, according to Jose Torres, president of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP).
Definitely, press freedom here is not as free as the government touts it to be.
Libel law, according to what scant law I know, presumes the guilt of the suspect. And again, from what scant law I know, the Constitution guarantees the innocence of a suspect until the suspect's guilt is proven beyond reasonable doubt. The burden of proof, thus, lies on the accuser, not on the suspect.
However, from what I understand of the Philippine law on libel, the burden of proof lies on the suspect (the journalist) to prove that he/she had no malice against a public personality when he/she wrote the article in question.
Public officials here, especially the elective ones, have this illusion of being honorable, that when a journalist writes about their misdeeds, they rush to the courts and cry about their honor being besmirched, about their lives being destroyed, their honor in disrepair (as if they had honorable lives in the first place), and promptly file libel charges against the hapless journalist (who was just doing his/her job in the first place).
If we are to mature as a sovereign state, we must scrap primitive and retrogressive laws such as the libel law. There is no way for this country to really realize its potential if we are to allow the curtailment of our rights, of our basic right to free speech.