Supreme Court affirms jail sentence vs Drilon critic in libel case
MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) has affirmed the jail sentence of journalist Manuel "Boy" Mejorada, a critic of Senator Franklin Drilon who was convicted of libel.
"The Court of Appeals (CA) sufficiently outlined the circumstances which warranted the imprisonment," the Supreme Court 2nd Division said in a notice sent to Drilon, a copy of which his office sent to media on Wednesday, August 7.
The CA previously upheld a trial court ruling sentencing Mejorada to 2 to 4 years in prison over Facebook and blog posts accusing Drilon of alleged overpricing and other irregularities in various projects in Iloilo, his hometown.
Mejorada filed in October 2014 complaints against Drilon before the Office of the Ombudsman, claiming that the Iloilo Convention Center was overpriced. But when asked to appear in the Senate and present evidence to back his allegation, he said he had nothing to show.
The CA finalized its decision on March 7, which found Mejorada guilty of 4 counts of libel over 4 separate posts. Mejorada appealed the ruling before the High Court.
"As correctly ruled by the CA, the elements of libel were sufficiently established by the prosecution. It was not necessary to establish that the publication was motivated by any malice since the articles were not privileged communication or fair comments; thus, malice is presumed," the SC said.
The High Court added, "The accusatory character of the subject articles, as well as petitioner's failure to present any proof that the statements were based on established and documented facts, negates petitioner's claim that the articles were made in good faith."
Jail time for libel
Philippine courts, by virtue of Administrative Circular No. 08-08, generally prefer imposing fines over jail sentences in libel cases.
However, in Mejorada's case, the SC said it "did not remove the discretion of the trial courts to impose imprisonment if, under the circumstances, a fine was insufficient to meet the demands of substantial justice or would depreciate the seriousness of the offense."
In July this year, Drilon filed a separate complaint of cyber libel against Mejorada over the latter's videos posted on Youtube accusing Drilon of the same alleged cases of corruption in Iloilo projects. – Rappler.com