Journalist on Internet libel: 'There is no crime where there is no law'
GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines - Journalist Edwin Espejo, who is based here, has submitted his counter-affidavit to refute the P18-M libel suit filed against him by car dealer Mohammad "Bong" Aquia, a friend of Sarangani Rep Manny Pacquiao.
In his counter-affidavit, Espejo raised 4 points in assailing the libel raps of Aquia.
Rommel Bagares, executive director of Center for International Law and Espejo's lawyer, said there is no statute governing libel in the Internet.
“It is a basic principle of criminal law that there is no crime where there is no law,” the reporter's legal counsel said.
His lawyer argued that the “alleged libelous remarks attributed to respondent are not malicious in fact because in the very first place they fall under the exception of qualified privileged communication because the remarks merely restate or report the pronouncements of the Highway Patrol Group about complainant's alleged involvement in a car syndicate.”
Aquia’s alleged links to a carnap syndicate generated publicity after he was reported to have “sought refuge” in the house of Pacquiao at a time when he was “placed under surveillance” by the police for allegedly selling a stolen Starex van to a village councilor in General Santos City.
Bagares said Aquia never denied in his libel complaint that he was seen in Pacquaio’s house.
Pacquiao however has denied harboring Aquia as a “fugitive from justice.”
Where's Pacman's case?
The eight-division world boxing champion has admitted to being friends with Aquia and said he knew Aquia as a buy and sell dealer of second-hand cars. But he also said it is Aquia’s lookout if the cars the latter sold are stolen.
Pacquiao was also reported to have filed a separate libel case against Espejo because the story reportedly tarnished his image as a boxing icon and commercial endorser.
Espejo’s lawyer however said his client has not received any summons related to Pacquiao’s libel complaint.
"Our information is that Rep Pacquiao filed his complaint together with Mr Aquia," Bagares said. "In any case we reiterate our earlier call on Rep Pacquiao to take this opportunity to work with journalists in pressing for the decriminalization of libel in the country."