GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – Chief City Prosecutor Edilberto Jamora said he took cognizance of the libel complaint filed by Rep Manny Pacquiao against journalist Edwin Espejo but refused to act on it.
Jamora said the Revised Penal Code does not include libel in the Internet but nevertheless also explained that Pacquiao may file his complaint against Espejo in Quezon City where the lawmaker holds office. (Espejo is a contributor of Rappler – Eds)
He said determining the place of publication of a libelous article is an important element for the case to prosper. Pacquiao is a member of the House of Representative who holds office at the Batasang Pambansa Bldg in Quezon city.
Jamora, an uncle of Pacquiao’s wife Jinkee, said he instead forwarded the complaint of Pacquiao to the national prosecution office for appropriate action.
The city chief prosecutor however admitted that he has repeatedly advised Pacquiao to refrain from filing libel cases against members of the press.
“Once you are a public official, you are fair game to critical coverage,” Jamora told reporters before the start of a media forum on decriminalizing libel. Jamora was invited as speaker along with Philippine Press Institute trustee Jesus Dureza and Prima Quinsayas, lawyer of the 18 families of the Ampatuan massacre victims.
In March, Pacquiao filed a multi-million peso libel suit following a report from Espejo that a dealer of a stolen car had reportedly sought refuge in the congressman’s mansion in this city.
Pacquiao denied harboring the said used car dealer.
Espejo said despite wide reports of the Pacquiao libel complaint, he has yet to receive a copy of the said information sheet.
Reports earlier Pacquiao sued Espejo for P75-M in total damages, but Jamora said the complaint was for P15-M.
Although Jamora declined to issue a ruling on the complaint of Pacquiao, he also told Espejo that his case could be unique in that it would enhance the country’s jurisprudence on libel law.
Jamora however said he wants libel law to be “enhanced” rather than stricken off from the Revised Penal Code.
But Espejo, city chair of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines chapter here, pushed for the decriminalization of libel, citing a recent United Nations Committee on Human Rights committee report which urged the Philippine government to expunge criminal liability in libel as it is “incompatible with Article 19, paragraph 3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” or freedom of expression.
The Philippines is a signatory to the covenant. – Rappler.com