Filipino journalists

Court dismisses cyber libel charges against Nordis editor, reporter

Sherwin de Vera
Court dismisses cyber libel charges against Nordis editor, reporter

TRUTH-TELLERS. Kimberlie Quitasol and Khim Abalos of the Northern Dispatch consult with their lawyer during the October 23, 2020 arraignment of the case at the Baguio Regional Trial Court.

Sherwin De Vera

Nordis, NUJP welcome ruling and urge officials to 'stop blaming the media whenever they receive flak for their irresponsible statements'

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines — The La Trinidad Regional Trial Court dismissed the cyber libel charges filed by a former Cordillera police chief against an editor and a reporter of Baguio-based alternative media outfit, Northern Dispatch (Nordis). 

In a 30-page decision penned on April 22 and released on May 12, Branch 63 Judge Jennifer Humiding said the prosecution failed to prove the cyber libel allegations against Nordis editor-in-chief Kimberlie Quitasol and volunteer correspondent Khim Abalos. 

“After going over the evidence, the court finds that the evidence thus far adduced by the prosecution is insufficient to establish the offense of cyberlibel,” the decision said. 

Former Cordillera Police Regional Office Director Brigadier General Rwin Pagkalinawan accused Quitasol and Abalos of purposely omitting the words “kapag nanlaban (if they fight back)” when they reported the public condemnation of his statement to deploy snipers to shoot communists organizing protests during the early part of the pandemic. 

“The imputation of a statement he actually made, also in manner bearing the same import with the one made by Jonathan Llanes of SunStar which bears his stamp of approval – dismisses actual malice and knowledge of any falsehood and which the truth of the statement made was actually established by the evidence and during trial,” the court order added. 

In separate statements, Nordis and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) welcomed the dismissal of the case. 

“The court’s decision affirms our commitment to truthful reporting and the public good,” the statement said. 

“We reiterate our call to public officials to be more circumspect in their declarations and stop blaming the media whenever they receive flak for their irresponsible statements,” the outfit added. 

NUJP commended its colleagues for standing their ground against harassment complaints meant to silence the press. 

NUJP also commended Judge Humiding for “upholding press freedom and expression.”  

“The decision is like a balm to the wound, especially in these trying times,” the NUJP added.

Nordis and NUJP reiterated their long-standing campaign to decriminalize libel. – Rappler.com

Sherwin De Vera is a Luzon-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.