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Mon Tulfo, Inquirer editors detained after INC libel case prospers

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Police detained for booking procedures columnist Ramon Tulfo and top editors of broadsheet Philippine Daily Inquirer on Monday, May 28, after a libel complaint by the Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) was filed in court.

According to a late night Facebook post by Tulfo, he was with Inquirer’s executive editor Jose Ma. Nolasco, opinion editor Rosario Garcellano, and associate editor for Page 1 operations Pergentino Bandayrel Jr.

"While our bail bonds were being processed, we were fingerprinted like all ordinary accused. Like ordinary crime suspects, our mug shots were also taken," Tulfo recalled.

"It was the first time the Inquirer editors were placed in such a tight – nay, humiliating – situation," he added.

They were arrested at 1 pm along Yakal Street in Barangay San Antonio Makati City, according to the police spot report obtained by Rappler.

Why were they detained? Two complaints filed by the INC sent them to detention, after Tulfo took a jab against the powerful religious group in March 2017 for allegedly stockpiling firearms inside their confidential compound.

"By the way, why does the INC, which preaches love, maintain a large armory and a private army?" Tulfo wrote on March 7, 2017.

This triggered, Tulfo said, around 90 cases to be filed by the group's members all over the country. (READ: Masked men threaten media covering Iglesia conflict)

By his count, most have been dismissed, but 3 complaints managed to be forwarded to a court for trial: one each in Tagum, Davao del Norte; Dasmarinas, Cavite; and Bacoor, Cavite.

The Bacoor case led to the arrest warrants of Tulfo, Nolasco, and Bandayrel. The Dasmariñas case, meanwhile, produced arrest warrants against Tulfo, Nolasco, and Garcellano.

Both cases set a P10,000 bail for each of the accused.

It is unclear which of the three complaints led to Tulfo and the editors' booking procedures.

Harassment? Tulfo and the broadsheet's editors do not expect Monday's detention to be the last, as there remain complaints that are still awaiting prosecutors' verdicts.

The Inquirer had requested former Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to consolidate the 3 charges into one at the DOJ main office along Padre Faura in Manila. Aguirre denied the newspaper's appeal.

"With those three cases breaking through the fiscal’s office, more libel cases for the same column item are expected to be filed in court in other places," Tulfo said. – Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

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