Tangub cops arrest Cagayan de Oro journalists for 18-year-old libel suit

Tangub City police on Tuesday, July 6, served an arrest warrant against Rappler's Mindanao bureau coordinator and another journalist in Cagayan de Oro City in connection with a P5-million libel case filed against them 18 years ago.

The journalists, Herbie Gomez of Rappler and Joey Nacalaban of Mindanao Gold Star Daily, handed themselves over to the police who searched for them in Cagayan de Oro the entire morning.

It was the second time for the two journalists to be arrested since May 2003 for the same libel case filed by Tangub City Mayor Jennifer Tan who was also the city's chief executive then.

Their second arrest on Tuesday was based on a May 27, 2005 warrant issued by Judge Sylvia Machacon, who, incidentally, recommended the filing of the case against the journalists two years earlier when she was the city prosecutor of Tangub.

Gomez served as editor-in-chief of the newspaper when he, Nacalaban, and another respondent, Marife Dorona, wrote a news report about a trip for Region 10 officials shouldered by independent power producer STEAG State Power Incorporated that was undertaking a coal-fired power plant project in Misamis Oriental at that time.

Dorona, then a Gold Star correspondent in Misamis Occidental, is now living in Manila.

Mayor Tan has denied she was part of the delegation to Germany, and sued the journalists despite subsequent Gold Star reports that carried her and the then Misamis Occidental Governor Loreto Ocampos's denials.

Ruchelle Bangis, general manager of the Mindanao Gold Star Daily Corporation, said the Tangub police went to the media company late in the morning to wait for the journalists to arrive, and told them they would not leave until they found the two.

Gomez has stopped reporting for work at Gold Star since he became Rappler Mindanao bureau coordinator in June while Nacalaban has been doing mostly fieldwork as a correspondent most of the time.

"The policemen said the two will be in the list of the 'most wanted' starting tomorrow unless they turned themselves in," Bangis said.

Gomez and Nacalaban yielded to the Tangub police in the afternoon shortly after they were informed that they were being sought. The journalists were booked at the Agora police station in Lapasan before they were brought to Cagayan de Oro's Hall of Justice to post bail. – Rappler.com