Journalist arrested, jailed on libel charge

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines — Police have arrested a journalist here in connection with a libel suit filed against him by a rape suspect four years ago.

Police Officer 3 Danilo Abejuela, warrant officer of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) here, said Julito Ucab was arrested Tuesday on the strength of a warrant issued by the Butuan City Regional Trial Court.

Abejuela said Ucab, a former radio commentator and program manager of dxBC in Butuan City who now works freelance in this city, was immediately transferred to the Butuan City jail after his arrest.

“He was arrested based on an alias warrant, which means he cannot post bail. The court decided to issue an alias warrant to arrest him because he failed to attend court hearings,” he said.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of INQUIRER.net) learned that the case was filed against Ucab by a former employee of the Butuan City government after he aired the complaints of the alleged rape victim.

Journalists here said Ucab’s arrest was another “manifestation of the brutality of the criminal aspect of the libel law.”

Uriel Quilinging, immediate past president of the Cagayan de Oro Press Club (COPC), said the jailing of Ucab highlighted again the need to pass pending bills in Congress to decriminalize libel.

“In other countries, libel is not treated as a criminal case, but just a civil case. It’s about time our congressmen and senators passed a law that will protect media people from being jailed like a criminal on account of his or her profession,” Quilinging said.

The Supreme Court on Friday issued a circular that urges judges to impose fines instead of jail time for libel convictions. (Ma. Cecilia Rodriguez/Inquirer Mindanao)

(Media Safety Office)

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