Release Adonis, decriminalize libel now

Statement
May 27, 2008

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines expresses grave concern over the continued incarceration of broadcaster Alexander Adonis at the Davao Penal Colony (Dapecol) despite a court order for his release on bail.

Each day that Adonis remains behind bars in defiance of the court order for his release is a grave miscarriage of justice. That this injustice is committed by an officer of the state who is supposed to protect the rights of the citizenry makes it an anomaly.

Judge George Omelio of the Davao RTC Branch 14 issued a release order for Adonis on Monday after he posted a P5,000 bail.

Adonis was convicted on libel charges filed by Speaker Prospero Nograles who the broadcaster had named in a series of commentaries as the man who allegedly ran naked from a Manila hotel after he was caught by his reported paramour’s husband.

Although Adonis was up for discharge on parole in December, he was not released because of a second libel case filed this time by the woman mentioned in his commentaries.

Colleagues of Adonis, who had helped post his P5,000 bail and secure the release order, went to Dapecol to fetch him on Monday but were told by Superintendent Benjo Tesoro, Dapecol’s warden, that the broadcaster could not be freed until “higher correctional authorities” are informed.

We call on Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez and on Bureau of Corrections Director Oscar Calderon – the “higher correctional authorities” Tesoro invoked – to immediately right this wrong that has deprived our colleague of his constitutionally guaranteed liberty.

We also demand that Gonzalez review and revise or revoke any rules such as those invoked by Tesoro that allow, wittingly or unwittingly, the commission of injustice because of bureaucratic red tape.

We will support the petition of habeas corpus to be filed by Adonis’ lawyer, Harry Roque, before the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

While we welcome the granting of bail to Adonis and his impending release, the NUJP maintains its call for the decriminalization of libel.

We again challenge Congress to correct a generations-old injustice, not only on the Philippine press but on the people as a whole, and do away with criminal libel foisted on us by colonizers to silence dissent and which has continued to be used as a weapon by powerful wrongdoers to muzzle the press. #

References:
Jose Torres Jr., Chair
Rowena Paraan, Secretary-General

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