Lawyers, NUJP, CMFR file writ of habeas corpus at the Supreme Court for Adonis

PRESS RELEASE (With photo)

MAY 30, 2008

A petition for the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus was filed today at the Supreme Court for jailed Davao broadcaster, Alexander “Lex” Adonis.

This, after the jail warden of the Davao Prisons and Penal Farm, formerly known as the Davao Penal Colony or Dapecol, refused to release him in spite of a court order.

Adonis has been detained at the said prison facility for more than a year now for libel which was filed against him by Davao Congressman and now House Speaker Prospero Nograles. According to court records, Adonis identified him in his radio commentaries as the man seen running naked at a Manila Hotel.

Lawyers Harry Roque and Rommel Bagares, who led the filing at the Supreme Court around 11:30 this morning, cited that since all efforts available at law have been exhausted, Adonis has no other “plain, speedy and adequate remedy  to protect is personal rights” other than this legal action.

On Monday afternoon, Judge George Omelio of the Regional Trial Court Branch 14 in Davao City issued an order directing the Davao Penal Colony chief to release Adonis after posting a P5,000 bail.

Davao journalists immediately trooped to the Dapecol that same afternoon bringing with them the court order in the hope of fetching Adonis. But Dapecol chief Venancio Tesoro refused to release Adonis, citing a pending case.

Journalists pointed out that the court order they were bringing that day was on that pending case which Tesoro mentioned.  The case was filed by Jeanette Leuterio which sprung from the same case filed by Nograles against Adonis.

Still, Tesoro refused, saying that he would have to refer the matter first to the “higher authority.”

The Dapecol is under the Bureau of Corrections headed by Director Oscar Calderon and is a line agency under the Department of Justice.

The petition at the Supreme Court this morning was co-signed by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, through Chairperson Jose Torres and the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), through the Executive Director Melinda Quintos-De Jesus.

Named respondent is Supt. Venancio Tesoro, Director of the Davao Prisons and Penal Farm.

The petition cited that Adonis is “actually restrained of his liberty at the Dapecol by Supt. Tesoro without any valid legal reason.”

“Supt. Tesoro cannot arrogate unto himself the power to unilaterally declare that there is no legal ground to release Adonis from detention,” the petition cited.

It further said that Tesoro “cannot substitute his judgment for that of the Board of Pardons and Parole.”

The Board of Pardons and Parole issued a discharge order on Adonis dated December 11, 2007 on his imprisonment on the case filed by Speaker Nograles.

Furthermore, the petition cited that since such order has not been revoked nor amended, “it remains a beneficial grant that Adonis is entitled to enjoy.”

Other grounds for seeking the writ being invoked in the petition are the Supreme Court Circular No. 08-2008 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The Supreme Court Circular seeks fines, instead of imprisonment for libel, while the ICCPR, which the Philippines is signatory, seeks protection of freedom of expression.

Atty. Harry Roque stressed that the petition was filed “for and in behalf of a functioning media in a democracy.”

Roque said that unless libel in the country is decriminalized, “the plight of Adonis will happen again and is likely to be used again, against press freedom.”

The NUJP Davao pledges to continue rallying behind Adonis since it considers the fight for Adonis as the fight to decriminalize libel in the country.

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