June 5, 2008
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines views with concern the conviction of Ninez Cacho-Olivares, publisher of The Daily Tribune, on libel charges filed by the Villaraza Cruz Marcelo & Angcanco Law Firm.
Judge Winlove Dumayas of the Regional Trial Court Branch 59 sentenced Olivares to a jail term of from six months to two years, 10 months and 40 days, and for her to pay more than P5 million in damages.
Even as the NUJP reserves its comment on the merits of the case, we want to point out that the case once again highlights the urgency of decriminalizing and improving our antiquated libel law.
Two points give us cause to worry:
First, the jail sentence imposed by Judge Dumayas apparently goes against the grain of the‘s earlier suggestion for judges to prefer fines over prison terms for libel.
Second, the plan of the Villaraza Cruz Marcelo & Angcanco law firm to pursue 47 more libel charges against Olivares smacks of vindictiveness that, unfortunately, the antiquated libel law allows.
We call on Congress to match its declarations of respect for press freedom and freedom of expression with action by working on the speedy passage of pending bills decriminalizing libel.
Jose Torres Jr., Chairperson
Rowena Paraan, Secretary-General
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