July 10, 2012
January of this year when Outcrop, the official student publication of UP Baguio and member of the College Editor’s Guild of the Philippines, received a notice from the Regional Trial Court (RTC) prosecutor indicating its decision to continue the libel case filed by a professor of UP Baguio to Jesusa Paquibot as Editor-in-Chief of Outcrop. This was after the earlier charge of libel was dismissed on November 2011 by a different prosecutor.
On January 19, 2012, Outcrop filed cash bond to recall or set aside the warrant of arrest. The original amount of ten thousand was reduced to five thousand five hundred after a motion to reduce bail was made. The amount of money raised and used for bail was garnered overnight through donations from the UP Baguio students, Outcrop alumni and others.
On February 07, 2012, in the scheduled arraignment, the respondent pleaded not guilty.
On March 07, 2012, the pre-trial was held.
On March 08 and 09, 2012, the defense requested the Court for a mediation process with the complainant. While the process went on, the complainant and the respondent were not able to settle the terms of mediation. The complainant wished that the respondent apologizes for the lampoon article it approved of publishing and which intends to defame her. The respondent and her legal advisers disagreed to these terms for they find it to be self-incriminating and similar to a guilty plea.
With the failure of the mediation process to settle the case, the initial trial was set on April 23 where the Professor testified as the private offended party.
On May 15 and 16, 2012, Professor Anna Christie, now Dean of the College of Arts and Communication of UP Baguio, testified as a witness.
On May 22 Joshua Anne Therese Tan, a Communication student at UP Baguio testified as a witness. The next day, May 23, Ms. Tan was cross-examined by the defense then the side of the private complainant presented another witness, Nelly Rae Castro, also a Communication student at UP Baguio.
On June 19, Amer Amor, an instructor at UP Baguio was presented as the last witness of the private complainant. The side of the private complainant was given ten days to a summation of its evidences to which the defense will have seven days afterwards to make comments on.
As of now, the defense plans to return the case to the Judicial Dispute Resolution where again it will try to settle the case with the complainant by agreeing on the terms of the public letter. Ms. Paquibot of Outcrop and CEGP together with her legal advisers and confreres are open to apologizing to the Professor but only for the distress the lampoon article caused her and nothing else.
In relation to this, CEGP Baguio-Benguet conducted a Round Table Discussion on Libel last June 29 at the Session Hall of the Baguio City Hall. Rowena Paraan of the National Union of Journalist of the Philippines served as the main speaker. CEGP and NUJP Baguio-Benguet also relayed the situation of the campus press in the region and the synthesis respectively. Members of CEGP Baguio-Benguet and the local media (Bandila, Northern Dispatch, Sunstar Baguio, Bombo Radyo) also participated.
CEGP Baguio-Benguet is still calling for support statements from its member publications in the region and other members of the Guild nationwide. It also seeks the support of the mainstream media which is likewise prone to the threats of powerplay in the current system where libel is only one manifestation. It unites with the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines in its call to Decriminalize Libel and prevent criminal libel from depriving not only the right of media practitioners to freedom of expression but more importantly, the right to information of the public.
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