The online news portal of TV5
MANILA, Philippines -- An P18-million libel suit filed against a journalist in General Santos City has been dismissed by the city prosecutor’s office.
The resolution of Prosecutor Jose Blanza Jr. said the complainant, Mohamad “Bong” Aquia, former head of the Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group in Central Mindanao, had failed to present “convincing proof” of malice against Edwin Espejo, who writes for several media outfits, including Asian Correspondent, NewsBreak and MindaNews.
However, a separate P75-million libel case filed against Espejo on similar circumstances by boxing champion and Sarangani Representative Manny Pacquiao remains pending.
Media organizations have called on Pacquiao to drop the charges.
Both cases stem from articles Espejo wrote based on statements of the police Highway Patrol Group alleging that Aquia hid in Pacquiao’s mansion in General Santos City to evade arrest for carjacking.
In his eight-page resolution dated June 29, Blanza wrote: “There is no convincing proof presented by complainant showing that respondent was actuated by the desire to impeach his integrity and reputation.”
He added that Espejo’s defense that he merely wrote on the HPG’s pronouncements was enough ground to dismiss the case.
Espejo’s lawyers, Harry Roque and Romel Bagares of the Center for International Law, earlier argued for the dismissal of Aquia’s suit saying:
“The dismissal of the libel case further promotes freedom of expression in the Philippines,” Roque, who chairs CenterLaw, said. “Kudos to the National Prosecution Service for standing ever vigilant in defending freedom of expression.”