“This is an attack on the rights of Elmer James Bandol and on the freedom of the press.”
LEGAZPI CITY — A correspondent for an online publication was arrested in barangay Poctol, Daraga, Albay, April 15, for a libel case.
Elmer James Bandol, 59, correspondent of BicolToday.com, was arrested by members of the Daraga Municipal Police Office on the basis of a warrant issued by Judge Honesto Villamor of the Regional Trial Court Branch 44, Masbate City on dated July 15, 2012.
Bandol’s libel suit stemmed from his article “314 million pesos losses of Masbate power coop traced to mismanagement – NEA” published by BicolToday.com on December 14, 2011. Eduardo Margallo, former general manager of the Masbate Electric Cooperative (Maselco) filed the charges against Bandol.
In an interview, Bandol said he was not given due process. He said the Masbate prosecutor’s office has recommended the filing of libel charges against him even without preliminary investigation.
“This is a manifestation of pure harassment,” Bandol said.
Bandol said his legal counsel Bartolome Rayco filed a motion for reconsideration, but the prosecution came up with the resolution prompting the issuance of a warrant of arrest. A P10,000 bail bond was recommended for his temporary release.
Online libel not existing yet
BicolToday.com condemned the arrest, saying there is no basis to file a libel case against Bandol.
Republic Act No. 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act, which penalizes online libel, among others, was enacted in September 2012. Several petitions questioning the constitutionality of the law were filed until the high court issued its final ruling on the case in February 2014.
BicolToday.com argued that under the Revised Penal Code, libel is limited to printed publication and broadcast media and does not cover online publications.
Bandol has been a journalist for 36 years. Aside from reporting for BicolToday.com, he also writes for Associated Press and CBCPnews.com as a stringer.
Altermidya, a network of progressive media outfits and practitioners, condemned the harassment against Bandol.
Benjie Oliveros, spokesman of Altermidya, said, “This is an attack on the rights of Elmer James Bandol and on the freedom of the press. This is pure harassment. It shows all the more why freedom-loving Filipinos should fight for the decriminalization of libel and against the enactment of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.”