A reporter in Pampanga, a province 80km north of Manila, was arrested on 19 December 2006 for libel, according to a report from the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, a SEAPA founding member.
Dante Fabian, a senior reporter for Sun.Star Pampanga, was arrested in Pulung, a village in the Maragul district, Angeles City, Pampanga, on a libel complaint filed on 3 August by Pampanga Representative Francis Nepomuceno. Fabian posted bail the same day he was arrested after his colleagues in the Pampanga Press Club raised the P30,000 (approx. US$600) required for his release.
Libel is a criminal offence in the Philippines. Of late, many officials, including Jose Miguel Arroyo, the husband of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, have used libel against journalists whose reporting they resent.
Nepomuceno sued Fabian over three stories on allegedly missing P19 million (approx. US$368, 900) worth of water pipes and hand pumps he purchased through the Congressional Priority Development Assistance Fund – or “the pork barrel fund”, as commonly known.
Nepomuceno described Fabian’s articles as a form of “malicious reporting”.
Fabian, a news reporter for Sun.Star since 1995, insisted that he was just doing his job.
“I don’t have any reason or personal motive to go against him (Nepomuceno). I just report what I see,” he said.
In a report by the TV network GMANEWS, Nepomuceno denied the article’s allegations and said that the pipes had all been accounted for and were already being distributed.
Fabian will be arraigned on 25 January 2007.