Philippine journalists, sued by president’s husband, post bail after being issued arrest warrants

alerts-button.jpgJournalists Ramon, Erwin, and Raffy Tulfo posted a P10, 000 (approx. US$200) bail bond each at the Quezon City Regional Trial court branch 83 after a judge issued warrants for their arrest last 26 January 2007, according to a release from the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, a SEAPA founding member.

Libel is a criminal offense in the Philippines.

The three journalists are brothers. Raffy and Erwin are in broadcasting, while Ramon is primarily a print columnist. All three had a TV program on a government-sequestered station. The program was cancelled in August last year.

Raffy and Ramon posted bail on 29 January, while Erwin did so on 26 January.

Arrest warrants were issued by Judge Ralph Lee on 26 January after the case was raffled to his court and the Quezon City prosecutor’s office recommended the filing of charges on the same day. Quezon City is part of Metro Manila, the national capital region of the Philippines.

Jose Miguel Arroyo, the husband of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, filed the libel complaint after the Tulfo brothers accused him in a press conference on 2 August 2006 of having a hand in the cancellation of their program “Isumbong Mo (Report it), Tulfo Brothers” over RPN 9, one of two government-sequestered stations in the Philippines.

The brothers said in the press conference that Arroyo had the program cancelled because of their exposés on the alleged smuggling activities of Vicky Toh and her brother Tomas Toh, who are alleged to have links with Arroyo.

“I don’t like to be lenient anymore because what they’re doing is damaging,” Arroyo said when he filed charges against the Tulfos. Assistant City Prosecutor Juan Rodulfo recommended the filing of charges after finding “probable cause” in Arroyo’s complaint.

“The statements made in that pres conference cannot be considered as privileged – hence, impelled only by criminal intent in publishing it, the three respondents can be properly (charged) with the crime of libel,” Rodulfo said in a seven-page resolution.

Ramon, who just arrived from Thailand on 27 January afternoon, however, said that nothing they said in the press conference was libelous. “This is just harassment. He is using his power to deter and intimidate us in our work as journalists,” Ramon said, referring to Arroyo.

The Tulfos will be arraigned on 28 February at 8:30 a.m. (local time).

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