The publisher and two columnists of “The Daily Tribune” newspaper in the Philippines have been charged with incitement to sedition over articles critical of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
On 14 February 2007, the Department of Justice (DOJ) charged publisher Ninez Cacho-Olivares and columnists Ramon Señeres and Herman Tiu-Laurel under Article 142 of the Revised Penal Code at the Manila Metropolitan Trial Court.
DOJ Senior State Prosecutor Philip Kimpo alleged that the articles tend to “lead or stir up the people against the lawful authorities, namely, the president of the Philippines, and disturb the peace of the community”, reports local broadcaster GMANews.TV.
Kimpo also claimed that “the accused (have) continuously maligned and undermined the present administration” and government institutions and have even “sullied the reputation and integrity of the institution(s) and compromised the moral ascendancy of its members”.
In contention were three articles by Olivarez on 11 December 2005, 5 January 2006, and 13 January 2006, that, among others, alleged corruption and unprofessionalism in the military, claimed the Supreme Court to be untrustworthy, and called Arroyo a “bogus president” who had made a mockery of the law and manipulated government agencies to consolidate her position.
Seneres’ 6 December 2005 column repeated the same sentiments while his 26 January 2006 column claimed that the people believed it was right to reject Arroyo for the many wrongs she had committed.
As for Laurel, his 23 January 2006 column charged, among others, that the president had cheated in the elections.
The DOJ began investigating Olivarez, Seneres and Laurel after police raided and confiscated back issues of “The Daily Tribune” from its Manila offices at 12:00 p.m. (local time) on 24 February 2006. The raid was carried out on orders of the Presidential Proclamation 1017 issued by President Arroyo to clamp down an alleged destabilisation plot by the opposition and disgruntled military officers. The Supreme Court has since ruled that the raid was in violation of the Philippine Constitution which guarantees freedom of expression and of the press.