Journ Classroom

June 21, 2007

Journalist jailed

Filed under: general,News — Luz Rimban @ 4:54 pm

(Jofelle Tesorio was released around 7 pm, after Judge Maria Theresa Yadao signed the order releasing Tesorio from the Camp Karingal, Quezon City jail.)

How ironic that a day after President Gloria Arroyo asked media to rally to her side, another Filipino journalist is hauled off to jail.

Jofelle Tesorio, former editor-in-chief of the award-winning Bandillo ng Palawan, was jailed at Camp Karingal in Quezon City despite having posted bail. Here’s the news alert issued by the National Union of Journalists:

Jofelle Tesorio, a former correspondent of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and editor of Bandillo ng Palawan, now with the Bangkok-based Asia News Network, is presently in jail despite having posted a P20,000 bail at a Quezon City court.

The libel case was filed by former Congressman Vicente Sandoval of Palawan for Tesorio’s article on the Camago-Malampaya Natural Gas Project in Palawan. The article came out in the January 20-26, 2003 issue of Bandillo ng Palawan.

Tesorio posted bail at around 9 a.m. this morning at the Quezon City Hall of Justice, then taken to Camp Karingal, also in Quezon City. She is now at the women’s detention hall.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) reiterates its position that libel, a criminal offense under the country’s Penal Code, should be decriminalized. Journalists should not be thrown behind bars for doing their jobs. And as shown in the countless libel cases filed by politicians against journalists, the libel law has also become a tool to harass media into silence.

Is this how we reward journalists like Jofelle, who toiled in the backwaters of Palawan where so many environmental stories need to be brought to the public’s attention? Apart from the libel and death threats they have to face, community journalists like Jofelle have to put up with low salaries and the problem of scrounging for funds to pay the printers.

In a paper she wrote for the Asian Center for Journalism of the Ateneo de Manila University where she obtained her MA in Journalism, Jofelle wrote about the hardships of putting out a provincial paper:

[Bandillo] has always been struggling to come up with weekly copies because of its limited financial means. It needs to pay the printer long-overdue accounts incurred during the last three years….

The city’s (Puerto Princesa’s) small population does not have a sizeable reading market that can keep newspapers afloat. Bandillo is being sold for P6.00 (US$.12) but the printing cost is about P12.00 ($.24). It is losing in terms of sales. Most of the money local businesses spend on advertising goes to radio stations.

The only reason Bandillo has survived is because of extrajudicial notices. These are court-approved notices that need to be printed before they become legally-binding. To better collect funds, we made it a policy not to release a certificate of publication unless the cost of publication is paid in full. However, it is not all business—Bandillo always gives way to pakiusap (favors) from people who are short of cash needed to pay the court-approved fees.

And because Bandillo is a small newspaper, it has become vulnerable to attacks by powerful people. In the same paper, Jofelle wrote about the libel case that caused her arrest:

In 2003, then Palawan Representative Vicente “Brown” Sandoval became a subject of criticisms from Bandillo because of his positions on various issues such as the shares Palawan is supposed to earn from the Camago-Malampaya Natural Gas Project and other proposed legislations. Sandoval’s position on these issues was considered self-serving because he was seen as protecting his family’s businesses.

To shield himself from further criticisms that would affect his candidacy the following year, Rep. Sandoval filed three counts of libel against Bandillo at the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City. Sandoval sought P75 million ($1.554 million) in damages.

This is when the harassment began. Since the paper didn’t have funds to pay for lawyers, the staff had to draft the counter-affidavit themselves. One charge was dismissed, one was archived and the other is pending in court.

With the help of the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ) and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), the Bandillo staff were able to post bail and secure the services of a pro-bono (free) lawyer who would represent us in Manila.

But cases like libel take a lot of energy, time, money and effort. We had to fly to Manila whenever there was a hearing. On January 27, 2007 (four years after the complaints were filed), Mr. Sandoval agreed to withdraw the criminal case by submitting an Affidavit of Desistance to the court. In exchange, Bandillo published a public apology on its January 29-February 4, 2007 issue. The former congressman also asked for free political advertisements in Bandillo for his campaign this year.

However, this particular case is still pending in court because the judge did not honor the Affidavit of Desistance.

Based on Jofelle’s story, it seems both parties already reached a settlement. Yet, how come the judge did not honor it and still issued a warrant for Jofelle’s arrest?

Yesterday, President Arroyo told media executive wants to leave behind a legacy when she retires from being Chief Executive and asked for their help in doing so. But one thing that journalists will surely remember is the deplorable way they were treated while she was in power.

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3 Comments »

  1. this has nothing to do with the post. gusto ko lang sabihin na:

    aha! nahanap ko na ang blog mo! hehe.

    Comment by jona — September 13, 2007 @ 3:56 pm | Reply

  2. ako rin. reporting in! 🙂

    Comment by remzamora — October 19, 2007 @ 10:18 pm | Reply

  3. Ang galing nyo! Pero ang tagal nyo mahanap ito. Di niyo pa alam yung isa. Hehehe!

    Comment by Luz Rimban — October 24, 2007 @ 6:54 pm | Reply


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