Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Unlikely hero: Alex Adonis and the fight to decriminalize libel

Photo and video credits by Bernard Testa, InterAksyon.com

MANILA, Philippines -- For years, media organizations in the country have been campaigning for the decriminalization of libel, saying the existing law, which dates back to the American colonial period and was used to curtail dissent, continues to be used with impunity by those in power more to muzzle press freedom than to seek redress against journalistic abuse.
Recently, what could be their biggest breakthrough came when the United Nations Human Rights Committee deemed the country’s criminal libel law "incompatible" with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil Political Rights, which protects the right to free expression and opinion.
The Philippines has ratified the Covenant. Thus, while the UNHRC resolution may not be legally binding, it is expected to put pressure on the government to push for the decriminalization of libel.
For this development, Filipino journalists owe a debt to one colleague who, ironically, was forced to give up more than two years of his life.
It all started when Alex Adonis, a broadcaster in Davao City, was found guilty of libel in a suit filed against him by then Speaker Prospero Nograles and sentenced to four years in jail.

Atty. Harry Roque Photo by Bernard Testa, InterAksyon.com
Given how powerful his accuser was, Adonis said the case was lopsided from the start. In the middle of the trial, his counsel suddenly withdrew, leaving him with no representation.
Adonis was no stranger to the risks of the trade, having had his share of near-death experiences.
But nothing, he said, prepared him for jail.
"Sa loob ng Davao Penal Colony, halos mawalan ako ng pag-asa. Hindi ko inaasahan na darating ako sa lugar na iyon (Inside the Davao Penal Colony, I almost lost all hope. I never dreamed I would end up in a place like that)," he recalled.
In jail, he met the toughest characters: hired killers, murderers, gambling lords.
"Hindi natin maiwasan na kapag nasa kulungan ka, sa lugar na kung saan estranghero ka, nasa loob mo ang takot ... lahat ng uri ng mga hardened criminal kasama mo tapos libel lang ang kaso mo (It is unavoidable when you are in jail, where you are a stranger, you carry your fear in you … you are with all sorts of hardened criminals and you are in there just for libel)," he said.
But Adonis was eventually released on parole after serving more than half his sentence.
Soon after he got out, lawyer Harry Roque of the UP Law Center helped Adonis and filed a case with the UNHRC in 2008 questioning the Philippines’ libel law.
In October last year, the UN body issued it verdict. It also decreed that the government compensate Adonis for the time he spent behind bars.
However, for the broadcaster from Davao, compensation is secondary.
“Hindi naman tayo masyadong humihingi. Ang sa akin lang ay ma-vindicate ako. Kasi by the time that I was convicted, masyadong na-turn down ang aking pagkatao na lumalabas na gumagawa-gawa lang ako ng istorya. Hindi naman sana magagawa ‘yung kuwento kung walang nangyaring aksyon. Ika nga, walang apoy na lalabas kung walang nagniningas (I am not asking for much. All I want is vindication. Because by the time I was convicted, my reputation had been so damaged that I was being portrayed as someone who invented his stories. But that story would not have come out if nothing had happened. Like they say, where there is smoke, there is fire)," he said.
He is also urging the Aquino administration to bring the libel law up to international standards.
"Alalahanin ninyo na ang inyong ama ay naging katulad din namin ng hanapbuhay (Please remember your father was once one of us)," he said, addressing President Benigno Aquino III, whose father, former Senator Benigno Aquino Jr., used to be a journalist.
For Roque, the UNHRC decision spells "a big win for the freedom of expression."
"Ito ang kauna-unahang pagkakataon kung kailan nagsabi ang UN Human Rights Committee na salungat nga sa freedom of expression itong criminal libel. Bago lumabas itong kasong ito, tanging mga hukuman ng Human Rights sa Europa, Africa, at Amerika ang merong mga desisyon (This is the first time the UN Human Rights Council has ruled that criminal libel is incompatible with freedom of expression. Before this, only human rights bodies in Europe, Africa and America had issued similar decisions)," he said.
"Ito ‘yung international precedent na magsisilbing standard ngayon para sa lahat ng gobyerno sa mundo (This is the international precedent that will serve as a standard for all governments in the world)," he added.
Because of this, Roque said the UNHRC decision should be the first step to decriminalizing libel, adding he is confident the government will comply with the ruling.


Pissedoff said...

Gill; considering that no one could give a toss to comment on this blog I will pose you one question?

What's the gut in the first picture pointing his finger asking?

J'accuse? or

Your country needs you!

Anonymous said...

it is Pp communist who never allow independent journalists and newspapers to question him and his government on anything.Michel was in UK he came back walked direct to his office,why he did not hold a press conference?t`The same to FAure on his return he told it was a successful visit,but successful in what?

How the butcher made a rediculous speech on his fake economy,jungles growth(note Pp said DGp is 5% when IMF it is 4,5% it is not the same).Indepednet press would have like ,like in any modern country to then question him on his rediculous speech but the butcher run into hiding.Lastly Pp canot even open a blog where the citizens could question them,so what the hell you talking about?

Jeanne D'Arc

Anonymous said...

Did you hear the butcher praising himself for his magical GDP economic growth?

But the fact here is that DGP growth and surplus produced by foreign aids is not sustainable but transitory.GDP usaully express as a per capita figure often ajusted to reflect purchase power(where is the people purchase power PisedofF?,represent the market value of good and services produced within a nation's boundaries(all our industries are in a mess and operate on bail out).Sound reasonable,until we consider what it does measure:the general progress in health and education,the condition of public infractructure,fuel efficiency,community and leisure.

There is a more fundamenatal question to be answer:could a nation's economybe reduced to aingle statistic summation?Does GDP growth necessary measure of economic performance that has universal acceptacne and ?As anyone with a elementary understanding of economics knows thatGDP has little value in meaningful understanding of a country's economic growth,development and prosperity.Suffice it to say that to calim that an economic grtew by 4,5 percent is like saying "activity" on the streets increasedby 5.4 percent.Thestreet "activity"without specificty as to crime,car accidents.pedestrians traffic or other events by itself is meaningless,Yes,for the past years,the regime has been trumpeting GDP numbers as some sort of fwtish that definitively explains Seychelles' economic growth.The GDP numbers for instacne,tell us nothing about the enormous disparity in incomes between the rich and poor,By overstating economic welfare,GDP calculations do not tell us the magnitude of environemntal damage that is taking place,nor about umemployment etc..GDP is certainly not a measure of the sustainable of growth.

In other word,GDP measure may measure income but not equality,it ignores values like socail cohesion and the evironment:Yet governemnt ,businesses swore by it.

Jeanne D'Arc

Anonymous said...

The butcher: broken contract,broken faith,broken country.

In 2008 when the butcher took office said"He was given a CONTRACT by the people.It was not clear what the butcher means in his repeated use of the word"Contract"to describe his relationship between the people of Seychelles and his party .and how the CONTRACT became the ironclad deal for years.The terms CONTRACT and the circumstance that constitute breach are also unclear.But the word CONTRACT has special significance for those in legal affair and students of politcal theory.

But i ugess perhaps the butcher was refferring to SOCIAL CONTRACT with the people of Seychelles.Jean-Jacques Rousseau,the philosophical anchor of French Revolution theorized about SOICAL CONTRACT in which individuals gave up the natural liberty to ensure their self-preservation in civil society.
Rousseau penned the memorable phrase"Man is born,but everywhere he is in chained",The chains were put on man by other men who seek domination.Rousseau's solution to the problem was to create a community of people who established a state that expresses the sovereign "general will"by passsing law that benefit them.Rousseau beleived that governemnt has a tendency to usurp the power of the people and supported the right of the people to alter their form of government and replace their leaders at will.

It seems to me that the Butcher definition of CONTRACT is that propose by Thomas Hobbes the champion of absolutism(dictatorship)who als opropsoe a Soical contract.He argued that in a state of nature(before government was established),life was nasty,brutish and short.To end the war of all against all ,in the state of nature,humans entered into contract and gave up their unlimited nature freedoms in exchange for a politcal community and society that maximised thier self-preservation and self security.Hobbes beleived that a powerful and supreme soveriegn (monarch) was needed to enforced the social contract.Unlike Locke who beleived in rule of law,Hobbes beleived in rule by perrogative(arbitary rule by one individual who is accountable to no one).

Jeanne D'Arc

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