The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) described as harassment agriculture secretary Manny Piñol’s two-pronged cyber libel case against Baguio journalist Frank Cimatu over a Facebook post.
In a statement, the NUJP said Piñol’s move illustrates how the law is often used not to seek redress as to harass perceived foes, and why the offense should be decriminalized.
“It is doubly unfortunate that Sec. Pinol, who makes much of the fact that he is a former journalist, should even think of unreasonably punishing a former colleague by filing a complaint in a venue on the opposite side of the country as Cimatu,” the NUJP said.
Piñol filed a criminal complaint in Quezon City Wednesday against Cimatu over his September 24 Facebook post.
“Agri sec got rich by P21-M in 6 months. Bird flu pa more” Cimatu’s post said.
The official also announced he will file a civil complaint in Kidapawan City in Cotabato province.
“I am a government official but I will not be a punching bag to reporters like Cimatu. It is time to teach people like him a lesson,” Piñol in turn posted on his Facebook page.
Cimatu declined to comment further on the development, saying he has yet to receive copies of the complaints.
“…That where one of the offended parties is a public officer whose office is in the City of Manila at the time of the commission of the offense, the action shall be filed in the Court of First Instance of the City of Manila or of the city or province where the libelous article is printed and first published, and in case such public officer does not hold office in the City of Manila, the action shall be filed in the Court of First Instance of the province or city where he held office at the time of the commission of the offense or where the libelous article is printed and first published…”–RA 4363 (1965), amending Article 360 of the Revised Penal Code
The NUJP however said Pinol’s threat to file the civil aspect of his complaint in Mindanao is prohibited by law, specifically 1965’s Rep. Act No. 4363, which amended Article 360 of the Revised Penal Code which orders that public officers should file their complaints where they hold office.
Piñol primarily holds office in Quezon City.
“It seems evident that a ranking government official who seeks to compel a journalist from Baguio City to travel all the way to Kidapawan is engaged not in an attempt to seek redress but to inflict a punishment that is way too cruel and excessive for the perceived offense, which is yet, we stress, to be proven in court that it could well enter into a gross abuse of the powers of his position,” the NUJP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)