The case covers Manuel Mejorada’s social media and blog posts where he linked Sen. Franklin Drilon to alleged anomalies in infrastructure projects in Iloilo, such as Iloilo Convention Center, Iloilo Circumferential Road in Ungka, Pavia and Guimaras Iloilo Parola Terminal Ferry Project.
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SC affirms libel conviction of Drilon accuser
Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - August 7, 2019 - 4:30pm

MANILA, Philippines —  The Supreme Court has upheld the Court of Appeals ruling that affirmed the conviction and imprisonment of a former Iloilo government official who accused Sen. Franklin Drilon of corruption over infrastructure projects in the province.

In an SC notice shared to media by Drilon’s office, the court denied the petition filed by Manuel Mejorada that sought to overturn the CA’s September 18, 2018 decision and the March 7, 2019 resolution of the Court of Appeals.

The SC said that Mejorada failed “to sufficiently show that the CA committed any reversible error.”

“As correctly ruled by the CA, the elements of Libel were sufficiently established by the prosecution,” it added.

Libelous social media, blog posts

The case covers Mejorada’s social media and blog posts where he linked Drilon to alleged anomalies in the Iloilo Convention Center, Iloilo Circumferential Road in Ungka, Pavia and Guimaras Iloilo Parola Terminal Ferry Project.

Pasay Regional Trial Court Branch 118 imposed a penalty of prision correctional or a medium period of two years and four months and one day up to four years and two months, as maximum, over Mejorada’s libel conviction.

The appeals court, in October 2018, upheld the conviction and said that a reading of the assailed articles “would show the intention of accused-appellant to injure the reputation, credit and virtue of [Senator] Drilon and expose him to public hatred, discredit, contempt and ridicule.”

Journalists' groups and freedom of expression advocates have long been calling for the decriminalization of libel, saying it is outdated and restricts free speech

SC notes 'failure to present proof' of statements

Mejorada appealed his case to the SC, but failed to get a favorable ruling.

The SC said: “The accusatory character of the subject articles, as well as petitioner’s failure to present any proof that the statements were based on established and documented facts, negates the petitioner’s claim that the articles were made in good faith.”

The tribunal also noted that while Administrative Circular No. 08-08 provides that fines are preferred over imprisonment in libel suits “the Court did not remove the discretion of the trial courts to impose imprisonment if, under the circumstances, a fine was insufficient to meet the demands of substantial justice or would depreciate the seriousness of the offense.”

Drilon, for his part, welcomed the SC ruling. “I have nothing else to leave behind except my reputation, so I am grateful for this favorable decision.”

FRANKLIN DRILON LIBEL SUPREME COURT
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