Makati prosecutors junk sedition complaint vs Bohol journalist, two others

Angelica Y. Yang - Philstar.com
Makati prosecutors junk sedition complaint vs Bohol journalist, two others
This May 13, 2020 photo shows the Makati skyline
The STAR / Miguel De Guzman, file

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 6:26 p.m.) — Local prosecutors in Makati City junked the sedition complaint filed by outgoing Bohol Gov. Arthur Yap against three individuals, including an editor of The Bohol Chronicle.

Yap earlier filed a complaint-affidavit against Makati-based businessman Emmanuel Ramasola, former Tagbilaran City Mayor Dan Neri Lim and The Bohol Chronicle associate editor and DYRD radio station manager Peter Dejaresco for allegedly conspiring with each other and "consistently publishing scurrilous libel" against Yap and other Bohol officials.

Lim had filed investigation requests against Yap and provincial officials in Bohol with the Ombudsman, alleging they violated the anti-graft and corrupt practice act, government procurement act and committed plunder. 

Ramasola personally filed Lim's requests at the Ombudsman's office in Quezon City, and posted these on his Facebook account. Dejaresco also published the requests in The Bohol Chronicle and broadcasted the same in his radio stations DYRD. 

Yap also claimed that Ramasola's Facebook posts and the news items of the investigation requests were "designed to feast on social media to invite hate, anger, discontent, resentment and disdain against him and other officials in the provincial government of Bohol."

In a 10-page resolution, the Makati City Prosecutor's Office said Yap has "failed to establish probable cause to warrant the indictment of respondents for the crime of inciting to sedition."

Sedition refers to the act of encouraging rebellion against the government. 

The resolution explained that it did not find any evidence which shows that sedition was committed. It added that conspiracy was not established as Yap did not show concrete proof of conspiracy between the three individuals. 

"Wherefore, premises considered, it is recommended that the complaint against Emmanuel B. Ramasola, Dan Neri Lim and Peter P. Dejaresco be dismissed for lack of a probable cause," the resolution read. 

The resolution was recommended by Assistant City Prosecutor Atty. Nicu Dela Merced and approved by City Prosecutor Atty. Dindo Venturanza.

In their ruling, they also cited the importance of press freedom, referring to the complaint filed against Dejaresco for publishing the investigation requests in the newspaper and broadcasting these in the DYRD radio stations. 

"Freedom of press is crucial and so inextricably woven into the right to free speech and free expression, that any attempt to restrict it must be met with an examination so critical that only a danger that is clear and present would be allowed to curtail it," they said in the resolution. 

Inciting to sedition has been historically used to silence critics. Under the Revised Penal Code, those who are found guilty of this will face prision correctional in its maximum period and a fine not exceeding P400,000. 

Separately, The Bohol Chronicle online editor Donjay Dejaresco— the son of Peter—said that the case's dismissal is a victory which they share with their brothers and sisters in the media, but also said the entire ordeal was a "waste of resources."

"[The charge] was meant to harass and it succeeded in its purpose, at least for a day or two. We quickly recouped and got back to doing our jobs knowing that Boholanos whom we have served for almost seven decades were behind us in our efforts to hold those in power accountable," he said on Saturday. — With a report from Ramon Royandoyan

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