By National Union of Journalists of the Philippines
The Cebu Regional Trial Court has found a broadcaster-columnist guilty of a libel charge filed by former Provincial Governor and now Representative Gwendolyn Garcia.
In a decision rendered today (Aug. 30), Cebu City RTC Br. 14 Presiding Judge Raphael Yrastosa Sr. ruled Leo Lastimosa, columnist for The Freeman and radio-television broadcaster for sister stations dyAB and ABS CBN-Cebu, has been guilty of committing libel for a 2007 article allegedly maligning the former Cebu governor.
Despite criticism from international groups such as the United Nations Human Rights Council, libel has remained a criminal offense in the Philippines.
Yrastosa ordered Lastimosa to pay Garcia moral damages amounting to P2,000,000.00, and a ” fine of six thousand pesos (P6,000.00) with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency.”
Lastimosa, currently the station manager of dyAB and anchor of TV Patrol Cebu, posted a screengrab of the decision on his Facebook account and said, “Convicted by satire. We’ll appeal.”
In July 2007, Garcia sued Lastimosa for a column published in The Freeman on June 29, 2007. Garcia said she felt alluded to in Lastimosa’s satirical column, titled “Si Doling Kawatan”. She said the article depicted her as “a thief, vindictive, ill-tempered, foul-mouthed and cruel.”
In his court testimony in December 2012, Lastimosa denied he was referring to Garcia on the article and maintained the said column was not malicious.