By Reynard Magtoto
LEGAZPI CITY, 17April2015 – – – BicolToday.com correspondent Elmer James Bandol Bandol, who was later brought to the Masbate province Thursday to answer charges against him in court, was already released after posting bail of Php 10,000.
Bandol’s arrest under the controversial online libel law and his temporary liberty revived calls on decriminalizing libel and intensified the fight against the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.
Bandol’s libel suit stemmed from his article “314 million pesos losses of Masbate power coop traced to mismanagement – NEA” published by BicolToday.com on December 14, 2011.
Bandol reported the alleged financial losses and mismanagement of Masbate Electric Cooperative (MASELCO) based on the audit report conducted by NEA.
He reported the NEA audit report in online journalistic form, and also cited the alleged sexual harassment complaint filed by an employee against the complaining MASELCO manager Margallo.
The complainant is Eduardo Margallo, the former manager of MASELCO, who was affected by Bandol’s online news article.
More than 180 journalists have been killed since 1986 and more still suffer from oppressive libel charges. It was Bandol’s eighth time to be arrested for libel charges since 1979. He had 11 charges of libel but were eventually dismissed by the court because of lack probable cause.
AlterMidya as the People’s Alternative Media Network supports its member Bicol Today in fighting for the rights of online journalist Bandol. AlterMidya stands by Bicol Today’s position that online libel, which was filed against Bandol, as defined by the Cyber Crime Law, still did not exist as the libel complaint was filed during the period when the Cyber Crime bill was still under deliberation by Congress.
The Cybercrime Prevention Act was enacted in September 2012 however several petitions questioning the constitutionality of the law were filed until the high court issued its final ruling on the case in February 2014.
According to AlterMidya spokesperson Benjie Oliveros, it is an attack on the rights of Elmer James Bandol and on the freedom of the press.
”This is pure harassment,” Oliveros said. “It shows all the more why freedom-loving Filipinos should fight for the decriminalization of libel and against the enactment of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.”
Under the Revised Penal Code, the existing libel law is limited to printed publication and broadcast media which excludes online publications. And Bandol’s case is among the first libel suits in the country filed over an article published online.
According to Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), Bandol is the second journalist arrested on libel charge in ten days. Libel is still a criminal offense in the country as declared by the United Nation Human Rights Commission.
AlterMidya is calling on all media groups to express their support for Bandol and fight for press freedom.
Together with the Filipino people, “journalists should stand for their rights and demand an end to impunity in killings and attacks against press freedom and the right to free expression,” AlterMidya expressed in a statement. [BicolToday.com]