Sun Star Davao editor-in-chief Stella Estremera and former-publisher Antonio Ajero have been found guilty of libel for a July 28, 2003 article on the surrender of pushers and users of illegal drugs.
Judge Carmelita Sarno-Davin of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 18-Digos City found both Estremera and Ajero guilty of libel for supposedly failing to get the side of complainant Baguio Saripada in a story—32 pushers us user mitahan (32 pushers and users surrender)—which appeared in Sun Star SuperBalita Davao.
Saripada, who was then with the Digos City General Services Office (GSO), was among those identified in the story that named persons allegedly involved in the illegal drugs trade. The story was released by the Davao del Sur Provincial Police Office.
Estremera and Ajero, however, said the report was made in good faith and that the story was true since it came from an official document supplied by Police Regional Office.
The Court ordered Estremera and Ajeroto to pay a P6,000 fine or face imprisonment. Both were also directed to pay Saripada P200,000 as civil damages.
Former SuperBalita managing editor Ely Luciano was also a respondent in the same case but Luciano passed away three years ago.
NUJP also learned that the decision was actually issued December 18, 2012 but was promulgated only yesterday afternoon.
Estremera and Anjero’s libel conviction comes at the heel of another journalist being convicted of libel. A Cebu broadcaster and columnist was convicted by Cebu RTC Branch-14 based on the complaint of former governor now legislator Gwen Garcia.
The NUJP has consistently demanded the decriminalization of Philippine libel laws since it is being used as a tool to harass members of media.