MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/04 June) – Two Butuan City-based journalists were acquitted today of the libel case filed 10 years ago, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said in a statement.
Franklin Caliguid and Kristina Cassion were sued in 2001 by former Butuan mayor Leonides Daisy Plaza for publishing a letter-to-the-editor alleging that Plaza had received bribe money from a construction firm.
The letter was published by the now-defunct Caraga Newswatch, a locally circulated weekly where Cassion and Caliguid were working as editor in chief and news editor, respectively, at the time.
The letter, sent by a certain Mario Alviso, alleged that Plaza has received some P8 million from a construction company as bribe money for a road project.
NUJP quoted Caliguid as saying the decision of Butuan and Agusan executive judge Agustus Calo (Regional Trial Court Branch 5) was based on his stand of upholding freedom of the press and the media’s duty to look into government projects.
Caliguid said Judge Calo also did not see any malice in the publication of the letter nor was it established that it was ill-motivated.
According to Caliguid, the reason why it took 10 years for the case to be decided upon was that Plaza had kept on transferring the case from one sala to another.
The Caraga Newswatch folded up in 2002 after Plaza filed the libel case since the city government refused to issue the necessary permits for the paper to operate. (MindaNews)