Reporters Without Borders condemns the detention of radio show
host Julito Ucab, who has been held in Butuan City, on the southern
island of Mindanao, since 22 January for failing to attend a court
hearing on a defamation case dating back to 2004.
“After the jailing of Alex Adonis in Davao City,
this is the second radio presenter to be detained in the Philippines as
a result of a very questionable judicial procedure,” the press freedom
organisation said. “It is shocking that laws criminalizing defamation
are still being applied. The United Nations have said very clearly that
imprisoning a journalist for any length of time is disproportionate to
the injury done to the plaintiff.”
Ucab is being held in
connection with a lawsuit brought against him in 2004 by an employee of
the Butuan City architects office, Amado Jovellano, because a woman had
accused Jovellano of rape on a programme hosted by Ucab on Butuan
City’s radio DXBC.
Also known as “Lito,” Ucab now lives and
works in Cagayan de Oro City, also on Mindanao island, and has been
unable to attend hearings in Butuan since 2006. Back then, the court
granted him provisional liberty after he paid bail of 330 euros. But it
finally issued an arrest warrant of the kind that does not admit the
possibility of release on bail.
Cagayan de Oro press club
president Jerry Orcullo said: “Journalists playing their role of
society’s watchdogs do not deserve to be treated as common criminals.”
Ucab’s arrest is “clear proof of the brutal nature of the defamation
law,” he added.
On 25 January, the supreme court urged judges to
sentence persons found guilty of defamation to fines rather than prison
Journalists continue to be exposed to abusive
defamation actions in the Philippines. Adonis, a young journalist
working for Bombo Radyo in Davao, was sentenced to four and a half
years in prison on 31 January 2007 for defaming Prospero Nograles, a
parliamentarian and close ally of President Gloria Arroyo. He was
convicted in absentia because he could not afford to pay for a lawyer
or to attend all the hearings.