Taguig fiscal recommends indictment of PMPI 4 on Cyber Libel
A TAGUIG prosecutor has endorsed the filing of cyber libel charges against a civil rights group for reporting a mining company’s operation in Manicani Island, Guiuan, Eastern Samar, allegedly for post-typhoon rehabilitation.
Prosecutor Patrick Noel De Dios submitted the resolution to the Taguig Prosecutors’ Office more than five months after the cyber libel complaint filed by Hinatuan Mining Corporation (HMC) against civil society network Philippine Misereor Partnership, Incorporated (PMPI) and four PMPI personnel. HMC is a subsidiary of Nickel Asia Corporation.
HMC’s cyber libel complaint stems from a press release of PMPI reporting a June 2015 incident where a barge hired by the mining company to carry its equipment ran over and destroyed small fishing boats off the coast of Manicani Island.
“Just like what we said on our counter-affidavit, we believe that the complaint of the HMC is a form of SLAPP [strategic legal action against public participation] and plain harassment for our organization that is instrumental why HMC’s operations in Manicani Island is suspended until now. It is sad that the prosecutor failed to see that but the fight is not over,” said Yolanda Esguerra, PMPI National Coordinator.
De Dios has recommended cyber libel charges be filed against Esguerra, as well as PMPI staff members Candy Hidalgo, Edel Garingan and Victor Morillo (together called the “PMPI 4”).
HMC’s operations in the island of Manicani have been suspended since 2002 upon the request of the Diocese of Borongan on behalf of Manicani residents due to the mining operations adverse impact on the environment. Since the early 2000s, PMPI and the Diocese of Borongan have been helping the resistance put up by islanders led by the Protect Manicani Island Society, Inc. (PROMISI) – formerly the Save Manicani Movement (SAMAMO).
“Acknowledging how powerful and connected the complainants are, we have prepared for the worst. We will not be shocked if a warrant against us will soon be issued and we are ready. In fact, we are elated with the number of lawyers and organizations that have signified their intent to help us in our case,” Esguerra said.
While the complaint was recommended to be heard in court, only one of the three counts of Cyber Libel raised by HMC will become the basis for the case.
“The prosecutor considers as libelous the PMPI report regarding the destruction of three fishing boats by the mining company’s barge,” Atty. Macki Maderazo, the PMPI 4’s legal counsel, explained.
He added that they will challenge the part of the resolution that says a mining company cannot be considered a public figure because Philippine jurisprudence and several expert legal opinions have repeatedly asserted that corporations may also fall under the public figure category.
Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc.
Unit 204 Pacific Century Tower
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Landline/Fax No.: (02) 961 5956
Mobile No.: +63 922 850 1843
FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/philmisereor
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