‘Burlesque King’: Libel Law Dooms Davao Newsman

Mar. 10, 2007

Lex Adonis, one of Davao City’s hard-hitting radio broadcasters, is behind bars after a court convicted him of the libel case filed by House majority leader Rep. Prospero Nograles. Adonis’s misfortune illustrates what happens when a powerful public official uses the country’s libel laws to get back at a journalist who was too poor to hire a lawyer or attend court hearings.

Related item: ‘No One to Blame But Adonis Himself — Bombo Radyo’

By Germelina A. Lacorte

DAVAO CITY — One of Davao City’s hard-hitting radio broadcasters is now behind bars for libel. If his enemy succeeded in blocking his application for probation, he could stay in jail for a long time.

Sentenced in January to four years and six months in jail, Bombo Radyo‘s Alex “Lex” Adonis, 43, told davaotoday.com he had no regrets at all for his being a mediaman in the last 18 years. His only regret, he said, was his being poor.

Unable to hire a lawyer during the most critical stages in the hearing of his case, Adonis absconded his right to present his side of the libel case filed against him by the complainant, Rep. Prospero Nograles, the House majority floorleader who represents the city’s first district in Congress and one of this city’s — and the country’s — most powerful public officials.

In October 2001, Nograles filed two counts of libel against Adonis for the latter’s series of reports and commentary on the “Burlesque King” scandal. In his reports, Adonis identified Nograles as the man who, sometime in 2001, was seen allegedly running naked in a Manila hotel shortly after the husband of a woman Nograles allegedly had an affair with caught the two in bed.

Nograles denied the accusation and promptly filed the libel case against Abante Tonite, a Manila tabloid that first reported on the alleged incident, and the other journalists who reported on the alleged affair, Adonis among them.

A similar case filed against another Bombo Radyo broadcaster, Dan Vicente, known on the air as Vic Gensan, was dismissed while Adonis, who had gone missing at the critical phase of the trial, was tried in absentia. He was nowhere to be seen when the sentence was handed down.

But why did Adonis stop attending the trial at its most critical phase? Why did he waive his right to present his side?

“Without questioning the merit of the case nor the court’s decision, Adonis’ case shows what happens to broadcasters who can’t afford to hire lawyers but who dare criticize high government officials who have all the backings of power,” said Dodong Solis, a broadcaster and manager of DXDC, the city’s most popular AM station.

“It was not so much that Lex Adonis had criticized Nograles on the air — it was more about Lex Adonis being poor that he was not able to make full use of the privileges normally accorded by the law. That’s why he ended up where he is now.”

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