Lawyer to elevate jailed Davao broadcaster’s case to UN

Feb. 02, 2008

The new Supreme Court guidelines calling on all judges to impose fines rather than give jail time to newsmen convicted for libel is a laudable move in the right direction but it won’t benefit those already in jail, a lawyer of the jailed Davao broadcaster said.

Lawyer Harry Roque, the lawyer of jailed broadcaster Alexander Lex Adonis, said he plans to bring to the United Nations human rights body the cases involving journalists who have been imprisoned for libel.

Roque, who represents a number of such journalists, said he is keen on elevating to the United Nations the case of former Davao City broadcaster Alexander ‘Lex’ Adonis.

In January last year, a Davao Court sentenced Adonis, 43, to five years and six months in jail after he absconded his right to present his side on the libel case filed by Davao City First District Representative Congressman Prospero Nograles.

Nograles filed a libel complaint against Adonis and other national radio commentators in 2001 after the story dubbed as Burlesque King came out.

According to records of the case, the newsmen identified the Davao city Congressman as the man who was seen running naked in a Manila hotel after the husband of his alleged paramour caught them in a hotel room. Adonis, then a commentator for dxMF Bombo Radyo, was arrested and sent to jail for libel.

“In Adonis’ case, he was charged a second time precisely to keep him in jail,” Roque said in an interview.

Although his co-accused has been cleared, Adonis was convicted after he failed to get a competent lawyer during his trial. The former newsman said he couldn’t afford a lawyer and was forced to go into hiding. A second libel complaint filed by the Nograles’ alleged paramour disqualified the newsman from applying for probation.

“Congress’ promise (to pass a law) to decriminalize libel is not moving, Roque lamented. So in the case of Adonis we plan to take our case to the United Nations Human Rights Committee and eventually have the libel laws of the country declared a violation of the International Covenant on Civil-Political Rights (ICCPR).”

Roque explained that, once the UN body makes such declaration, lawyers could ask the Philippine Supreme Court to rule outright that jail terms for libel violates the country’s treaty obligations.

The wife of the jailed broadcaster earlier raised fears for her husband’s life after Nograles allegedly had the broadcaster taken out of prison under what she believed were false pretenses.

In a letter to Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, Gladys Adonis expressed apprehension over the fact that prison personnel had her husband taken out of the Davao Penal Colony (Dapecol) and brought to the Davao Medical Center for an unscheduled check-up in December 11 of last year. (Justice for Adonis) (

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