The Negros Chronicle has referred the defamation suit filed by Dumaguete City mayor Agustin Perdices against an Australian newspaperman to the nation's top press freedom watchdogs in Manila.
Earlier this week, Chronicle associate editor Jay Dejaresco met with Jose L. Pavia, executive director of the Philippine Press Institute and coordinator of the Freedom Fund For Filipino Journalists, and relayed the latest happenings affecting press freedom in Negros Oriental.
Dejaresco also submitted to Pavia a brief of the defamation suit filed by mayor Perdices.
Dejaresco reported to Pavia the serious press freedom implications of the mayor's suit as it attempted to use court attachment remedies as another legal tool to harass journalists.
Pavia welcomed the report and said incidents seen as threats and dangers to journalists will be disseminated to practicing newsmen all over the country, so they will be made aware.
In the case of Perdices, he attempted to have the Dumaguete land of the Australian citizen he sued attached by the court.
In his effort to deprive the journalist of his property and full ownership rights, Perdices alleged patent lies under oath in his complaint.
For instance, Perdices alleged in his complaint that the Australian he sued was a columnist of the Negros Chronicle.
The Negros Chronicle has denied it as any Australian citizen who writes in the paper.
Perdices also under oath told the court that the Australian is a Dumaguete land owner.
In truth, the land referred to is owned by a Filipino.
In the Philippines, a foreigner is prohibited from owning land.
Dejaresco pointed out that there may be many other public officials or high handed plaintiffs who sue journalists for defamation, and are so brazen as to undermine and mock the judiciary by lying under oath, in their bid to attach journalists' properties.
Pavia meanwhile, underscored the need for vigilance on the part of journalists as they pursue their profession.
Otherwise, Pavia said, journalists might wake up one day only to find out they have suddenly lost their property rights.
He also noted that court attachment proceedings can be done without the knowledge of the defendant-journalists, the process being "ex parte".
In Perdices' case, he subsequently withdrew his own attachment bid after the Chronicle raised questions on the veracity of his sworn allegations, which was to be the basis for having the attachment granted by the court.
Perdices has not given any iota of proof of the citizenship of the person he sued, or that such Australian even exists.
Perdices has not substantiated his sworn allegations pointing to the Australian address.
This allegation would have been important in establishing non-residence of the defendant in the Philipines.
Rules on attachment require that the defendant be a non-resident of the Philippines.
The Negros Chronicle has also submitted a report of the Perdices suit to the National Union of Journalists of the Philipines (NUJP).
Next week, the Chronicle will submit a similar report to the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) in Makati.
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