SC upholds libel conviction vs. Drilon critic

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 7)— The Supreme Court (SC) upheld the libel conviction and prison sentence of a critic of Senator Franklin Drilon.

The high court’s second division, in a resolution dated June 10 and released Wednesday, affirmed the Court of Appeals’ (CA) March ruling which found former Iloilo provincial administrator and journalist Manuel Mejorada guilty of four counts of libel.

Mejorada, who had accused Drilon of corruption over infrastructure projects in Iloilo, appealed the decision before the high court. However, the SC said the appellate court was correct in its previous ruling, as elements of libel were “sufficiently established.”

"The accusory character of the subject articles, as well as petitioner's failure to present any proof that statements were based on established and documented facts, negates petitioner's claim that the articles were made in good faith,” the document read.

Mejorada, in social media as well as blog posts, accused Drilon of benefiting from the construction of Iloilo projects including the Iloilo Convention Center.

In February 2017, the Pasay City Regional Trial Court found Mejorada guilty of libel and sentenced him to imprisonment of up to four years and two months. The CA upheld the decision, citing the journalist’s "barrage of defamatory statements” and "baseless and scurrilous personal attacks" against the solon.

Meanwhile, Drilon said he was grateful for the court’s “favorable decision.”