E-libel filed by HMC
Fiscals endorse PMPI indictment
THE CITY PROSECUTORS of Taguig City passed a resolution recommending that a civil society organization working for the protection of small islands against large-scale mining be indicted for Internet Libel or e-libel.
The charges against Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. was filed by Hintatuan Mining Company for reporting the latter’s operation in Manicani Island, part of Guiuan town in the Province of Eastern Samar.
Deputy City Prosecutor Patrick Noel De Dios submitted the resolution to Taguig Prosecutors’ Office, recommending PMPI National Coordinator Yoly Esguerra and three other staff be held responsible. This was approved by City Prosecutor Archimedes Manabat. The complaint was filed last year.
The e-libel complaint stemmed 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 barricading the island. Fisherfolks of Manicani island formed a barricade to keep the barge from docking.
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 prosecutors consider 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.
“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 prosecutors failed to see that but the fight is not over,” Esguerra said.
HMC’s operations in the island of Manicani have been suspended since 2002 upon the request of the Diocese of Borongan in behalf of Manicani residents, due to the mining operations adverse impact on the environment.
“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.
The case filed also named Deputy Coordinator Candy Hidalgo and PMPI’s Anti-Mining Campaign team composed of Primo Morillo and Edel Garingan.
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).