Hindi pwedeng multa lang: CA affirms prison time for Drilon detractor Manuel Mejorada

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The Court of Appeals (CA) has denied the appeal of former Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada against his prison sentence for libel in connection with his corruption accusations against Senator Franklin Drilon.

In a recent 3-page resolution, the CA Former 2nd Division rejected Mejorada’s argument that only a fine should have been imposed because he was a first-time offender.

The court sustained its September 18, 2018 decision to uphold the February 1, 2017 guilty verdict of the Pasay City Regional Trial Court (RTC) and sentence Mejorada to imprisonment of two years and four months to four years and two months.

It said Administrative Circular Number 08-2008, or the guidelines on penalties in libel cases, did not remove imprisonment as a penalty.

Although judges may find that only a fine would best serve the interests of justice, the CA said the trial court validly exercised its discretion when it found Mejorada’s acts to be serious enough to warrant imprisonment.

For the CA, the RTC was “correct” when it considered the “barrage of defamatory statements” and the “baseless and scurrilous personal attacks” uttered by Mejorada, and his use of “ironical and metaphorical language… calculated to induce suspicion” of the senator.

“Courts must be allowed reasonable latitude to express their own view of the case, their appreciation of the facts and understanding of the applicable law of the matter,” read the resolution penned by Associate Justice Ma. Luisa Quijano-Padilla.

The court also affirmed that there was “no compelling reason to arrive at a different conclusion” regarding Mejorada’s guilt.

The case concerned Mejorada’s social media and blog posts linking Drilon to alleged anomalies in various infrastructure projects, such as the Iloilo Convention Center, the Iloilo Circumferential Road, and the Guimaras Iloilo Parola Terminal Ferry Project.

Mejorada claimed Drilon intervened and manipulated the projects in his home province in order to benefit himself.

He even used flowery words such as “grandmother of all anomalies,” “fat income for Mabilog and Drilon,” “corruption at its worst” and “Drilon’s Midas Touch.” #

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