By: Manuel “Boy” Mejorada

THE office of Senator Franklin Drilon was quick to put out a press release yesterday that the Supreme Court Second Division had turned down my appeal on my libel conviction and affirmed the sentence of imprisonment. I can just imagine the image of joy in the face of Drilon when he got a copy of the decision. Of course, this is sad news for me. It brings me closer to the end of this legal battle.

But I am not afraid. I know that it is an uphill battle to get a reversal. All of a sudden, the prospect of spending time in jail is staring at me in the face sooner than I expected. I will have to exhaust the legal remedies available to me.

What disheartens me is the effect this ruling will have on the media profession. In the past, public officials were always admonished by the Supreme Court to avoid being “onion-skinned”, and the wounds caused by hostile commentary on their public acts can be assuaged by a clear conscience. That doctrine made it harder for public officials to make libel charges stick.

This ruling may have changed that doctrine, and its impact on the media profession is unfathomable. It could discourage journalists from exposing anomalies in government. Not only is this true for mainstream media. It will also tend to stifle the freedom of ordinary citizens to ventilate their grievances, especially on social media.

I have no regrets having taken on a very powerful man like Drilon in my advocacy against corruption. The facts are plainly visible to everybody, especially the issues I raised about the Iloilo Convention Center. It’s just unfortunate that I am not getting the support of mainstream media that plays blind to the facts.

If it does come to serving jail time, then I have already prepared myself to face the consequences. I have fought the good fight. I have labored to bring out the truth despite the grave risks to myself. I am confident that in the not-so-distant future, I will be vindicated by the truth.  I consider this a fight between good and evil. And as always happens in life, good often takes a beating first before emerging victorious.

Having said this, I want to say that my work hasn’t been entirely unfruitful.

My brand of investigative journalism isn’t limited to just exposing the truth, but also taking positive action like filing criminal and administrative charges before the Ombudsman.

Four such cases against former TESDA secretary and 2nd district Congressman Augusto “Boboy” Syjuco have gone all the way to the Sandiganbayan. Only last week, Syjuco was convicted on lesser charges in connection with the anomalous Kabir Chicken grant from the Department of Agriculture and slapped with fines. For me, it’s enough that Syjuco was convicted. He is old and sick, and I don’t really want to see him go to jail. He was also offered a plea bargain in another case before the Sandiganbayan, this time involving the Education for All program in 2004.

Of course, there’s the dismissal of former City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog. Honestly, I feel sorry about Jed’s dismissal from the service, but then it’s a consequence that he has to face.

I have also risk my own life exposing the protection given to illegal drug syndicates by public officials in Iloilo City.

This early, I can proudly look back to what I have done as a journalist.

My hope is that I can inspire the present generation of media people to be courageous in exposing corruption. Sadly, the trend seems to be going the other way.

Even before my conviction for libel, I could already see that the new crop of media is staying away from potential libel. I am also frustrated at seeing reporters becoming subservient to the officials they cover. At the rate things are going, media will only become limp and inutile in carrying out its role as the fourth estate.