By: Francis Allan L. Angelo
FORMER Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada is ready for jail if fate desires so.
This was Mejorada’s reaction after the Second Division of the Supreme Court upheld his conviction and imprisonment in the cyber libel cases filed by Senator Franklin Drilon.
In a resolution issued on Sept 2, 2019, the SC denied with finality Mejorada’s Motion for Reconsideration (MR) on the June 10, 2019 ruling dismissing the latter’s Petition for Certiorari on the libel conviction.
“Acting on petitioner’s motion for reconsideration of the Resolution dated 10 June 2019 which denied the petition for review on certiorari, the Court resolves to deny the motion for reconsideration with finality, no substantial argument having been adduced to warrant the reconsideration sought,” according to the SC resolution.
Mejorada will serve an imprisonment of two years and four months and one day, as minimum, to four years and two months, as maximum, to be served simultaneously.
In a statement, Mejorada said he is saddened by the SC decision which is believed failed to tackle two key issues.
“With due respect to the Supreme Court, the ruling did not tackle two important issues I raised: a) I was deprived my constitutional right to confront my accuser, and b) injury or damage to his reputation or honor was not established because he did not testify in court. During trial, the prosecution presented only two witnesses, his Chief of Staff and his media liaison officer. Neither could substitute for Drilon on the subject of injury or damage to his honor or reputation.”
He added that the decision “has chilling effects on the media profession.”
“It paves the way for individuals to file libel cases and not have to testify in court to be confronted on cross-examination. It also narrows the latitude for members of media in making criticism on the conduct of public officials and other accountable persons,” he added.
The libel case arose from a series or article written by Mejorada accusing Drilon of overpricing the construction of the Iloilo Convention Center, which the court found libelous.
It was also Mejorada who filed a graft case against Drilon before the Ombudsman, which was later dismissed for lack of merit. The Ombdusman even stressed that contrary to the allegations of overpricing,the government was even able to save a huge amount of money allotted for the ICC’s design.
The Iloilo Convention Center, now a prime convention destination in Western Visayas, is credited for Iloilo’s rise as a premier MICE (Meeting, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions) hub in the country.
While he is ready to face the consequences of his actions, Mejorada pointed to the recent statement of President Rodrigo Duterte taking a swipe at the alleged overpricing in the Iloilo Convention Center.
“There’s more than meets the eye. The DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program) funds poured into Iloilo City infrastructure and beautification projects exceed P3 billion. If asked by the national government to provide details, I will gladly do so. If imprisonment be the price for courageously exposing the truth, I have prepared myself and my family to accept my fate,” Mejorada said
On the other hand, Drilon thanked the High Court for its decision.