THE Supreme Court affirmed the conviction and imprisonment of former Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada over his social media posts against Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon.
In a resolution dated June 10, 2019, the Supreme Court’s Second Division affirmed the Sept 18, 2018 decision of the Court of Appeals finding Mejorada guilty of four counts of libel.
In March 2019, the CA also affirmed with modification the decision of the Regional Trial Court Branch 118 in Pasay City finding Mejorada guilty of the same charges.
The court sentenced him in each of the cases to suffer imprisonment of two years and four months and one day, as minimum, to four years and two months, as maximum, to be served simultaneously.
“After a judicious study of the case, the Court resolves to deny the instant petition and affirm the September 18, 2018 decision and the March 7, 2019 resolution of the Court of Appeals,” the SC resolution reads.
“As correctly ruled by the CA, the elements of libel were sufficiently established by the prosecution,” it added.
Drilon welcomed the decision of the court against Mejorada.
“We welcome the High Court’s decision. I have nothing else to leave behind except my reputation, so I am grateful for this favorable decision,” Drilon said.
The High Court further said that “it was not necessary to establish that the publication was motivated by any malice since the articles were not privileged communication or fair comments; thus, malice is presumed.”
The SC also agreed with the CA in affirming the penalty of imprisonment rather than a fine.
“The Court did not remove the discretion of the trial courts to impose imprisonment if, under the circumstances, a fine was insufficient to meet the demands of substantial justice or would depreciate the seriousness of the offense,” the court said.
In a phone interview, Mejorada said he was surprised by the SC’s swift decision on his case.
“We filed our appeal in April or May 2019, but by June 10, the court already had a decision. The swift judgment is very surprising,” Mejorada said.
He said he will appeal his case to the SC en banc.
In law, an en banc session (French for “in bench”) is a session in which a case is heard before all the judges of a court (before the entire bench) rather than by a panel of judges selected from them.