Need for free press underscored after dismissal of sedition complaint vs Bohol journalist, 2 others

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The inciting to sedition complaint filed against a journalist and two other individuals was only meant to suppress media freedom, according to an editor of The Bohol Chronicle.

This suit that outgoing Bohol Gov. Arthur Yap filed was previously dismissed by the Makati City Prosecutor’s Office for lack of probable cause.

Yap filed the complaint against Peter Dejaresco, The Bohol Chronicle associate editor and DYRD radio station manager, former Tagbilaran City Mayor Dan Lim and Makati-based businessman Willy Ramasola on Sept. 23, 2021.

Months later, on May 31, 2022, Makati City Prosecutor’s Office resolved to dismiss his case.

This was also reported by the Chronicle on June 7.

“After a judicious review of the complaint and pieces of evidence attached thereto, this office finds that complainant failed to establish probable cause to warrant the indictment of respondents for the crime of inciting to sedition,” the resolution said.

Yap also lost his reelection bid to Aris Aumentado.

RELATED: Makati prosecutors junk sedition complaint vs Bohol journalist, two others

‘Meant to suppress media freedom’

In a statement, Donjay Dejaresco, Peter’s son and online editor of The Bohol Chronicle, said that the resolution showed Yap’s charges were “purely harassment” against the complainants.

“The governor is a well-educated lawyer, but the prosecutor outright said that none of the complaints in his book-thick, 150-page affidavit met any of the six elements of inciting to sedition. This goes to show that this was purely harassment,” Dejaresco said in a statement sent to Interaksyon.

“We believe the suit was not meant to seek justice but to suppress media freedom at least for the duration of the election period,” he added.

In the resolution, the prosecutor cited the six elements of inciting to sedition that are deemed absent in Yap’s complaint.

“There is no proof that the specific act or acts made by the respondents Ramasola, Lim and Dejaresco incited the people of Bohol to the accomplishment of any acts which constitutes Sedition, specifically to prevent the Provincial Government of Bohol or Gov. Yap from freely exercising its or his functions and inflict any act of hate, anger, resentment, discontent, disdain or revenge upon complainant,” the resolution reads.

Need for a free press

Donjay recalled that the case initially “jolted” their newsroom.

They, however, persisted and remained steadfast in their roles to the public for over eight months since the case was filed and during the duration of the election season.

“We quickly recouped and got back to doing our jobs knowing that Boholanos whom we have served for almost seven decades were behind us in our efforts to hold those in power accountable,” he said.

The online editor described it as a “political strategy” given the timing of the filing.

“The point of this case was simply to stifle our efforts in fulfilling our watchdog role. And considering that it was filed in the thick of the election season, we believe it was a political strategy as well—one that apparently blew up on the faces of those who hatched it,” he said.

It was also a “waste of resources” given the small-scale operations of the chronicle.

Nevertheless, their newsroom is glad that the outcome was in their favor.

“Despite the case’s dismissal, the whole ordeal was still a waste of resources especially for a small provincial publication like The Bohol Chronicle but we’re glad that we got out of it a strongly worded resolution which acknowledges the value of a free press,” Donjay said.

“This is a victory we share with our brothers and sisters in the media in a time when active journalism is needed more than ever,” he added.