A court found a radio commentator, anchorman and radio reporter of a local radio station guilty beyond reasonable doubt of soliciting hush money from a government official in exchange for softening his attacks against the top leaders and ranking officials of the Provincial Government of Bohol (PGB).
Roger Balamad, anchorman of “Konfrontasi”, a morning program aired in radio station DYTR was found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of “threatening to publish and offer to prevent such publication for a compensation defined and penalized under Article 356 of the Revised Penal Code”.
Acting Presiding Judge Joy Angelica P. Santos Doctor of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities in Tagbilaran City showed extreme disgust over Balamad’s skewed understanding of his duty as a journalist saying “this case is not about freedom of speech and/or of the press. This case is about the crassest, ignoble, most despicable, and most offensive crime that a journalist can ever be accused of”.
In an 18 page decision promulgated on June 16, 2015, the court sentenced Balamad to four months imprisonment of arresto mayor and a fine of Php1,000, with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency.
Balamad in an exclusive interview with theÂ ChronicleÂ said “the court has spoken and I will respect the decision of the court”. A separate libel case against Balamad is now under mediation proceedings.
Provincial Administrator Alfonso Damalerio ll accused Balamad of extortion after he demanded Php5,000 a week through Â an intermediary threatening Damalerio and the PGB of “bombardments with malicious commentaries and negative attacks” and if the proposal is rejected the “malicious commentaries and negative attacks will continue”.
According to the judicial affidavit of Emmanuel Sumampong, the alleged intermediary, Balamad was used to issuing Â negative commentaries over his radio programs since Mayor Dan Lim allegedly Â paid him to hit his political opponents with negative commentaries.
Damalerio initially gave P5,000 to Sumampong which was received by Balamad on February 24, 2014 but relented after another demand for the same amount was relayed by Balamad two weeks later that led to a planned entrapment operation by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), according to the testimony of Sumampong.
HAND IN THE COOKIE JAR
The successful operation on March 5, 2014 at 4:45 in the afternoon caught Balamad on video red handed counting and receiving five P1,000 peso bills from Sumampong at the Brewpoint Coffee Shop and was immediately arrested by CIDG personnel.
Balamad was found positive for the presence of ultra violet powder on both hands that resulted from his counting of the marked money from Sumampong.
The court crushed Balamad’s defense of a frame-up despite admitting that he counted the money “because it was placed on the table in front of me by Wendel Sumampong”.
The decision stressed that “the accused was in a defining moment to redeem himself by visibly protesting, but instead of doing so, he counted the money given to him by Sumampong. He admitted during his cross examination, for two times, that he counted the money”.
The decision argued that “a good person out to determine who was proposing to bribe him, would have protested vehemently, or raised hell over being handed bribe money”.
Citing a Supreme Court decision in Office of the Court Administrator v Judge Filomeno Pascual wherein when the bribe money was handed to the judge suddenly erupted in anger, grabbed and hurled the envelope at the person giving the bribe money and drove him out of his chambers.
“It bears stressing that extortion was completed upon receipt of the accused of the Php5,000.00. His receipt of the money was the signal that the accused has completed the accomplishment of the crime so that his arrest will ensue”.
Balamad also claimed that his attacks against the PGB “were not libelous because he was only doing his duty as a journalist to expose and discuss this very important issue about drugs which has already gone to alarming proportions”.
But the court maintained that Philippine laws do not allow him to pervert this very ideal through his nefarious act of extorting hush money from public figures.
An authority to prosecute was granted to Atty. Menedio Thadeus Bernido while the defense was handled by counsel Atty. Doni Piquero. (CMV)