NOTE: THIS STORY WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE BOHOL CHRONICLE’S SUNDAY PRINT EDITION.
Dave Charles Responte, DYTR broadcast-journalist was ordered jailed on Friday, January 22, 2021, after Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 2 Presiding Judge Jennifer Chavez-Marcos declared that the accused “has exhibited criminal intent to degrade, affront and insult the administration of justice and has in fact degraded, caused affront and insulted it by his Facebook (FB) post on April 27, 2020.”
Chavez-Marcos ordered the arrest, imprisonment of thirty days, and a fine of P30,000 against Responte in a court-initiated action for indirect contempt proceedings docketed under Special Civil Action no. 9588.
In a 14-page decision on January 22, 2021, Marcos denounced Responte for his refusal to delete the news report or make the necessary corrections when told to do so and instead allowed the post to be read and reread for two more days by the reading public.
On December 9, 2020, Marcos conducted a direct examination on witness Richard CarcallasJabines to establish that the report of Responte was perceived to malign her reputation.
In the next hearing on January 22, 2021, Responte refused to take the stand when told to answer the questions of the Judge and declined to examine the witness presented to establish the indirect contempt charges.
Responte, through his court-appointed counsel de officio, Atty. Janice Parilla of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) filed a motion for inhibition to “prevent a spectacle of the Presiding Judge of Honorable Court acting as the complainant, prosecutor and arbiter at the same time. .”
The decision was denied citing a Supreme Court ruling that “no other court than the one contemned will punish a given contempt.”
Responte did not present any evidence, testimony, or explanation showing why he should not be cited for indirect contempt as the court proceeded to render a decision.
Responte was whisked by members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) after Marcos ordered the immediate implementation of a commitment order for his detention and was brought to the Tagbilaran City PNP Police Station before his transfer to the Tagbilaran City Jail in Barangay Cabawan to serve his sentence.
The decision stemmed from a show-cause order on November 27, 2020, why Responte should not be cited for indirect contempt for publishing a news item on April 27, 2020, on his FB page.
Responte reported on the release of Roberto Alba, a former village councilor of Poblacion II, Tagbilaran City from detention on a drug buy-bust case.
The news item drew the attention of Marcos after social media expressed dismay over the release of Alba speculating that the order of release issued by Marcos was tainted with monetary consideration.
According to Marcos, the report “caused untold degradation on the court and casted doubt on its integrity among the netizens and reading public, thus committing an improper conduct tending to directly or indirectly degrade the administration of justice.”
However, in an exchange of posts over FB, Responte maintained that “gibasehannako and order sabalitaug interview sa chief of police (I based my news report on the order and interview of the chief of police.”
Marcos admonished Responte in her FB account – “Hoy, Dave Charles ResponteKumpletohanangimongbalita. Get all the documents in court. Do not twist your news as if gipangbayaran raangmgatawong involved! Be a responsible journalist!!!”
Responte responded “Jennifer Chavez-Marcos wala man nagi twist. Base man nasa order gikannimo. Didto mi sa City PNP ganina. Na interview namosiPLt. Col. Boyles.Nagbalitamanlangko base sa order. Naaganikang Rey Tutas. Kami duha nag cover ganina”.
Chavez-Marcos – “Dave Charle Responte if you leave that di nakumpleto! As if gibuhianrananga way rason. Half truth is not the truth. As a journalist you should know that.”
“You straighten your facts! Umayoska!
Responte – “base kosa order”
Chavez-Marcos – “di kakasabotug di kumpleto?” Are you out to malign me?” Kana raimongdokumento. Di kakamaomangitasaubang documents ngaga support ana?”
Responte – “Gibasehannkoang order sabalitaug interview sa chief of police.”
Chavez-Marcos – “I will stop answering this thread because I made my point. Tarungaimongpagkajournalist kay de kakamao.”
But Marcos, finding the report incomplete as it appears that Alba was merely released on recognizance despite being convicted for violation of section 5 (selling of illegal drugs) and section 11 (possession) of Republic Act (RA) 9165, an Act Instituting the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
Alba was released under a plea bargain agreement admitting guilt and was meted the penalties under the law and granted his motion for release under recognizance pending approval of his probation.
Marcos called for a correction of the article, however, Responte stood by his report but took down his post two days later.
In her decision, Marcos stressed that the indirect contempt proceedings “has nothing to do with the personal issues” raised in a cyber-libel case filed against Responte “which was downgraded into online unjust vexation and is not the subject of a petition for review before the Office of the Secretary of Department of Justice.”
NO PROBABLE CAUSE
Marcos filed a complaint for cyber-libel against Responte based on the assailed news report before the Office of the City Prosecutor alleging that the news article was intended to “malign, maliciously impute irregularity and cast aspersion on my integrity as a member of the judiciary.”
The Prosecutors Office dismissed the cyber-libel complaint for lack of probable cause but found Responte liable for unjust vexation.
Marcos appealed the resolution to the regional office of the DOJ but the resolution of the Office of the City Prosecutor was affirmed.
Responte filed a petition for bail immediately after his arrest. The court has still to act on the petition for bail. (Chito M. Visarra)