NOTE: THIS STORY WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE BOHOL CHRONICLE’S SUNDAY PRINT EDITION.
Dave Charles Responte, DYTR Broadcast-Journalist issued an unexpected “Public Apology” to Regional Trial Court Judge (RTC), Branch 2, Tagbilaran City, Presiding Judge Jennifer Chavez-Marcos over a news article posted on his Facebook (FB) page which he admitted as “totally wrong, unfair, damaging and contrary to the basic tenets of journalism, particularly, truth and accuracy, fairness and impartiality”.
Responte further declared that “he caused the preparation of the above public apology” and is “a manifestation of my true thoughts and emotions” and “was executed by me freely and voluntarily”.
Responte secured his release after the court accepted his public apology and completed documentary requirements for his liberty.
Responte’s admission was an abrupt turnaround from his original staunch position that his article on Alba’s release from detention “was nothing but a purely factual account” based on the information gathered from the copy of the court order he secured and his interview with the then Chief of Police of Tagbilaran City Police Station, Police Lieutenant Colonel Oscar Boyles.
ADMISSION OF GUILT
The public apology acknowledged his irresponsibility as a news reporter and failure to “heed the call of the judge who rendered the decision to complete and rectify the news despite the latter’s comments.”
The news reporter owned up to the fact that he “did not even take down the post after being made aware of the inaccuracy of my report and the damage that it was already bringing to the Court and to the person of the Judge”.
The show-cause order for the Court initiated action for Indirect Contempt was filed against Responte before the RTC Branch 2, City of Tagbilaran on November 26, 2020.
Responte accepted the propriety of the penalty of imprisonment and vowed not to challenge the sanction imposed by the court with the assurance that “I will be diligent in my gathering of facts and accurate in my reporting. . .”
ACT OF CONTRITION
In a magnanimous move, the Chronicle learned that Chavez-Marcos commuted the 30-day imprisonment to five days after the issuance by Responte of the public apology.
Chavez-Marcos responded to the public apology on her FB page, with a heading – A lesson in humility “Do not wait for circumstances to compel you to be humble, at the first instance in order to avoid further damage. Minghuwat pa nga ma priso usa mangayo ug pasaylo (waited to be jailed before asking for forgiveness).
“Sad. A simple “erratum” could have avoided the unfortunate situation. Let this be a lesson to all”, added Chavez-Marcos.
Responte was on his fifth day of a 30-day incarceration at the Tagbilaran City Jail in Barangay Cabawan ordered by Chavez-Marcos in a 14-page decision on January 22, 2021. The beleaguered reporter was also fined P30,000.00 and is facing a case for unjust vexation, a P1M civil suit arising from the assailed news article, and a resolution from the Department of Justice (DOJ) on a petition for review filed by Chavez-Marcos on resolutions issued by the Office of the City Prosecutor regarding cyber-libel complaints.
Responte was reportedly released from detention after Chavez-Marcos apparently gave her consent for a public apology. The public and the media learned about the impending liberty of Responte through social media.
The failure of Responte 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 led to the promulgation of the decision.
Responte, through his court-appointed counsel, 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.
Chavez-Marcos severely criticized the news article written by Responte based on her court order releasing former Barangay Poblacion II Kagawad Roberto C. Alba from detention without clarifying the circumstances leading to his release.
According to her complaint, Responte’s report while “partially true” was “worded and presented in such a way” that Alba was released “whimsically, arbitrarily and capriciously.”
The complaint claimed that Responte failed to disclose in his report that on arraignment, Alba entered separate pleas of guilty for both criminal offenses of selling (Section 5) and possession of dangerous drugs (Section 11) and pleaded guilty to a lesser offense of violation of Section 12 (possession of equipment, instrument, apparatus and other paraphernalia for dangerous drugs), all offenses under Republic Act RA 9165 known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
Earlier, in a five-page Omnibus Decision on April 27, 2020, taking into account Alba’s judicial admission of guilt and pursuant to a plea bargaining agreement, the court found him guilty beyond reasonable doubt for violation of section 12 and imposed the penalty of imprisonment of six months as a minimum to two years as maximum and to pay the fine of P15,000.00 for each criminal case.
Alba was released under recognizance pending approval of his request for probation.
SOCIAL MEDIA FUROR
As an offshoot of the news report, an online libel and unjust vexation complaints were filed before the Office of the City Prosecutor, City of Tagbilaran by Chavez-Marcos against Responte for violation of Section (4) of Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.
The news article generated a significant number of adverse comments from netizens expressing consternation over the alleged preferential treatment to persons under litigation as shown by screenshots attached to the complaint.
A petition for review before the Department of Justice (DOJ) was filed by the complainant on the basis of adverse resolutions from the Office of the City Prosecutor, Tagbilaran City. (Chito M. Visarra)