Prosecutor junks governor's lawyer's charges against news correspondent

·3 min read

The Mandaue City Prosecutor's Office has dismissed for lack of probable cause the charges filed by the camp of Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia against a Cebu-based news correspondent whose Facebook posts last April had been deemed by the Capitol as misinformation.

Associate City Prosecutor Arsenia Naparate, in her resolution dated Sept. 11, 2020, found no enough evidence to charge Rhea Ruth Rosell, the respondent, with violations of Provincial Ordinance No. 2020-02, which prohibits spreading of false news and information about Covid-19 on social media and other forms electronic and digital media; Article 154 of the Revised Penal Code, which prohibits unlawful use of means of publication and unlawful utterances; and Presidential Decree 90, which declares rumor-monhering and spreading false information as unlawful.

The complaints were filed by lawyer Frank Eduard Dinsay, chief of staff to the governor.

Last April 11, Garcia issued Executive Order 5-L-1, which sets additional prohibitions on the use of beaches and other bodies of water within Cebu Province. The order disallowed swimming and mass gathering in order to slow down the spread of Covid-19 in the province.

Rosell, on the same day, posted her comments on her Facebook account, and a portion of which states: "The moment an executive order prohibits entry to all bodies of water, it shows that there is no true heart for the poor who does not have water connection in many areas in Cebu... Nobody is allowed to go fishing and also nobody is allowed to go to the river to wash their dishes, take a bath and do the laundry, etc."

Dinsay based the complaints on the statement. He argued that the respondent had meant to misinform any person who read her Facebook post and she made a false information.

However, Naparate noted that the Local Government Code mandates that ordinance with penal sanctions will take effect only after it is posted in prominent places for three consecutive weeks and published in a newspaper of general circulation.

Naparate stated in her resolution that Rosell's "act of posting on her Facebook account and misinforming anybody or the public" about the purpose of Executive Order 5-L-1 does not constitute a criminal act because the order was not yet in effect as the posting as well as the publication requirement was not yet complied with.

The prosecutor also does not hold Rosell liable of violating Article 154 of the Revised Penal Code, saying the latter's Facebook post "does not endanger the public or cause damage to the interest of the state."

As to the charge of violation of Presidential Decree No. 90, Naparate states there is no enough evidence to charge Rosell as the respondent's post "does not cause panic, discredit of or distrust for the duly authorities or endanger the public order or cause damage to the interest of the State. But it only intends to misinform the public on the true purpose of Executive Order No. 5-L-1."

Naparate's resolution was approved by Mandaue City Prosecutor Mary Francis Daquipil. (JOB)