But who can help it? The jailing of Davao's Bombo broadcaster Lex Adonis has stirred a raging debate in our midst not because Lex Adonis is kind of a 'hero' but because libel touches all of us who happen to wield the power of the pen for a living, a power that is coupled with responsibility. But does a law as harsh as libel have a reason to exist in our midst? International media groups like the New York-based Committee for the Protection of Journalists, the International Federation of Journalists, the Paris-based Reporters without Borders and lately, the International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX) and Bangkok-based Southeast Asian Press Alliance (Seapa) through the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility have expressed strong views over the jailing of a broadcaster for libel because of what it means to freedom of expression and press freedom in a democracy like the Philippines. We read about Conrado de Quiros' "Naked" on the pages of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. In Mindanao, Mindaviews columnist Patricio Diaz wrote "Beyond Lex's Case." Diaz said he had once faced a libel case, himself, and was rather thankful that his publishers "defended him to the hilt." His column prompted a reader to react, so that he had to unleash another series of columns, "Inconsistent Logic," and "Balance of Rights."
I remember a distressing fact from a banana workers' forum I covered in early 2005. I learned how seven (?) or nine (?) year old children were actually made to work inside those banana plantations, digging holes where bananas were planted and paid P1 per hole. Then, I came upon Dr. Romy Quijano, who was facing a libel case for a report he did on the high incidence of cancer and other diseases in communities surrounding the plantation areas in Guihing, Davao del Sur. The powerful banana plantation sued him and the case dragged on for years. He told me how the arresting officer and the police who knocked at his door were surprised to find out that they were about to arrest a doctor. They apologized to him and spoke to him with respect. He was not able to spend time in prison because he was able to post bail right there and then. Long after he finished his story, I kept staring at Dr. Quijano, shocked and awed. I was awed at Dr. Quijano's greatness and his courage to fight for what is right. I was also shocked and horrified that someone as poor as a rat (as I was!) would have been too helpless to fight back and save herself!