Angeles City information officer acquitted of libel

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ANGELES CITY- The City Regional Trial Court here acquitted the current City Information Officer of Angeles City of the libel case filed against him regarding a report published 15 years ago.

The report was about activities happening inside the Central Luzon Drug Rehabilitation Center (CLDRC) in Magalang, Pampanga.

Judge Omar Viola of Branch 56 of the Angeles City Regional Trial Court, in his 15-page decision issued on January 25, acquitted Arnel San Pedro, current Angeles City information officer and former Manila Times correspondent, and his co-accused, Police Supt. Efren Alamares, of the libel case filed against them by then-Police Senior Supt. Conrado Briton.

The case stemmed from an article of San Pedro in January 2004 on what was happening inside the CLDRC.

The judge pointed out in his decision that the reporter based his story on investigations conducted by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and other government authorities.

The publication of the report on alleged anomalies inside the CLDRC “cannot be deemed by this Court to have been done with actual malice,” according to Viola.

“Aside from the fact that the information contained in said publication was true, the fact that the co-accused gave the complainant equal opportunity to answer the allegations indicates that it was done in good faith,” Viola said.

The CLDRC was established by the non-government Sagip Bie Foundation, which appointed a police officer, Col. Conrado Briton, as executive director while Alamares was CLDRC director.

The statement of Alamares was also based on his separate investigation, which was also conducted because of allegations of corruption, the judge added.

San Pedro’s colleagues and members of the Pampanga Press Club (PPC) showed their solidarity to him as they assembled in front of the Angeles City Hall of Justice and welcomed the court’s decision acquitting San Pedro.

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