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Philippines 6 August 2003

Newspaper editor arrested after President Gloria Arroyo’s lawyer accuses her of libel

(JPEG) Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) today wrote to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo condemning the arrest of Daily Tribune editor Ninez Cacho-Olivares on 4 August after her opposition newspaper reported corruption allegations implicating the president’s personal lawyer and other associates of the president.

"Your lawyer has every right to file suit against a newspaper if he considers he has been libelled, but it is quite improper to arrest a journalist or editor for reporting corruption allegations," Reporters Without Borders wrote, urging the president to intervene personally to ensure that Cacho-Olivares is released as soon as possible.

(JPEG) Cacho-Olivares was arrested at her home in Parañaque City following the issue of 19 arrest warrants in response to complaints accusing her of criminal defamation filed by President Arroyo’s personal lawyer, Arthur "Pancho" Villaraza. Her lawyers obtained an order for her release on bail on two of the complaints, but the police still had 17 other arrest orders.

After being detained, Cacho-Olivares said she was the victim of "political persecution." Her lawyer said she had been arrested "to prevent her continuing to criticise the Arroyo government."

President Arroyo’s husband Jose Miguel was not named, but several allusions suggested that he was also implicated in the scandal. The newspaper based its allegations on recordings of conversations between Villaraza and executives with a German company involved in the construction of a new terminal of the Manila international airport. Villaraza was reported to have demanded 20 million US dollars for "background services".

The is the first time a newspaper editor has been arrested since democracy was restored in 1986. The Daily Tribune is a national daily launched in 1999. The editor and her newspaper support former President Joseph Estrada, who is currently in prison.




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