30 May 2008

Alex "Lex" Adonis

Dear Readers,

Please read this story. It really stinks man.

March 11, 2007 | 8:36 am

‘Burlesque King’: Libel Law Dooms Davao Newsman

Lex Adonis, one of Davao City’s hard-hitting radio broadcasters, is behind bars after a court convicted him of the libel case filed by House majority leader Rep. Prospero Nograles. Adonis’s misfortune illustrates what happens when a powerful public official uses the country’s libel laws to get back at a journalist who was too poor to hire a lawyer or attend court hearings.

By Germelina A. Lacorte

DAVAO CITY — One of Davao City’s hard-hitting radio broadcasters is now behind bars for libel. If his enemy succeeded in blocking his application for probation, he could stay in jail for a long time.

Sentenced in January to four years and six months in jail, Bombo Radyo’s Alex “Lex” Adonis, 43, told davaotoday.com he had no regrets at all for his being a mediaman in the last 18 years. His only regret, he said, was his being poor.

Unable to hire a lawyer during the most critical stages in the hearing of his case, Adonis absconded his right to present his side of the libel case filed against him by the complainant, Rep. Prospero Nograles, the House majority floor leader who represents the city’s first district in Congress and one of this city’s — and the country’s — most powerful public officials.

In October 2001, Nograles filed two counts of libel against Adonis for the latter’s series of reports and commentary on the “Burlesque King” scandal. In his reports, Adonis identified Nograles as the man who, sometime in 2001, was seen allegedly running naked in a Manila hotel shortly after the husband of a woman Nograles allegedly had an affair with caught the two in bed.

Nograles denied the accusation and promptly filed the libel case against Abante Tonite, a Manila tabloid that first reported on the alleged incident, and the other journalists who reported on the alleged affair, Adonis among them.

A similar case filed against another Bombo Radyo broadcaster, Dan Vicente, known on the air as Vic Gensan, was dismissed while Adonis, who had gone missing at the critical phase of the trial, was tried in absentia. He was nowhere to be seen when the sentence was handed down.

But why did Adonis stop attending the trial at its most critical phase? Why did he waive his right to present his side?

“Without questioning the merit of the case nor the court’s decision, Adonis’ case shows what happens to broadcasters who can’t afford to hire lawyers but who dare criticize high government officials who have all the backings of power,” said Dodong Solis, a broadcaster and manager of DXDC, the city’s most popular AM station.

“It was not so much that Lex Adonis had criticized Nograles on the air — it was more about Lex Adonis being poor that he was not able to make full use of the privileges normally accorded by the law. That’s why he ended up where he is now.”

Adonis’s poverty in the last six years — at the time that he was being tried — worked so intricately against him. With his wife and two daughters, Adonis barely survived on a 7,500-peso monthly salary as a broadcaster. In 2004, he was assigned to the Bombo Radio station in Cagayan de Oro City.

At first, Adonis said he did not complain because he was receiving an additional 3,000-peso allowance during his first three months in Cagayan de Oro. He thought the additional pay would become permanent. But after three months, the allowance stopped. The Bombo management explained that the additional pay was just a “relocation allowance,” which only covered his first three months in Cagayan de Oro city.

So, when the relocation allowance stopped, Adonis was living on his old salary 500 kilometers away from his family. “I had to rent a room at 1,000 pesos a month,” he said. For food, he struck an arrangement with an eatery to allow him to eat there and pay for it at month’s end. “When payday comes,” Adonis said during a visit at the Maa City Jail this week, “there was barely enough left for my children, who were already in college.”

His assignment to Cagayan de Oro also made it very hard for him to attend the hearing of his case.

“To attend hearings, I had to finish my 6:30 p.m. radio program first before I leave Cagayan de Oro that same evening so I would arrive in Davao at eight in the morning the next day, in time for the nine o’clock hearing of the case,” Adonis said. “Afterwards, I had to rush back to Cagayan de Oro again in time for my radio program that same day at 6:30 in the evening,” he said. “Sometimes, I couldn’t even afford the bus fare to Davao,” he said, his resentment now boiling over. (The bus ride from Cagayan de Oro to Davao takes at least seven hours by bus.)

Driven by desperation and helplessness, Adonis, in 2005, finally went AWOL (on absence without leave ) from the radio station and disappeared. His disappearance prompted his lawyer, Leopoldo Cagatin, to withdraw from the case. It is impossible for him to protect Adonis’s rights and interest anymore, Cagatin said in a motion to withdraw in February 2006, when Adonis could no longer be found.

Unable to afford another lawyer (according to Bombo Radyo, they were the ones who hired Cagatin), Adonis stopped attending the hearings altogether. Last Feb. 19, police arrested Adonis while visiting his parents in Bankerohan. He could be transferred to the national penitentiary in Muntinlupa if Nograles successfully blocks Adonis’s attempt to apply for probation.

According to a Sun.Star Davao report, Adonis had wanted to apologize to Nograles but Bombo Radyo ordered him not to do it. “Had it been up to me, I would have apologized, but the management directed me not to do so,” Adonis told the paper.

But Bombo management denied this. “If the person concerned resolved to stand by his word, what are we to apologize for?” Bombo Radyo area manager Janilo Rubiato told Sun.Star Davao. Rubiato also said the station paid for the services of Adonis’s lawyer and provided the broadcaster financial assistance as well.

Nograles, in any case, was not going to take Adonis’s alleged infraction sitting down. “I have long forgiven Adonis but I and my family cannot forget what he did in destroying our reputation,” Nograles was quoted by the Philippine News Agency as saying in February.

Adonis is also facing a similar case filed by Jeanette Lomanta, a host at the time of an ABS-CBN Davao show who was identified as the woman allegedly caught in bed with Nograles.

The case of Adonis brings to the open the debate for the decriminalization of libel, a law that the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) believes has been used to harass and threaten journalists and hamper their duties.

Unlike in other countries, libel in the Philippines is a criminal offense. Although there are efforts to decriminalize it, these have not progressed. In the meantime, journalists say the country’s libel law is being used by powerful individuals to harass and intimidate the press.

This week, Gemma Bagayaua, an editor at Newsbreak magazine, spent a night in jail in Pasig City after she was arrested by the police on a libel charge filed against her and her colleagues at the magazine by Luis “Chavit” Singson, an ally of the Arroyo administration who is running for the Senate in the May elections.

But, according to the NUJP, no other public figure used libel against journalists as much as Jose Miguel Arroyo, the president’s husband.
Arroyo has filed libel cases against 43 journalists. These cases, the NUJP said in November, was meant to cow the media, a “brazen attack on press freedom” and may set an example for other public officials “to step up the use of libel” to silence critics.

“The trend is dangerous,” the NUJP said. “It not only tramples on the basic right to free expression and freedom of the press — it also opens the door to abuse of authority.”

In the case of Adonis, the probation law allows a “criminal sentenced to less than six years of prison to serve his sentence out of jail under certain conditions.”

But would Adonis, who was
too poor to defend himself in court in the first place, have the energy and the money to go through the motion of applying for probation when his enemies, according to him, are bent on blocking it?

“If Lex Adonis only had the money for a lawyer, do you think he would end up in jail right now?” Solis, of DXDC, asked. “I think the greatest mistake Adonis ever did was he remained
blog comments powered by Disqus