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Both ABS-CBN News and the Inquirer are reporting that environmentalist Esperlita Garcia, president of the Gonzaga Alliance for Environmental Protection and Preservation, was arrested on Thursday for a supposed “libelous” Facebook post about Gonzaga Mayor Carlito Pentecostes Jr. The post blamed the mayor for the cancellation of an anti-mining rally last May in 2011.
This is a troubling arrest that sets a precedent if the current “Cybercrime Act” is not struck down by the Supreme Court in an upcoming court case in February 2013.
Melvin Gascon quoted Garcia in the Inquirer:
“What really bothers me is how the prosecutors and the judge determined that I should be arrested when I know that the law that supposedly punishes online libel was passed only this year and was even (restrained) by the Supreme Court,” said Garcia, referring to Republic Act No. 10175 or the Anti-Cybercrime Act of 2012.
Garcia is president of the Gonzaga Alliance for Environmental Protection and Preservation, a people’s organization that has been leading the opposition to the magnetite sand extraction project operated by Chinese firms in Gonzaga. The companies were allowed to mine magnetite sand by the Cagayan provincial government.
The libel charge was filed by Gonzaga Mayor Carlito Pentecostes Jr. over an account Garcia posted on her Facebook page about an aborted antimining rally in the town on April 30, 2011.
She said she was merely giving a factual account of what had transpired during the rally where she quoted the mayor before demonstrators at St. Anthony Academy in Gonzaga.
“[The arrest warrant] shocked me because I had not received any notice about the case since I filed my counteraffidavit last year,” Garcia told the Inquirer by phone.
The Inquirer tried to reach prosecutor Mila Acacio but her staff said she was not at her office in Aparri.
Youth group Anakbayan lambasted the arrest of an anti-mining activist in Cagayan province last Thursday over an allegedly libelous statement on Facebook amid the halted Cybercrime Prevention Law.
“With opponents of large-scale, destructive mining resorting to the Internet as a means of informing the public and gathering more support, the Cybercrime Law will be used to stomp out such tactics,” Anakbayan’s Vencer Crisostomo said.
Crisostomo added: “This is a preview of what to expect once the TRO lapses: the Cybercrime Law will be unleashed by the Aquino regime against its countless critics and opponents.”
The TRO or temporary restraining order will lapse on February 6 next year.
Crisostomo also expressed concern that the law will be part of a “grand plan to hijack” the coming elections.
“Noynoy knows that his regime is growing in unpopularity with every minute and that his senatoriables and party-lists will be dumped by the people in 2013 as a ‘no-confidence vote.’ He wants to deny them the Internet as a means of campaigning against him and his bets,” Crisostomo claimed.
Again, Melvin Gascon quoting Garcia:
“I am a senior citizen but I was treated like a hardened criminal. They did not even give me a chance to bathe or change from my house clothes. They just dragged me into a car,”