THE FIGHT is not yet over for former Iloilo provincial administrator and columnist Manuel “Boy” Mejorada.
Mejorada said the decision of the Regional Trial Court Branch 118 of Pasay City convicting him of libel motivated him to continue his crusade against corruption.
“God has a purpose. I had reached a point of exhaustion in fighting the corruption in Iloilo City. This decision has pumped me full of energy and sense of purpose again. I have to pursue the battle against corruption,” he said in his Facebook post on Feb. 21, 2017.
On Feb. 20, the RTC Branch 118-Pasay City found Mejorada guilty of four counts of libel filed by Ilonggo Sen. Franklin Drilon and sentenced him to serve a prison term of two to four years.
Drilon’s charges were based on Mejorada’s Facebook posts and personal blogs exposing alleged corruption in big infrastructure projects in Iloilo City.
The following posts are:
*Posted in FB pictures of earth-filling project in the Iloilo Circumferential Road in Ungka, Pavia entitled “Drilon’s version of the Macapagal Boulevard – grossly overpriced”
*The great ferry terminal robbery attempt (blog/Jan 15, 2014)
*Drilon’s Midas Touch (blog/Jan 29, 2014)
*Putting Safety on the Line – the Iloilo Convention Center (blog/Sept. 30, 2013).
The columnist said he is still positive in everything that happens, despite him looking defeated at first glance.
He said he will file a motion for reconsideration within 15 days.
Once denied, he will appeal it all the way to the Supreme Court.
“Nobody wants to be convicted of a crime and sentence to serve time in prison… Fortunately, I still have an opportunity to bring the case through the appeals process, first by way of a motion for reconsideration, and if this is denied, to elevate this to the Court of Appeals,” he said.
Mejorada thanked those who rallied behind him and showed their concern and support through calls, texts, and online messages.
“Call it a knock down in boxing for a mandatory eight-count. However, I am back on my feet, ready to continue the fight. That renewed sense of purpose is, I think, going to please God. I only intend to please Him, and nobody else,” he said.
Before their protracted war over the media and court, Drilon and Mejorada were political allies, with the latter serving as consultant to the former Senate president.
Drilon’s camp insinuated that Mejorada began hitting the Senator when the latter failed to get appointed to top government posts after the 2013 polls.
In an emailed statement, Drilon said he welcomes the Pasay City RTC’s decision which he said exposed Mejorada’s motives.
“I welcome the Pasay Regional Trial Court’s decision holding Manuel Mejorada guilty of libel for publishing malicious articles and social media posts against me,” Drilon said in a statement.
“My family and I are grateful that the court’s decision confirms the truth—that Mejorada is merely peddling lies and malicious stories to further whatever ulterior motive he has,” he added.
The former Senate president said that the decision only validates the fact that Mejorada was motivated by pure malice and all his allegations against me are complete lies and fabrications.
“The record of the case is bereft of any showing that Mejorada verified his stories,” the court said in a 33-page decision penned by Presiding Judge Rowena Nieves A. Tan.
“Accused claimed that his accusations were based on established and documented facts, and yet he never presented any proof of such accusation. My record as a public servant for three decades speaks of my firm belief in press freedom. I am a staunch believer and defender of the freedom of the press. Throughout my career I have always maintained an open and healthy relationship with the media and held them in high regard,” Drilon said.
But he added that this freedom “also demands accountability and does not give the media or anyone free rein to maliciously tarnish a man’s reputation.”
“To defend my name, my honor and my family, I filed a case against Mr. Mejorada in 2014 for fabricating vitriolic and false accusations against me,” Drilon said.
Drilon underscored that even the Ombudsman previously junked all the cases that Mejorada filed against him for being baseless, particularly with regard to the construction of Iloilo Convention Center. Also the subject of Drilon’s libel cases against Mejorada is the construction of Iloilo Circumferential Road and Iloilo Ferry Terminal Project, wherein Mejorada accused Drilon of overpricing.
“You will recall, too, that Mejorada himself, during the Senate hearing, admitted that he had no material evidence to prove his allegations, and that he merely relied on online sources such as Wikipedia.
“Mr. Mejorada will stop at nothing to ruin my name and my credibility as a public servant. My only recourse was to invoke the aid of the law.”