Cebu Citizens-Press Council

Being accountable comes with being free

CCPC nixes summonses from local legislatures

June 30th, 2011 · No Comments

Policy on summons from local legislatures

[This resolution was submitted by Cebu Media Legal Aid (Cemla), a loose group of lawyer volunteers, to the Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC) at its quarterly en banc membership meeting at the MBF Cebu Press Center on June 30, 2011. The CCPC approved the policy.]


[] Two local legislatures, the Cebu Provincial Board and the Cebu City Council, in separate incidents wanted the presence of journalists in their sessions to explain what they reported in their newspapers;

[] For a news story, reporter Rene Borromeo wrote in The Freeman of July 7, 2008 and for an opinion column Efren Lonzon wrote in Sun.Star Superbalita [Cebu] of May 18, 2011, the two legislative bodies separately invited the two journalists;

[] While they were both invitations, in the more recent incident, a city councilor in a letter to a newspaper made the threat, thinly veiled, to subpoena columnist Lonzon, citing Section 5, Article XV of the Rules of Procedure of the City Council, which in effect says that any person summoned to appear before it and refuses without justifiable cause may be cited in contempt;

[] In the two incidents, the journalists refused the invitations but explained their absence; fortunately, the two legislatures didn’t push the attendance of the journalists: the Provincial Board and, more recently, the City Council considered the matter closed;

[] The presence of such a provision in the house rules, at least in the case of the City Council, may spur bolder moves in the future, using their perceived power to drag journalists before legislators by issuing subpoenas instead of invitations; and


[] Local legislatures have not been granted by the Local Government Code the power to issue compulsory process and the power to punish for contempt and any such subpoena or summons would be “ultra vires” and therefore null and void (as decided by the Supreme Court in Arturo Umbac vs. Sangguniang Panglungsod of Dumaguete [GR #72492 of Nov. 5, 1987], which Atty. Fritz Quiñanola cited in a published letter reacting to the threat of the city councilor cited earlier;

[] Journalists are accountable for what they write or broadcast to their publishers and editors or station owners and news directors and to their public, not to public officials who may be aggrieved by the publication;

[] There are remedies available for any person offended by a publication or broadcast: right of reply in the opinion or news section or segment, letters to the management or the press council (depending upon the nature of the complaint), or even lawsuits, but they don’t include summoning a journalist before the local legislators, where an inquiry may quickly turn into an inquisition;

[] Such a forum may be used by the local legislature or any other government office or agency to hit back at, or harass, journalists and their news organizations and thus would create a climate of fear and intimidation;


The Cebu Citizens-Press Council hereby declares this as position of the Council:

It encourages journalists and their news organizations to reject any subpoena or summons from local legislatures and to be cautious about invitations to explain before them news or opinion published in print or broadcast, without, however, disregarding accountability under established procedures and practices of the industry.

ENACTED this 30th day of June, 2011, at the quarterly en banc meeting of the Cebu Citizens-Press Council at the MBF Cebu Press Center in Sudlon, Lahug, Cebu City, Philippines.

[Cemla volunteers, mostly from media ranks, serve as legal arm of CCPC and help provide legal assistance to journalists. The members include Bingo Gonzalez, Fritz Quiñanola, Pedro Rosito, Elias Espinoza, Francisco Malilong Jr., Maria Dee Del Rosario, Rosemarie Versoza, Eddie Barrita, Lucille Karen Isberto, Ruphil Bañoc and Ian Manticajon.]

Tags: CCPC Papers and Resolutions · Cebu Media Legal Aid

0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment