A 62-year-old anti mining activist who heads a group of residents in the northern town of Cagayan in the Philippines was arrested for allegedly posting a libelous statement on Facebook about a mining issue.
Esperlita Garcia, the 62-year-old president of Gonzaga Alliance for Environmental Protection and Preservation (GAEPP), was picked up and booked Thursday by authorities based on the warrant issued by a regional trial court judge.
The complaint was filed by the town mayor in April 2011 over "an account Garcia posted on her Facebook page about an aborted anti mining rally in the town on April 30, 2011."
GAEPP is a non-governmental organization (NGO) that is questioning the extraction of magnetite sand by Chinese mining operators in the town of Gonzaga.
The provincial government of Cagayan has reportedly allowed the operation of Chinese companies to mine magnetite sand.
Garcia has expressed her concern over the legality of the issuance of her warrant of arrest as the law that punishes online libel is yet to be implemented by the government.
“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.
The new Philippine Anti-Cybercrime law which drew widespread opposition from online journalists for its oppressive libel provisions, was recently restrained by the Supreme Court from being implemented in response to the petitions by concerned groups for review of the criminal libel provisions of the law.
Secretary of Justice Leila de Lima said the government will follow the court's order which was scheduled for hearing on January 15.
"The Supreme Court temporary restraining order is an exercise of the power of judicial review. We respect and will abide by it," de Lima told reporters
Garcia, who was released from jail after posting a P10,000 bail said, she was treated like a hardened criminal when she was arrested.
“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,” she said.