Libel complaint vs Peña junked-A A +A
Monday, October 7, 2013
REGIONAL Trial Court Branch 59 Presiding Judge Kathrine Go in San Carlos City, Negros Occidental has dismissed the libel case filed against former Pulupandan mayor Magdaleno Peña for lack of jurisdiction, but without prejudice to its re-filing in the proper court.
Peña was charged with libel by Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr., who was running then for re-election, when the former allegedly uttered defamatory words with alleged malicious intent to impeach and ridicule the status, credibility of the governor.
The court order states that the “court cannot ascribe to the view of private complainant that ‘holding public office’ should not be interpreted as the ‘physical occupation of a building or the place where business is conducted’ but as ‘a position of duty, function or part of a particular person or agency,’ and since the private complainant is the governor of the province, then he can file this action in any regional trial court in the province except the RTC of Bacolod City which is not part of the Province being a chartered city.”
The court further said that “if the interpretation of the private complainant is upheld, then, this would in fact defeat the purpose of the law. In fact, it is the considered opinion of the Court that a careful reading of the provisions of the above cited law would show that the ‘office’ referred to is not the public office held by the public officer but the ‘office’ where he actually conducts official business, which should be a specific place.”
“The fact that Bacolod City, a highly urbanized and chartered city, is not part of the province of Negros Occidental and that its inhabitants do not vote for the elective provincial officials is nether relevant nor material. The fact that the provincial governor and other provincial officials hold office in Bacolod City as the capital of the Province of Negros Occidental is. And this, to the Court’s mind, is where venue should properly be laid,” the order added.
Asked for comment, Peña said: "I would like to thank Judge Kathrine Go, who is an expert in criminal law, for dismissing this libel case for lack of jurisdiction. It was clear from the outset that fiscal Ranela de la Fuente has no jurisdiction to conduct preliminary investigation on the case.”
He added: “Atty. Espiritu filed this case before fiscal Dela Fuente in Escalante City, who acted on it despite the obvious lack of jurisdiction to investigate this unfounded and frivolous case.”
In a statement sent through email, Peña also said: “On the other hand, my request to my good friend TITO FREDDIE is for him to stop wasting his time and money in this frivolous libel case which is oftentimes resorted to by showbiz people. The governor should stop giving his money to his lawyer, Atty. Renecio Espiritu, and instead concentrate on the affairs of the province."
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on October 07, 2013.