Libel case vs BCDA dismissed-A A +A
By JM Agreda
Thursday, February 28, 2013
THE Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) was victorious after the recent dismissal of the libel case filed against them at the Baguio Prosecutor’s Office by the Camp John Hay Development Corporation (CJHDevCo).
Just after last week’s suspension of warrants of arrest issued against its directors, the BCDA again claimed judicial victory after Acting City Prosecutor for Baguio Gerald Eala denied CJHDevCo’s motion for reconsideration on the dismissal of the libel complaint against BCDA’s directors.
In an 11-page resolution, Eala said, “CJHDevCo failed to show sufficient evidence to support their conclusion that the BCDA in fact entertained serious doubts as to the truth of their publication.”
Eala adde: “The evidence of [BCDA] show that they acted in good faith and were duty bound to inform the public of the current state of affairs of CJHDevCo.”
“The inclusion [of BCDA’s estafa complaint against CJHDevCo] in the ‘Notice’ was not meant to insult, embarrass, or degrade Robert John Sobrepeña and the other officers of the CJHDevCo. Its only purpose is to inform the public that CJHDevCo committed what the BCDA perceived to be wrong and it does not matter whether the [estafa] case of CJHDevCo has already been resolved or not,” the prosecutor’s decision reads.
Last April 2012, BCDA published a notice that CJHDevCo owed the government P3 billion and that BCDA filed an estafa complaint against CJHDevCo, because the latter paid BCDA a property which it allegedly previously already sold to another.
Basing on the notice placed by the BCDA in a national daily, CJHDevCo filed a libel complaint against BCDA directors in the City Prosecutor’s Office.
Just a few months later, CJHDevCo again through their president and Chief Executive Officer Robert Sobrepeña filed another libel complaint in Pasig City, alleging the same facts as contained in the published advertisement and citing the same law.
In a press statement, BCDA president and CEO Arnel Paciano Casanova welcomed the news saying, “Suits like this, though obviously baseless, are a necessary hazard of our jobs as public officers.”
“We cannot shirk away from our duty to protect government property and the investing public just because there is a threat of legal action against us by a disgruntled party. We must perform our public duty without fear,” he added.
Baguio City Acting Prosecutor for Baguio City Elmer Surot earlier dismissed the first libel complaint. CJHDevCo filed a motion for reconsideration which was also denied by Eala.
Meanwhile, in the Pasig City Prosecutor’s Office, prosecutor Jacinto Ang found probable cause in the complaint filed by the CJHDevCo president and filed the case in the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Pasig.
But BCDA’s motion for reconsideration and the inhibition of Ang last December resulted to the investigation being forwarded to the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The inhibition of the Pasig prosecutor prompted Pasig City RTC Judge Amorfina Cerrado-Cezar to rule “this Court, in the interest of greater justice, is inclined to grant the suspension of the issuance of warrant of arrest against the afore-name accused.”
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on March 01, 2013.