Leo and two cases-A A +A
Tuesday, September 3, 2013
NO MATTER how strongly we disagree with the decision convicting colleague Leo Lastimosa of libel, we have to maintain our respect for the Courts. Besides, Judge Rafael Yrastorza may have his weaknesses (who doesn’t?) but the lack of character is not one of them.
Leo himself has taken the high road, saying nothing beyond his announcement that he will appeal the decision. Let’s take his cue.
If Leo’s case goes all the way up to the Supreme Court, he could be joining two other members of the Cebu media whose cases helped enrich Philippine jurisprudence in the last 13 years: this newspaper and another friend, Choy Torralba.
Ocampo vs. Sun Star Publishing Inc. reached the Supreme Court upon a petition by the late Judge Martin Ocampo of the Cebu Regional Trial Court after another Cebu RTC judge dismissed his complaint against this newspaper for publishing two articles that he claimed were libelous.
Sun.Star Cebu had reported in its Aug. 28, 1997 issue the filing of graft charges with the Office of the Ombudsman against Ocampo by a lawyer, who was the chairman of a corporation, that lost a case in Ocampo’s court.
This was followed by another news item two days later the quoted the judge as saying that the Ombudsman had no jurisdiction over him. An official of the Ombudsman, according to the same news report, however insisted that it will raffle the case.
After filing its answer, Sun.Star and Ocampo agreed to submit the case to summary judgment based only on the issue of whether or not the articles were attended by malice. The court found that they were not and ruled against Ocampo, who appealed to the Supreme Court.
While his petition for review for review was pending, Ocampo died. Nevertheless, the High Tribunal said that this did not affect their decision and proceeded to declare Ocampo’s appeal without merit.
The Court cited four grounds to support their findings: a) the articles were fair and true reports of a judicial/administrative proceedings that it not confidential nature, b) there were no comments or remarks made by the reporter who wrote the news items, c) the newspaper exercised fairness and balance in publishing the reports and d) the reports were true accounts of a newsworthy event.
The other case, Circe Francisco “Choy” Torralba vs. People of the Philippines, stemmed from a decision of the Regional Trial Court of Tagbilaran finding the broadcaster guilty of “blackening the memory of the late Hon. CFI Judge Agapito Y. Hontanosas” through his radio program, “Tug-Ani ang Lungsod.”
On appeal, the Supreme Court acquitted Choy, saying that the prosecution has not presented sufficient proof to overcome the presumption of innocence in his favor.
“Accusation is not synonymous with guilt,” the Court said, citing an old case. “The prosecution must overthrow the presumption of innocence with proof of guilt beyond reasonable doubt. To meet this standard, there is need for the most careful scrutiny of the testimony of the State, both oral and documentary independently of whatever defense is offered by the accused.”
“Thus,” the Court added, it is required that “every circumstance favoring innocence be duly taken into account” and whatever proof against him “must survive the test of reason; the strongest suspicion must not be permitted to sway judgment.”
Incidentally, Choy was present during the promulgation of the decision in Leo’s case to show his solidarity with a colleague. Indeed, Leo is not alone.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 03, 2013.