I HOPE “has-been” mayor Tomas Osmeña will humbly accept legal defeat and would stop legally harassing me. I am referring to the libel case he filed against me several years ago. In 2014, Osmeña, who lost to Mike Rama in the 2013 elections, filed two libel cases against me: one for violation of Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code and another one for violation of Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. The cases stemmed from my Oct. 25, 2014 column in Sunstar Cebu which accused him of “fabricating charges” against then City Treasurer Diwa Cuevas.
Osmeña filed more than 30 administrative cases against Cuevas before the Department of Finance and the Civil Service Commission (CSC). I viewed the charges against Cuevas as a form of harassment by the former mayor. Offended by the term I used, “fabricated charges,” Tomas filed two libel cases against me.
But only the libel case under the Revised Penal Code prospered. After finding probable cause, then Lapu-Lapu City Assistant Prosecutor Rodrigo Tagaan, designated city prosecutor, filed the case. I filed a petition for review before then Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, who ordered the Cebu City Prosecutor to withdraw the case. But Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 18 presiding Judge Gilbert Moises did not only dismiss the case based on the prosecution’s motion to withdraw the case. He decided the case based on merit.
“The court found no malice in Nalzaro’s article that accused Osmeña of ‘fabricating some charges’ against City Treasurer Diwa Cuevas over alleged lapses in handling Cebu City’s financial transactions, which were included in the 2012 and 2013 audit reports of the Commission on Audit. Being a public figure, the private complainant (Osmeña) opens up himself to the risks of criticism, (and) to public ridicule even,” part of the court’s decision read.
“The commentaries may be unfair and inaccurate but for as long as it stays within the realm of protected speech or publication as in this case, the same could not be considered as libel. The words ‘fabricated charges’ may not be the accurate words to use and may strike a few chords, yet it is not entirely without basis,” the court said.
Osmeña filed a motion for reconsideration, but just the same this was dismissed by the court “for being pro forma and lack of merit.” Not contented, through his lawyer Kirk Bryan Jaca Repollo, Osmeña filed a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court before the Court of Appeals. He assailed Moises’s decision. He prayed to reverse and lift the dismissal of the case as provided in the orders of Judge Moises; remand the case to the RTC for further prosecution; and order the honorable judge public respondent to inhibit in further trying the case after its exercise of judicial determination of probable cause is in the nature of trying the case on the merits.
But in its Sept. 16, 2019 decision, the Court of Appeals Special 19th Division resolved the petition to wit: 1) Dismiss the case in view of the infirmities noted by this Court; that the petitioner failed to ‘State the material dates (i.e the date of receipt of the assailed order and the date of filing of the motion for reconsideration) in violation of Section 3, Rule 46 of the Rules of Court; 2) Attach affidavit of service, in violation of Section 13, Rule 13 of the Rules of Court; 3) Attach pertinent pleadings and documents necessary for the thorough evaluation of the case, in violation of Section 3, Rule 46 of the Rules of Court. Annexes H, I, J and M of the petition are missing.
The CA 19th Special Division is composed of chairperson Justice Gabriel Ingles, Alfredo Ampuan and Carlito Calpatura. It is his right to elevate this matter to the higher court, but with the three “knockdowns” in the Department of Justice, RTC
and CA, I hope Tomas will humbly accept his defeat.
Hunong na intawon panggukod uy. Dawata na lang imong kapildihan. Sama sa imong pagdawat sa imong kapildihan sa eleksiyon. Ang imo rang abogado maoy madatu ani. Total naa pay laing upat ka pending nga libel cases courtesy sa imong anak. (Stop running after me. Accept your defeat, the same way you accepted your defeat in the elections. It’s only your lawyer who will get rich from this. Anyway, there are four other pending libel cases courtesy of your son.)