THE Office of the City Prosecutor (OCP) of the Island Garden City of Samal (Igacos) has junked the libel case filed against a Davao-based freelance reporter, a Davao-based businesswoman, and an unnamed accused.
In a resolution issued on October 10, 2017, City Prosecutor Joseph M. Apao dismissed the Libel in relation to Sec 4 (c) of RA 10175 (Cyber libel) filed by former National Bureau of Investigation-South Eastern Mindanao Regional Office (NBI-Semro 11) Regional Director lawyer Arnold D. Rosales against Editha Z. Caduaya, Amadea L. Aquino, and an unnamed editor of Newsline Philippines.
"After carefully evaluating the diverging arguments of the parties herein, the undersigned is of the view that the complainant failed to establish malice in fact necessary to establish probable cause to make a case for cyber-libel, and hence, finds for the respondents," Apao said.
The complaint stemmed from a news article published by the Newsline Philippines in its internet page on August 12, 2017 entitled "NBI Boss 11 others in hot water over ‘for the boys' raps".
The article made reference to the entrapment operation conducted by NBI-Semro 11 on August 7, 2017 of an establishment named Upside Down, Inside Out, within the Plaza Roman KTV Bar Compound situated along Cabaguio Ave., Davao City. The article was written by Caduaya.
Rosales in his complaint decried the news report as being defamatory as it portrays him as a corrupt official. He said he was unjustly implicated in an alleged mulcting activity of some NBI-Semro 11 personnel in the amount of P500,000.
In the resolution, it was stated that the Rosales alleged the article written by the respondent made it appear the he personally received the amount. He furthermore alleged that that the news article was maliciously aimed at destroying his reputation in the community as a lawyer and a public servant occupying a high position in NBI.
Rosales also filed the complaint against Aquino for allegedly making a comment on Facebook pertaining to the news article written by Caduaya.
Caduaya on September 19, 2017 submitted her counter-affidavit and have argued that there is no probable cause against her being that: 1) there is no imputation of crime by her; and 2) there is no evidence of malice, and even assuming that the contents of the article turned out to be false, or even one-sided, these standing alone are not proofs of actual malice.
In the resolution Apao stated that the complainant is a public official and hence the burden of proof to prove the existence of probable cause to indict respondents for the crime with which they are sought to be prosecuted rests heavily upon his shoulders.
“The personalities mentioned in the news article subject matter of the instant case are public officials, and are therefore, deemed to be newsworthy material especially that their conduct outside their office will have a direct bearing on their official duties. Hence, the public in general has the right to know in order to have an intelligent discourse and exchange of views on matters affecting government officials, they be holding elective or appointive positions,” Apao stated in the resolution.
Apao likewise stressed that the statements contained in the news article aforementioned are not a figment of respondent Caduaya’s imagination. On the contrary the same came directly from the personal accounts of Charina Aquino, Miguel Efren Aguino, and Alfreda Maghari, as contained in their respective sworn statement dated August 11, 2017 and pictures taken or captured from CCTV footages.
“Respondent Caduaya merely presented the events alleged therein in chronological order probably for better appreciation by the reading public as the same is a matter of public interest,” Apao said.
He added that OPC notes that the comments made by Aquino were merely reactions to the original posting of Caduaya’s article, and does not in any way create altogether a new defamatory statement against the complainant.
“Her comments herein made no reference to new matters not articulated in the item subject of the news article not depart therefrom. Hence, she could not be indicted simply for the reason of expressing her views based solely on an online article published in the internet. To do so would be a violation of her constitutionality protected freedom of expression,” Apao said.