JUDGE not a judge’s wife.
This was the lesson for Mary Grace Catapan, 31, and Jhallyn Gequillo Varga, 35, after they allegedly defamed a woman, whose husband presides a trial court in Central Visayas, in a Facebook Messenger group chat.
Catapan and Varga, both from Bogo City in northern Cebu, were nabbed for allegedly peddling “rumors” that the complainant’s husband was a thief.
They also allegedly gave her an alias—Elsa Droga, accusing her of being a drug pusher in Bogo City.
Aileen (not her real name), the complainant, learned about the backbiting after one of the group chat’s members leaked to her the “stories” spread by Catapan and Varga.
She suspected that Catapan and Varga were mad at her youngest child, who became an honor student despite being a transferee.
“They bitched about me almost every day,” she said in Cebuano. “Someone accused me of having an illicit affair.”
Aileen said some of her family’s vacation photos were grabbed from her Facebook account and shared in the group chat.
“I was maligned,” she said.
A couple, she said, also filed a separate complaint against Varga and Catapan for allegedly spreading defamatory stories.
Aileen said she also filed complaints against the other members of the group chat, except the informant.
The arrest of Catapan and Varga in Bogo City on Monday night, Nov. 4, 2019 was authorized by the warrant of arrest issued by Cebu City Regional Trial Court Branch 11 Judge Ramon Daomilas Jr.
Catapan and Varga are facing a case for violating Republic Act (RA) 10175, or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, which punishes libelous statements spread on the Internet.
Varga and Catapan reportedly created a chat group in Facebook Messenger sometime in 2017, and their topic was Aileen and her child.
At the time, their children were attending a private school in Bogo City. Aileen’s child was a transferee.
In the chat group, which had 10 members, Varga and Catapan allegedly described Aileen as having a face like an “ungo (monster).” They also told other members that Aileen had a bipolar disorder.
The pictures of Aileen and her youngest child were also circulated in the group chat. Her child was reportedly described as a special child, further hurting Aileen and, at the same time, infuriating her.
A group chat member, who could not bear the slander anymore, took screenshots of the messages from 2017 until 2018; then the person forwarded these pictures to Aileen.
The complainant consulted a lawyer; she filed a complaint against Catapan and Varga for violating RA 10175.
The cyber libel cases, however, are bailable. Daomilas set the bail at P36,000 for each accused. (From AYB of SuperBalita Cebu, KAL)