Bzzzzz: The no-phone-signal fear; 2 versions on Gica arrest; Leo’s case

Nomophobia anyone?

HOW many Cebuanos and visitors who plan to come to Cebu for the Sinulog 2020 activities have nomophobia or fear of being out of cell-phone range?

A number of Sto. Nino devotees talk more about the planned shutdown of cell-phone signal at the Sinulog parade route and the Cebu City Sports Complex grandstand than anything else, such as braving the crowd at Sto. Niño Basilica, being mugged by some thief, or a C.R.-emergency on the street during the festivity.

Many people may really have that fear although they don’t give it a name.

Employees’ word v. cops’

Whom to believe: Dumanjug police, who said they served the warrant of arrest on Mayor Gungun Gica? Or the eight town government employees who said, in a joint affidavit, the police “never arrested” the mayor at his office in the “municipio” at 2 p.m. of January 8. At that time, Gungun was said to be officiating a wedding, signing document and entertaining visitors.

But didn’t the police say they served the warrant at the mayor’s house? Is the dispute over where he was arrested, not on whether he was arrested?

Either police or the eight town hall employees (six contractual and two regular, including Mayor Gungun’s private secretary) were not being truthful. Or each group told the truth and the confusion could just be due to conflicting news reports.

Yet the fact remains that the mayor was booked by the police -- photos of the arrest ritual attest to that -- and he was released only after posting bail.

Cebu broadcaster’s case

Overheard from a Cebuano public official working at the justice department in Manila, here on a Sinulog visit: The Supreme Court decision of the case of Cebu broadcaster Leo Lastimosa may soon be out.

Not the first time we heard that, then nothing happened, but who knows it might finally be released. About time too.

The Regional Trial Court under then Judge Raphael Yrastorza Sr. on Aug. 30, 2013 convicted Lastimosa of libel, filed by Gwen Garcia (during her first set of terms as governor), over his “Doleng” column in The Freeman. Yrastorza ordered a fine of P6,000 with subsidiary imprisonment and moral damages of P2 million. The Court of Appeals on Oct. 1, 2016 upheld the RTC conviction but reduced the damages to P500,000. (The decision was written by C.A. Justice Edgardo de los Santos, who recently was promoted to the Supreme Court.)

Crux of the issue was the identity of the complainant. Lastimosa’s primary defense was that the character “Doling” in his column was fictitious and “definitely not” Gwen. The RTC and the C.A. rejected the defense. Would the high court do the same?

The SC could throw out the case or affirm the findings of the lower court. If it would uphold the earlier court decisions, the SC could change the penalty: lessen or increase it. It might even send the broadcaster-newspaper columnist to jail, but that is highly unlikely. A standing SC policy encourages a non-jail penalty for libel, unless the trial court finds a strong reason for it. And both RTC and C.A. didn’t think Lastimosa should just pay and not go behind bars.