Nalzaro: Of libel cases

Bobby Nalzaro

POSTPONED. I was supposed to be arraigned yesterday morning for the two libel cases filed by Miguel Osmeña, son of “has-been” mayor Tomas Osmeña, at the sala of Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 5 Presiding Judge Ricky Jones Macabaya. However, the judge decided to move the arraignment to Jan. 30 next year, pending the resolution of my petition for review before the Department of Justice. After a brief oral argument with my lawyer, Joan Baron of the JP Garcia Law and Associates and the complainant’s legal counsel, Judge Macabaya ruled that the arraignment be postponed for 60 days to give the justice secretary enough time to resolve my petition for review.

The two cases were part of the eight libel cases filed by Osmeña against me. I already posted bail for these cases after the judge issued warrants of arrest against me two months ago. The two other cyber libel cases are still pending before RTC Branch 11 (cyber court) Presiding Judge Ramon Daomilas. We filed a motion to quash the information, citing double jeopardy. Daomilas has yet to decide on my motion. My lawyer argued that only one libel case should be filed against me because the articles in question were the same articles, though published in different platforms (SunStar Cebu and Superbalita) and on their respective online editions. The complainant should choose only one—either libel under the Revised Penal Code or cyber libel under the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, or Republic Act (RA) 10175.

Former SunStar Cebu editor-in-chief and fellow columnist lawyer Cheking Seares joked that “I am only paid for one of the questioned columns. So, I should only be charged once.” Correct. There are four other libel cases still, courtesy of Osmeña, pending before the City Prosecutor’s Office. Maayo unta og gibayaran ko sa online edition kay puwede ra kong ikiha. Wala ra ba gyud.

There is no Supreme Court (SC) jurisprudence yet on twin libel cases under Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code and cyber libel, which carries a higher penalty.

Some legal luminaries have questioned this before the SC as it is being used by some quarters to legally harass journalists. Anyway, I will just wait for the developments of these cases. These are still pending before the courts and the prosecutor’s office. I still have faith in our justice system.

At the Palace of Justice yesterday morning while waiting for the hearing, I met Atty. Ben Militar at the coffee shop. Attorney Militar is one of the legal counsels of “has-been” mayor Tomas Osmeña in some other cases. He promised me he would not join Osmeña’s private prosecution team in prosecuting me.

“I believe in press freedom, Super Bob. I respect you being a journalist. It is your right to express your own views and opinion. Gawas pa, amigo ta ug dili ko maka-ako nga mo-prosecute nimo,” he told me. (Besides, we are friends. I could not prosecute you.)

Thank you, Attorney Ben. I appreciate the gesture. That’s what we call “valuing friendship over money.” I salute you, ‘Torni.

***

And talking of libel cases. Cebu City Councilor Niña Mabatid has already lost her patience with the incessant attacks of “has-been” councilor Pastor Alcover Jr., and Apas barangay councilor Ramil Ayuman, who were both defeated councilorial candidates in the last elections. Mabatid filed libel cases against Alcover and Ayuman for their constant attacks against her on social media. The three were party-mates under Barug PDP Laban.

Included in the charge was a female City Hall employee who reportedly complained of sexual harassment against former Camputhaw barangay captain Lorenzo “Bong” Basamot. Mabatid alleged that it was Alcover and Ayuman who instigated and prodded the girl to link her by discouraging the girl from pursuing her complaint against Basamot. Mabatid denied the allegations and presented a tape-recorded conversation with the girl.

Well, we cannot blame Mabatid for her legal action. I am really against libel because of what I have discussed above. We cannot blame Niña for she has suffered a lot in the hands of her tormentors. I don’t know why Alcover and Ayuman hate Mabatid and they have not moved on yet. They blame Mabatid for their debacle in the last elections. Sore losers. They accused Niña of buying votes, solo-campaigning and junking. It was not Niña who voted for you. It was the voters who rejected you.

Of course, Niña won because she spent money during the elections unlike you. Hey guys, time to move on. Mabatid is already an elected official and she has served a lot. I’m sure that Alcover and Ayuman will use this column to criticize me for defending Niña. They are also attacking me by insinuating that I am Niña’s spokesman. This is only my message to Alcover and Ayuman: “I will not dignify and glorify your allegations because I will just be wasting my time.”

According to Mark Twain, “Never argue with stupid people. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.” Amen.