Court junks libel case filed by Chavit Singson vs 'Newsbreak 5'
MANILA, Philippines – A Vigan City court junked an 11-year-old libel case filed by then-Ilocos Sur Governor Chavit Singson against 3 editors, a senior writer, and a board member of the award-winning Newsbreak magazine in 2006.
Acting Presiding Judge Corpus Alzate of Vigan City Regional Trial Court Branch 21 handed down this decision on Tuesday, July 17.
Alzate cited the right of the accused to a "speedy trial," as the case dragged on "for 11 years" with their accusers failing to have them arraigned.
Singson had filed a P100-million libel case against the so-called "Newsbreak 5," composed of the following members of Newsbreak:
- Editor in chief Marites Dañguilan Vitug
- Online editor Gemma Bagayaua Mendoza
- Business editor Lala Rimando
- Senior writer Aries Rufo
- Board member Ma-An Hontiveros
Newsbreak is now part of Rappler, where Vitug is editor at large and Mendoza is one of its managers. Rufo, who served as senior investigative reporter at Rappler, died in September 2015.
Singson had sued them over the Newsbreak special report titled "The Second Gentleman," which was published on May 24, 2005. The package of stories tackled Singson's business interests and his role in the Arroyo administration. The case led to the 21-hour detention of Mendoza in March 2007.
Alzate issued the July 17 ruling after the prosecution failed to move for the arraignment of the accused for the past 6 years. This was even after the Supreme Court in 2012 denied the "petition for change of venue" filed by the accused.
Alzate said, "The case dragged [on] for 11 years and the pendency of this case is like a sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of the accused, ready to fall at any time, thus impeding their productivity as members of society."
"For the sake of enhancing a harmonious cooperation, contribution, and support of all members of society, this mystic blade necessarily must cease to dangle," the judge said. – Rappler.com