MANILA, Philippines – Janet Lim-Napoles, before she went on the run for allegedly masterminding the multi-billion-peso pork barrel scam, filed libel charges against a Rappler reporter and 6 others.
Specifically, the fugitive is suing Rappler’s Natashya Gutierrez for reporting on the luxury condominium that Napoles’ newly graduated daughter Jeane owns at the Ritz-Carlton in Los Angeles.
Rappler reported on the property after various sectors raised doubts on the legitimacy of the Napoles family’s wealth, and after Jeane’s blogs about her luxurious lifefstyle were discovered.
According to a report by the press watchdog Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), Napoles is asking Gutierrez for P10 million (or around $255,000) in damages and attorney’s fees.
The case against Gutierrez was filed on August 6 at the Taguig City Prosecutor’s Office, according to CMFR.
Gutierrez has yet to receive a copy of the complaint.
Napoles is known to reside at the Pacific Plaza Tower in Taguig, where government investigators also rescued in March the whistleblower on the pork barrel scam that Napoles allegedly detained illegally.
CMFR said Napoles filed 3 more libel complaints against the following:
- Philippine Daily Inquirer, including Reporter Gil C. Cabacungan, editors Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc and Jose Ma. D. Nolasco, and publisher Raul Pangalangan.
- Lawyer-blogger Berteni Causing;
- Fashion designer Eduardo “Eddie” Baddeo.
Napoles is also demanding P10 million in each of the 3 other complaints.
Inquirer was the first to report on the pork barrel scam in July based on the affidavits of whistleblowers that were provided by the National Bureau of Investigation.
Baddeo, a self-confessed former agent of Napoles, spoke to government investigators and the media about Napoles’ modus operandi.
Causing is being sued for citing Jeane Napoles’ blogs.
“In the libel complaint against Gutierrez and Causing, Napoles said Jeane had to be hospitalized due to the anxiety Gutierrez and Causing’s articles supposedly caused her,” CMFR reported.
Earlier, Napoles’ lawyer, Lorna Kapunan, sent Rappler a cease-and-desist demand dated August 1. She threatened to file “criminal and civil actions” over the news site’s “inaccurate, reckless and unfair articles” that ”seriously impact [the] security” of her clients.
Kapunan also accused reporter Gutierrez of being envious of Napoles’ daughter since they were school mates at the International School Manila. (Gutierrez was years ahead of Napoles in high school.)
In response, Rappler said: “Isn’t this accusation of jealousy itself speculative, malicious and libelous?”
Rappler said: “Private persons whose lives intersect with public persons and issues of public interest are certainly not exempt from the ‘prying eyes.’” The reports on Jeane Napoles “were neither pulled from thin air or fabricated.”
“We are trained to follow the money and people trail in trying to exact accountability from officials and even the private individuals they deal with,” Rappler said.
Libel is a criminal offense that carries a penalty of 6-year imprisonment or fines or both, said the CMFR. The civil aspect of libel allows complainants to demand multi-million pesos in damages.
Janet Napoles herself is the subject of a warrant of arrest, issued by a Makati court on August 14, for charges of serious illegal detention.
The justice department had filed charges against Napoles and her brother Reynald “Jojo” Lim for holding against his will their long-time aide Benhur Luy, who was contemplating on setting up a similar syndicate.
Luy has since turned into a state witness. – Rappler.com