GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – Prosecutors dismissed a P100-million cyber libel complaint filed by a former congresswoman against two radio commentators, a broadcast executive, and their media company in General Santos City.
In a resolution, a three-person panel of prosecutors cleared Brigada News FM-General Santos news and public affairs anchors Abner Francisco, Carlo Dugaduga, radio station manager Ruel Ampatin, and the Brigada Mass Media Corporation represented by owner Elmer Catulpos.
The resolution was signed by prosecutors Kayugenn Mato Kuda Jr., Richard Dale Escolano, and Gilbert Bandiola on June 29, but a copy of it was received by the respondents on Thursday, July 7.
The complaint was filed by former South Cotabato representative Shirlyn Bañas-Nograles on June 10, a month after she lost General Santos’ mayoral race to mayor Lorelie Pacquiao.
Incidentally, the radio station is owned by Catulpos, another mayoral candidate at that time.
The former congresswoman pressed charges against the radio commentators and broadcast executives before the prosecutors’ office on June 10, about a month after the May 9 elections.
In her complaint, Banas alleged that the respondents accused her and her husband of demanding “payola” (bribes) from contractors of government projects during a March 30 broadcast of the popular morning program Tira Brigada.
Bañas alleged that Dugaduga, one of the commentators, even called her “notorious” in asking bribes and that her husband supposedly made demands, too.
She said the commentary was “false and baseless and the same caused dishonor and discredit to her reputation.”
But the respondents argued that the commentary was “too general to be defamatory.”
They also said their right against double jeopardy was violated because they were charged separately and pointed out that Banas submitted a compact disc of inadmissible evidence – its contents were obtained without a court warrant.
In dismissing the resolution, prosecutors said that “not all of the elements of the crimes of libel or cyber libel are present in this case,” and there was lack of evidence.
“This is a vindication amid all the lies and unfounded claims thrown at us. The decision proves that we are not making up stories to discredit anyone, and we speak the truth about issues,” said radio station manager Ampatin.
Catulpos called the dismissal of the complaint “a victory of freedom-loving people.”
“We have that obligation and responsibility to the public to help protect their interests by giving them truthful news and information, and not to be misled by anyone,” he said. – Rappler.com