MANILA, Philippines – Prosecutors in Panabo City, Davao del Norte, trashed four cyber libel complaints filed by Sistine Grace Cardona against Rappler and other respondents for lack of probable cause.
Cardona’s four complaints were filed on January 28, 2022 and resolved on March 25, 2022. She claimed she is the regional coordinator of the executive pastor of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KOJC), founded by embattled preacher Apollo Quiboloy, but the resolution says she is “more accurately” designated as evangelism kingdom leader for 2020 in the Davao del Norte cluster.
The respondents across the complaints include Rappler Incorporated, Rappler Mindanao bureau coordinator Herbie Gomez, regional head Inday Espina-Varona, former researcher Vernise Tantuco, former KOJC members Arlene Caminong-Stone, Faith Killion, and Reynita Fernandez, and Ateneo de Manila University professor Jayeel Cornelio.
The resolution, a copy of which was obtained by Rappler from lawyer Theodore Te, was filed by Panabo city prosecutor Jennifer Namoc-Yasol, deputy city prosecutor Albert Bulseco, and assistant city prosecutor Jennifer Grace Aquiatan-Ruiz.
The prosecutors cited the requisites for an imputation to be libelous: it must be defamatory, it must be malicious, it must be given publicity, and the victim must be identifiable.
Rappler published a series of investigative reports about Quiboloy, who is wanted by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation for alleged conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion, and sex trafficking of children, among others.
None of Rappler’s articles mention Cardona.
“The allegation by complainant is insufficient to support the claim that such article is directed to [her] as there is not an iota of evidence to support the finding that she is the person actually injured and whose feeling is offended,” the resolution read.
The prosecutors said that whether or not the articles are libelous is a separate matter, and that there was no need for the office to conclude such since the complainant failed to establish her right to file the complaint against the respondents.
They added that the complaint is “loaded with conjectures and speculation.”
“When the complainant relies on mere conjectures and suppositions, and fails to substantiate her allegations as victim of the said articles published online, necessarily this Office is [constrained] to dismiss the four complaints filed by the complainant against the respondents for lack of probable cause,” they wrote.
Many similar complaints had previously been junked by prosecutors in other cities. Cagayan de Oro City prosecutors junked seven complaints in February, while General Santos City prosecutors junked another seven complaints against Rappler in March. – Rappler.com