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MANILA, Philippines – World champion boxer and Sarangani Representative Manny Pacquiao is caught in yet another legal battle — this time against journalist Edwin Espejo.
Pacquiao’s legal team filed a 3-count, P75-M libel lawsuit against Espejo Monday, March 5, over an article Espejo wrote. Espejo said in 2 articles for the Asian Correspondent website and Mindanews, publications he writes for as a freelancer, that a dealer of stolen cars was last spotted with Pacquiao. Eurasia Reviews also reposted the story.
According to Espejo’s story, the last time car dealer Mohammad “Bong” Akia was eyed in public was on a flight with Pacquiao from Manila to General Santos City. They then got into a car and headed for Pacquiao’s house allegedly to seek refuge, according to Espejo’s story. Akia has not been seen since.
At that time, Akia had reportedly been placed under surveillance — after supposedly selling a stolen Starex van. The vehicle was one of 26 suspected stolen cars retrieved by the police in General Santos and Bacolod, according to statements made. He has been charged for violating the Anti-Carnapping Act.
In the past, Akia had also been accused of shooting a man in a bar brawl, and being involved in yet another shooting incident years earlier. Ironically, he was also the former head of the Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group in Central Mindanao.
Akia has also sued Espejo for libel and asked for an additional P18-M. Espejo stands by his story.
Suit is ‘frivolous’
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) disapproved of the lawsuit against Espejo.
In a statement, NUJP said Pacquiao “erred” in suing Espejo, who indicated in his story that he tried to get Pacquiao’s side, but that he was in the United States promoting his June fight against Timothy Bradley.
Espejo was able to reach Pacquiao’s lawyer, Francisco “Bong” Gacal, who said he was unaware of the accusations and would tell the fighter about the reports.
NUJP accused Pacquiao of using his government powers to abuse Espejo and “stifle reasonable criticism and critical coverage.”
Its statement said, “the unreasonable damages sought by Pacquiao can be argued to be frivolous and intended not so much to collect the amount he demands but to harass Espejo and tie him up in the legal proceedings.”
Espejo also contributes to Rappler.
Pacquiao also has a pending case against American boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr.
The Filipino fighter slapped Mayweather with a defamation lawsuit in 2009 after the latter consistently told media that Pacquiao took performance-enhancing drugs in his fights.
The case is pending under a Nevada court. – Rappler.com