THE Court of Appeals (CA) junked the libel case filed by the current chairman of the Baguio Country Club’s executive committee against her siblings for allegedly making defamatory statements in a published book detailing their assets.
In a 14-page decision penned by Associate Justice Edwin Sorongon and concurred in by Associate Justices Hakim Abdulwahid and Marlene Gonzales-Sison, the CA’s Sixth Division granted the consolidated petitions for certiorari filed by Ramon Ilusorio, brother; Erlinda Ilusorio, mother, and Shereen Ilusorio, sister, assailing resolutions dated November 6, 2006 and October 27, 2008 of the Secretary of Justice which led to the filing of information for libel against them owing to the complaint filed by Sylvia Ilusorio-Yap, officer of the country club.
Erlinda’s troubles with her siblings is said to be one of the most famous high society scandals in recent decades.
Sylvia filed a complaint against Ramon and her two siblings alleging that sometime in June 2001, a book entitled On the Edge of Heaven was circulated by Erlinda, acting in connivance with Ramon and the officers of the PI-EKI Foundation, Multinational Investment Bancorporation (MIB) and of the Senior Partners Foundation, Inc.
She alleged that the passages from the book contained defamatory and degrading statements tending to put in bad light and ridicule the members of the family of lawyer Potenciano Ilusorio, namely: Sylvia, Ma. Erlinda Bildner, Maximo Ilusorio and Ma. Christina Ilusorio.
In the book, Sylvia was accused of duping millions of pesos from her siblings from the sale of their assets where she supposedly falsified documents to make it appear that the sale of the property was P9 million when in fact it was allegedly P20 million.
Erlinda revealed that her daughters Ma. Erlinda and Sylvia hid their father Potenciano, who was said to have had Alzheimer’s disease and some other ailments, to make sure that she could not contact him.
The other respondents distanced themselves from the Ilusorio family feud asserting that they had nothing to do with the publication of Erlinda’s book.
On May 26, 2004, the Department of Justice dismissed Sylvia’s complaint. She moved for reconsideration but the same was denied.
The dismissal of the complaint was elevated on petition for review wherein the DOJ initially dismissed the plea.
However, on reconsideration, the department reversed its initial determination in its resolution on November 6, 2006 and ruled instead that there is probable cause to indict Erlinda and other respondents.
When the Department of Justice (DOJ) junked their plea for reconsideration, they elevated the case to the appellate court.
In its decision, the appeals tribunal ruled that the DOJ “committed grave abuse of discretion by interpreting the . . . provision of law to the effect that regardless of who is filing the motion for reconsideration only one [MR] shall be entertained.”
“This interpretation is a grave error since it sets aside the phrase ‘the aggrieved party’.”
The CA pointed out that “it was error for the DOJ, to conjure the existence of probable cause that there was conspiracy in the publication of the book . . . when there is nothing in the records nor is there any evidence tending to show that all the other petitioners except Erlinda, have had a hand in the publication of the said book.”
The appeals court added that the evidence on record is “insufficient to create a probable cause supporting the view that Erlinda acted in actual malice or that the latter made the statements against Sylvia without regard to the truth or falsity of such statements.”