THE Court of Appeals (CA) has junked a criminal complaint for libel against a broadcaster filed by a lawyer assigned at the Engineering Office of the National Power Corp. (Napocor).
In a 16-page decision penned by Associate Justice Zenaida Galapate-Laguilles and concurred in by Associate Justices Florito Macalino and Mariflor Punzalan Castillo, the CA’s 10th Division granted Raffy Tulfo’s appeals as it dismissed the charges filed by Joseph Cerezo before the lower court.
“For these reasons, the appeals are granted. The decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City, Branch 223, dated December 7, 2010 finding accused appellants [Tulfo, et al.] guilty of libel is reversed and set aside. No costs,” the ruling read.
In August 2002, the complaint alleged that Tulfo maliciously wrote an article in his column in Abante Tonite entitled “Mandurugas na opisyal sa Napocor.”
Tulfo claimed that Cerezo was involved in a supposedly illegal land deal that cost the government P84 million.
The complainant argued that the article cast dishonor, discredit and contempt upon him.
The RTC found Tulfo and managing editor Nicholas Quijano, among others, guilty of the crime of libel, ordering them to pay a fine of P6,000 with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency.
They were also directed to pay jointly and severally Cerezo the amount of more than P1 million as moral damages and attorney’s fees. This prompted Tulfo’s camp to seek redress with the appellate court.
In its September 30, 2015 ruling, the CA dismissed the charges.
On Cerezo’s claim for moral damages, the CA found “no evidence to warrant the award.”
“To repeat, it cannot be said that Tulfo published the article for the sole purpose of harassing Cerezo. Proof and motive that the publication was prompted by a sinister design to vex and humiliate [him]has not been clearly established. There remains unfulfilled the need to prove that the publication was made with actual malice,” it pointed out.