THE Court of Appeals (CA) has upheld a lower court ruling against two reporters of a broadsheet and their editors in connection with a news article it published in 2001 that was found to be allegedly defamatory by Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile.
In a 16-page decision penned by Associate Justice Jhoseph Lopez and concurred in by Associate Justices Ramon Garcia and Leoncia Dimagiba, the CA’s 15th Division denied an appeal filed by Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI), Donna Cueto, Donna Pazzibugan, Isagani Yambot, Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc, Artemio Engracia, Jr. and Abelardo Ulanday.
The CA affirmed with modifications a decision dated October 30, 3013 and an order dated April 25, 2014 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Makati City, Branch 139.
But “the moral damages [are]reduced from [P2 million to P1 million]; exemplary damages [are]reduced from [P500,000 to P200,000] and; attorney’s fees [are]reduced from [P250,000 to P100,000].”
On December 4, 2001, the PDI published on its front page a news article with the heading: “PCGG: No to coconut levy agreement” co-written by Cueto and Pazzibugan.
The article stated that then Commissioner Heidi Yorac of the PCGG (Presidential Commission on Good Government) said the settlement would allow Marcos cronies, who had benefited from the coconut levy fund, particularly businessman Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr., Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Clara Lobregat and Enrile, to keep their plundered loot.
Enrile immediately wrote Yorac, asking her if she really uttered the defamatory words attributed to her.
Yorac claimed that there was not a single instance in all interviews or even in discussions with the then-President that the name of Enrile was mentioned, prompting the senator to file a damage suit before the RTC, which favored him.
The senator denied that he benefited from the coconut levy fund and that he is not a Marcos crony, nor accumulated ill-gotten wealth, until PDI brought the case before the appellate court after the lower tribunal junked its motion for reconsideration.
In its August 22, 2016 ruling that was released just recently, the CA held that the RTC was right when it ruled in favor of Enrile.
“In this case, plaintiff-appellee has sufficiently established the factual basis for the award of moral damages when he testified on the mental anguish, serious anxiety and social humiliation suffered by him as a result of the publication of the news article,” it said.
But the CA opined that the damages awarded by the lower court are unreasonable, prompting it to reduce the same.