Lunes, Oktubre 2, 2017


By Mortz C. Ortigoza

My elementary classmate Nathaniel “Ontoy” Fabila in Mindanao frantically called me last Monday morning in Dagupan City if I know Northern Luzon Correspondent Frank Cimatu of the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI).
I told him Cimatu was based at the Baguio City’s bureau – an almost two hour’s ride from my city.

Why you called?” I posed to Ontoy, who is a radio bloc timer of Secretary Manny Piñol of the Department of Agriculture & Fisheries (DAF).
"Basaha bala ang Face Book's community page ni Sec Manny (Read the Face Book's community page of Secretary Pinol)," my classmate badgered me in Ilonggo.
 Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol 

When I browsed Piñol, a town mate, FB he was pugnacious and was craving for Cimatu’s blood in a libel case he mulled to file with his lawyer.
He posted that Cimatu’s post "Agri Sec got rich by 21-M in 6 months. Bird Flu pa more” was a criminal defamatory case.
Piñol stressed to exchanges with supporters at his FB account and at Cimutu’s public FB where he argued with a Cimatu’s friend, that the Philippines Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) Report was all about the Statements of Assets Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) that required public officials like him to file annually.

“The PCIJ, in citing my case said: "Across a seven-year period, a fantastic P21,956,632.23-increase was recorded in the net worth of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, or from P3,643,000 in the SALN he filed as of Dec. 31, 2009, to P25,599,632.23 in his latest SALN as of Dec. 31, 2016,” he said.
He cited that his assets and liabilities he declared in 2016 SALN were consistent with his Income Tax Return (ITR) with the Bureau of Internal Revenue he declared in 2015.
In the period July 1 until today, there were no P21-M added assets, either in money in the bank or in acquired properties”.
A livid Piñol dished at Cimatu the following: “Utterly careless and irresponsible as a journalist” “You are nothing but dirty trash” “Ano ibig mo sabihin sa "bird flu pa more?" Kumita ako sa bird flu? Napaka gago mo! Magkita nga tayo para magkaalaman” since he could prove with evidences that he got a P10 million loans from a bank to start poultry breeding business and earned a profit in that six years period when he was out of the government.
Author poses with's correspondent Frank Cimatu (center) and Philippine Daily Inquirer's reporter Gabriel Cardinoza. Cimatu faces a Cyber -Libel Case from Agriculture Secretary Manny Pinol. Photo taken during the 3rd Children Journalism Summit held at the sprawling air conditioned world class Stadia in Dagupan City.

My First Impression

My first impression on Cimatu’s imprudence was his patent irresponsibility in imputing maliciously that Piñol pocketed that P21 million even the former Vice Governor of Cotabato Province left his last government office in 2009.
“Was he not thinking about the legal consequences of his blunder?” I asked myself.
I was sued with libel too by a member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (Provincial Legislative Board) of Pangasinan but unlike Cimatu I knew from the beginning that I have a legal ground against it because I just quoted in my column “ORTIGOZA: Are we criminally liablefor Libel?” the bravado of another board member.
The legislature told me and three media men that he was one of the few members of the Board who declined the P40 thousand monthly payola from the maintainer of the illegal number game’s jueteng. 
 Piñol on his  September 24 FB’s post said that upon arrival from Hungary he would talk to his lawyer and file a case at his residence in Kidapawan City, Cotabato Province.
“Malayo ang Baguio City to Kidapawan City para sa arraignment and hearings,” I told friends in the Bangus City after I arrived  last Monday morning in a rough and tumble trips through van, airplane, taxi, and bus from M’lang, Cotabato Province (20 minutes ride to Kidapawan) to Dagupan City after I got my media award there, but that’s another story.
My poser: Does Cimatu not only faces a 4 years and 2 months to 8 years conviction with civil liabilities on the moral damages he inflicted to the Secretary in Republic Act 10175 (Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012) but will be forced to travel from his residence in the Pines City to that Central Mindanao’s city?
Sued with felony son of a gun in Face Book and not on his Rappler’s reporting, Cimatu would be obliged to travel round trips in a hearing by shelling out roughly P7 thousand plane either in cheap airlines and bus ticket rides every time the Office of the Prosecutor and later the judge there calls him for a hearing.
And we are not yet talking about the lawyer’s fee he coughs up every time he appears in those offices in Kidapawan.
But on the September 27 post of the Secretary of DAF, I saw him with two of his lawyers filed the case at the prosecutor’s office in Quezon City.
They probably read the jurisprudence on Bonifacio vs. RTC of Makati (G.R. No. 184800, 5 May 2010) where the Supreme Court said that If the offended party is a public official, the criminal case can only be filed in either of two places, namely: (a) in the place (whether in or outside Manila) where he holds office at the time of the commission of the crime; or (b) where the alleged defamatory article was printed and first published.
“Another case, this time the civil aspect of the crime which would demand damages, would be filed next week in Kidapawan City, North Cotabato,” the Secretary however posted last September 27.

Lesson for Everybody

The Cimatu’s brouhaha would be a lesson to us media practitioners and even those who unwarily post at social media Face Book to practice prudence because Cyber Libel carries more weight than Ordinary Libel. Ordinary Libel as seen on the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines carries only up to prision correccional medium (2 years, 4 months and 1 day to 4 years and 2 months as seen on Article 355) jail time. But the convict ain’t got to go to prison because of Probation Law if his or her conviction by the RTC was a first offense. But the government is harsh on those convicted by the Cyber Crime Law because he or she soldiers on till the Supreme Court convicts or exonerates him.
 If sentenced in a litigation that runs to 10 to 15 years  from the lower court to the SC, the accused would be “maghihimas ng malamig na rehas” in the slammer in Muntinlupa that goes up to eight years.

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