CITY OF SAN FERNANDO – “There was nothing defamatory in the questioned article of Lacson.”
With that, 1st Assistant City Prosecutor Nereo T. Dela Cruz “respectfully recommended that the complaints of Libel (2 counts) against all the respondents be DISMISSED.” Which was duly approved on June 16, 2011 by Deputy Regional Prosecutor Giselle Marie S. Geronimo.
Thus was junked the P20-million libel charges filed by businessman Rene Romero against Punto Editorial Consultant Caesar “Bong” Lacson, this editor, General Manager Gener Endona and Marketing Manager Joanna Niña Cordero.
The case arose from Lacson’s article entitled “Romero ululating” published in Punto’s December 17-18, 2010 issue.
Romero who identified himself in his suit as “the president of the Pampanga Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the chairman of the Advocacy for the Development of Central Luzon, and the private sector representative for business of the Regional Development Council (Region 3)” had called Lacson’s article as “baseless allegations…shameful, heinous and unequivocally malicious, while being entirely false, malicious, offensive and derogatory to my good name, character and reputation tending to besmirch and destroy my honor, character and reputation – all to my damage and prejudice.”
However, the city fiscal’s resolution said: “A reading of the article in its entirety does not show any public and malicious imputation of a crime, vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act omission condition status or circumstance tending to discredit or cause the dishonor of Romero.”
The decision also said that Lacson’s article “is merely a reply to the statements of the complainant (Romero)” in a news story entitled: “Sector: Why no biz awardee in MOKA?” published on December 14, 2010 in local newspaper Sun Star Pampanga.
Romero was nominated in the business category of the Most Outstanding Kapampangan Awards where no winner was declared. Lacson was a member of the panel of judges.
The decision noted that being one of the members of the board of judges, Lacson is expected to defend the MOKA and to rebut Romero’s claims of irregularities in the selection of winners. These include the presence of alleged “influence peddlers”, “termites”, “people I don’t see eye to eye” and allegations of “gone professionalism”.
Romero was also quoted in the news story as saying: “it simply means that despite our efforts and support of the provincial government, parang sinampal kami at sinabing walang matinong negosyante sa Pampanga”.
In replying to this statement, Lacson sees Romero as “someone who expects a ‘payback’ and ROI (return of In replying to this statement, Lacson sees Romero as “someone who expects a ‘payback’ and ROI (return of investment)” for all the help he gave to the provincial government.
“If the complainant has the right to comment on the actuations of the Board of Judges of MOKA, respondent Lacson’s right to reply should also be respected so long as it sticks to the issue, nothing more because he is one of the judges thereto,” it said.
Citing Lacson’s counter-affidavit, the decision also noted that the writer’s article is “deemed privileged, a personal opinion in defense of himself against the attacks of Romero.” “A fair comment and an exercise of the constitutional guarantee of free speech.”
On the other hand, respondents Endona and this editor assailed Romero for “selective prosecution”. This is because the complainant did not file libel charges against Sun Star Pampanga where the similar article appeared as a letter to the editor.
In a separate counter-affidavit, Cordero also assailed Romero saying that she has nothing to do with Punto’s editorial policies, content and its circulation, and therefore should not be charged with libel.
She claims for damages amounting to P0.5 million against the complainant for “sleepless nights, anxiety and besmirched reputation brought about by the filing of the case against her.”
Cordero also charged Romero with malicious prosecution for linking her in the said libel case.
However, the prosecutors dismissed Cordero’s counter-charge for lack of merit.
Romero blamed the respondents for coming out with the article “with the sole intention of attacking his virtue as a person.”
He said the article also intends “to do interior and unjustifiable harm towards my profession and stature as a respected businessman in Pampanga and as head of the Pampanga Chamber of Commerce…”
All of these were rebutted in the resolution dismissing the case.
Meanwhile, veteran broadcast journalist and former Pampanga Press Club President Diosdado “Deng” Pangilinan said “since day one, I knew Romero will lose the case because we are merely telling the truth and nothing libelous about the statement of colleague Bong Lacson.”
He added that “Romero was merelysour grapping for not winning the MOKA .”
Pangilinan disclosed that he will ask his fellow PPC members to file counter charges against Romero for discrediting the media in one of his statements.