Winning libel case where
Customs exec was slammed
'gago,' 'tolongges,' 'atorni no case'
By BERTENI "TOTO" CATALUÑA CAUSING
Author of the book entitled "Simplified Law on Libel in the Philippines"
|The author with his mom, Marianita Cataluña Causing Sr.|
I feel honored as I was saluted by Mr. Percy Lapid, commentator of Lapidfire program over DWIZ, for winning his libel case filed by Atty. Rogel Gatchalian, who is now the Collector of the Port of Manila, Bureau of Customs.
What is so special about the case is that it is one of defamation that may be considered as extremely contemptuous against a public official.
In the article written by Lapid for his opinion column entitled "Kalampag", he called Atty. Gatchalian "gago," "tolongges," "atorni no case," "bobo" and the like.
The basis of Lapid in making his opinions that are so scathing was the act of Atty. Gatchalian of issuing a subpoena duces tecum against reporter Rex Borromeo when there was no case that was initiated either against the journalist or against any person.
The Office of the City Prosecutor of Manila absolved Lapid on the ground that public officials must not be onion-skinned when criticized how they performed their job, that rather they should take advantage of the assaults as a springboard for them to do better public service.
In my defense of Mr. Lapid, I began from the noble idea that Public Office is a Public Trust that the public has the right to demand better service from public officials and that any official act is a public interest.
So that when the job done is perceived to be sloppy, any public officer has no right to complain when criticized to be so, even if the comments are scathing, uninhibited, robust and wild beyond imagination.
I argued that if President P-Noy has no right to sue for libel if called "Abnoy," if Gloria Arroyo had no right to file a libel case if called "magnanakaw", how much more right has a Customs official have?
At that time, Gatchalian was the acting head of the RATS (Run After the Smugglers) unit of the Bureau of Customs.
I also argued that Gatchalian did not deny the facts used by Lapid as the basis for making these extraordinarily harsh name-calls.
These facts that were not denied by Gatchalian are: (a) that he issued subpoena duces tecum against Borromeo; (b) that there was no case filed against Borromeo; and (c) that there was no any other case filed against any person regarding the items written by Borromeo regarding smuggling syndicates at the bureau.
I also argued that the opinions, no matter how bitter, are protected by the law as long as they were fairly, logically and reasonably inferred from the facts that were reasonably true at the time of making the comments.
So that if Atty. Gatchalian does not dispute the truth of the facts used by Lapid, there is no other way to conclude but that THERE WAS NO LIBEL.
You may watch the radio program of Mr. Lapid at this link: