Saturday, March 23, 2013

The petition that Supreme Court acted on to stop trial of 16 counts of libel

The petition that Supreme Court acted on to stop trial of 16 counts of libel


To enrich the minds of those who are minded to learn, I am publishing here the petition that I filed with the Supreme Court seeking to stop the trial of 16 counts of libel filed by Inquirer's Neal H. Cruz against tabloid journalists Jerry S. Yap, Percy Lapid, Joey Venancio, Erny Baluyot and Gloria Galuno.

It is very rare for the Supreme Court to stop a trial and this is one such rare cases.

You can read the petition below:



Republic of the Philippines
Supreme Court
Padre Faura St., Manila


JERRY S. YAP, PERCY LAPID,
GLORIA GALUNO, JOEY G. VENANCIO
and ERNY BALUYOT,
                                                Petitioners,

- versus -                                                         G.R. No.204015
                                                                                    (CA-G.R. SP No. 123866)

REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF QUEZON
CITY (Branch 220) and NEAL CRUZ,
Respondents,
x-----------------------------------------------------x


Petition for Review on Certiorari
with
Application for Temporary Restraining Order (TRO)
and
Preliminary Injunction (PI)





            The petitioners, by the undersigned, respectfully petition for review on certiorari.

The Timeliness


            On October 30, 2012 the undersigned law firm received a copy of the Resolution of the Thirteenth Division of the Court of Appeals promulgated October 23, 2012 denying the motion for reconsideration filed by the petitioners against its Decision in CA-G.R. SP No. 123866.  A copy of this Resolution promulgated October 23, 2012 is attached hereto as ANNEX “A.”

            On July 27, 2012, the law firm received a copy of the Decision promulgated July 23, 2012.  A copy of the decision is attached hereto as ANNEX “B.”

            On August 13, 2012, Monday, the petitioners filed their Motion for Reconsideration.  It was timely filed because it was filed on the first office day after the last day falls on a holiday. A copy of the motion is attached hereto as ANNEX “C.”

            In this case, the last and fifteenth (15th) day falls on November 14, 2012.  Thus, the filing of this petition today, Monday, November 12, 2012, is timely.


The Statement of the Case


            This case dwells only on a question of law of whether it is correct for the Court of Appeals to set aside Stare Decisis Et Quieta Non Movere and reject the long-standing doctrine established by Agbayani vs Sayo, G.R. No. L-47880, April 30, 1979.

            In setting aside Agbayani vs Sayo, the Court of Appeals, in the process, incorrectly ruled there was no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 220.

Actually, Agbayani vs Sayo doctrine is not only a matter of Stare Decisis Et Quieta Non Movere.  It is more as a matter of law that must be obeyed without exception because it is an interpretation of the law and not a mere application of the same law on a set of facts and because it forms part now of the law of the land by application of Article 8 of the Civil Code.

            Agbayani vs. Sayo interpreted Article 360 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC for brevity) in relation to the Constitutional requirement that the accused must be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him.  It sets down the law or rule on how valid criminal information for libel should be written, regardless of the circumstances. 

As such, it is clear that Agbayani vs. Sayo is one case law that is not only an ordinary one for an application of Stare Decisis Et Quieta Non Movere.  It is a case law that interprets a law to apply to all kinds of libel information.  As such, it must be applied strictly on the instant cases of libel.

            Thus, the petitioners insist that Agbayani vs. Sayo must be followed to the letter.  But the trial court and the Court of Appeals refused to do so – all without justification that may be plausible.

            Hence, this case reached the Supreme Court.
           

The Parties


            The petitioners here are all newsmen and they are: (a) Gloria Galuno, Percy Lapid and Jerry S. Yap, whose address is Room 103, Ground Floor National Press Club Bldg., No. 1 Magallanes Drive, Intramuros, Manila where they can be served with notices or any other processes of this petition; and (b) Joey G. Venancio and Erny Baluyot, whose address is JGV Publishing Inc., Delgado St. corner 19th St., Port Area, Manila.

            For the purpose of this petition, it is requested of the Honorable Court and the other parties that all notices, pleadings, motions, manifestations or any processes intended for the petitioners be addressed to this law firm on its address written below.

            The private respondent is Neal Cruz, who may be served with pleadings and other court processes at his counsel of record, Elmar B. Galacio, Mark Hadran P. Gamo & Julius Gregory B. Delgado, 6th Floor, CVC LAW CENTER, 11th Avenue corner 39th St., Bonifacio Triangle, Bonifacio Global City 1634, Taguig.

The public respondent is the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 220, care of Presiding Judge Jose G. Paneda, which may be served with summonses, processes and all other processes at the Hall of Justice, City Hall Complex, Elliptical Circle, Quezon City.


Reasons for Allowance


            As stated above, the instant petition is anchored on a question of law questioning whether it is correct for the Court of Appeals to set aside doctrinal case Agbayani vs. Sayo in order to arrive at a conclusion that there was no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 220, in rejecting and not applying the same doctrine.

            The acts done was clearly in wanton disregard of the case law laying down the rules on how to allege material facts in criminal information sheets for libel to vest jurisdiction to the court.  The act done was also a blatant disregard of the law on libel jurisdiction set forth in Article 360 of the RPC.

Also, the petitioners have already exhausted the remedies available. They filed a motion for reconsideration with the Court of Appeals but the same was rejected unceremoniously.

            Further, the fees for the petition and other fees have been paid, the original copies of the documents required are submitted, and the verification and certificate of non-forum shopping has been executed.

            Hence, the petitioners submit that this petition should be given due course.


The Antecedents


1.      On April 26, 2011 the petitioners filed Omnibus Motion to Quash before the RTC of Quezon City, Branch 220, in Crim. Case No. Q-09-161259-74 moving all libel information filed by the Office of the City Prosecutor against all the petitioners be quashed because these failed to allege facts required to vest jurisdiction on the same trial court.

2.      These sheets of criminal information failed to allege that the crimes of libel were committed in Quezon City AT THE TIME OF THE SUPPOSED COMMISSION OF THE CRIME.

3.      The petitioners contended that under Article 360 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC, for brevity), the court that has jurisdiction over libel is one situated in the province or city where the crime is deemed committed.

4.      The petitioners cited Article 360 that states that any libel must be tried in the RTC of the province or city:

                                                                          i.      In the province or city where the “public official” offended party held office at the time of the commission of the crime (at the time of the publication of the questioned item);

                                                                       ii.      In the province or city where the “private person” offended party resided at the time of the commission of the crime (at the time of the publication of the questioned item); or

                                                                     iii.      In the province or city where the libelous item was printed AND first published.

5.      The petitioners also cited the case law of Agbayani vs Sayo, G.R. No. G.R. No. L-47880 April 30, 1979.

6.      In the same Agbayani case law, it requires that all criminal information sheet for libel must allege as follows:

                                                                          i.      The offended party is a “private person” or a “public official” at the time of the commission of the crime of libel;

                                                                       ii.      That if the offended party is a private person the information state his residence at the time of the commission of the crime of libel;

                                                                     iii.      That if the offended party is a public official the information state the place of his office; and

                                                                     iv.      The place of printing and first publication shall also be stated as a necessity if the basis of jurisdiction is the place of publication.

7.      Despite these commands of the law and the case law, the RTC of Quezon City rejected the law and the case law by denying the Omnibus Motion to Quash.

8.      Despite the clarity of the law and the directive in the Agbayani law, the RTC stood pat on its decision denying the motion to quash.

9.      Other than its acts of not recognizing the Agbayani case law, the RTC of Quezon City also ruled that laches as enunciated in the Tijam vs Sibonghanoy, G.R. No. L-21450, April 15, 1968, also applied to seize the rights of the petitioners.

10.  That is despite the fact that petitioners argued that the Sibonghanoy case law does not apply because the said case was not on all fours to the case at bar and that the doctrine of laches established there was established only because the decision was already final and executory in that case being challenged for lack of jurisdiction on the part of the court that decided the same.

11.  Then the petitioners seasonably filed their Petition for Certiorari before the Court of Appeals.

12.  The private respondent commented thereon, the petitioners replied and the decision was issued.

13.  In the decision, the Court of Appeals the petitioners pointed out the patent error of the appellate court in not applying the case law of Agbayani vs. Sayo.

14.  Particularly, the Court of Appeals failed to consider that Agbayani requires the writing in the information of a specific statement of whether the offended party was a private person or a public employee at the time of the commission of the crime and in this case there is no statement of whether the offended party was a private person or a public officer at the time of the alleged commission of the crime.

15.  The Court of Appeals never relinquished its erroneous decision.

16.  Thus, this petition for review on certiorari is being filed.



The Issue



            The petitioners hereby submit only one issue: Whether or not the Court of Appeals was correct in rejecting or not applying the case law of Agbayani vs. Sayo, to the effect that the criminal information sheets subject of the petition are valid despite the lack of the statement in all the informations for libel that states for the same public respondent to acquire jurisdiction.


The Discussions


Both the law, Article 360 of RPC, and the case law of Agbayani vs. Sayo command that the criminal information sheets for libel must state the facts conferring jurisdiction on the court.

This case law interpreting the application of Article 360 of the RPC has not yet been overturned. It remains the law of the land.  As such, the case law cannot be defied.  It must be followed as to what it says to the letter.

For not following Agbayani vs. Sayo case law and for not ruling that the RTC committed grave abuse of discretion in rejecting the Agbayani case, the Court of Appeals clearly erred.  Worse, the Court of Appeals did not offer any justification why Agbayani vs. Sayo should be set aside.

Agbayani vs. Sayo requires these material facts to be stated in all criminal information for libel, which facts are as follows:

                                                                          i.      The offended party is a “private person” or a “public official” at the time of the commission of the crime of libel;

                                                                       ii.      If the offended party is a private person the information state his residence at the time of the commission of the crime of libel;

                                                                     iii.      If the offended party is a public official the information state the place of his office; and

                                                                     iv.      The place of printing and first publication shall also be stated as a necessity if the basis of jurisdiction is the place of publication.

            To be clear, let the pertinent portion of Agbayani be quoted as follows:

In order to obviate controversies as to the venue of the criminal action for written defamation, the complaint or information should contain allegations as to whether, at the time the offense was committed, the offended party was a public officer or a private individual and where he was actually residing at that time. Whenever possible, the place where the written defamation was printed and first published should likewise be alleged. That allegation would be a sine qua non if the circumstance as to where the libel was printed and first published is used as the basis of the venue of the action.


            As a follow-up, let Article 360 of the RPC be quoted as follows:

Art. 360. Persons responsible. — Any person who shall publish, exhibit, or cause the publication or exhibition of any defamation in writing or by similar means, shall be responsible for the same.

The author or editor of a book or pamphlet, or the editor or business manager of a daily newspaper, magazine or serial publication, shall be responsible for the defamations contained therein to the same extent as if he were the author thereof.

The criminal and civil action for damages in cases of written defamations as provided for in this chapter, shall be filed simultaneously or separately with the court of first instance of the province or city where the libelous article is printed and first published or where any of the offended parties actually resides at the time of the commission of the offense: Provided, however, That where one of the offended parties is a public officer whose office is in the City of Manila at the time of the commission of the offense, the action shall be filed in the Court of First Instance of the City of Manila, or of the city or province where the libelous article is printed and first published, and in case such public officer does not hold office in the City of Manila, the action shall be filed in the Court of First Instance of the province or city where he held office at the time of the commission of the offense or where the libelous article is printed and first published and in case one of the offended parties is a private individual, the action shall be filed in the Court of First Instance of the province or city where he actually resides at the time of the commission of the offense or where the libelous matter is printed and first published: Provided, further, That the civil action shall be filed in the same court where the criminal action is filed and vice versa: Provided, furthermore, That the court where the criminal action or civil action for damages is first filed, shall acquire jurisdiction to the exclusion of other courts: And, provided, finally, That this amendment shall not apply to cases of written defamations, the civil and/or criminal actions which have been filed in court at the time of the effectivity of this law.

Preliminary investigation of criminal action for written defamations as provided for in the chapter shall be conducted by the provincial or city fiscal of the province or city, or by the municipal court of the city or capital of the province where such action may be instituted in accordance with the provisions of this article.

No criminal action for defamation which consists in the imputation of a crime which cannot be prosecuted de oficio shall be brought except at the instance of and upon complaint expressly filed by the offended party. (As amended by R.A. 1289, approved June 15, 1955, R.A. 4363, approved June 19, 1965).
 

            Despite the clarity of the commands of the law and the case law that all the facts needed to confer jurisdiction must be stated in the criminal information sheet for libel, the RTC refused to quash the criminal information sheets for libel that are the subject matters of this petition and the Court of Appeals upheld the RTC of Quezon City.

            The instant information sheets for libel are without issue to be not stating any of those material facts required by the Agbayani case to be so stated.

            All the criminal information sheets for libel in all these cases are almost identical except for the names of the accused as well as the name of the newspaper and the dates of issue thereof, to wit:

            The undersigned accuses (NAMES OF THE ACCUSED), of the crime of LIBEL committed as follows:

            That on or about the (DATE OF THE ISSUE OF THE NEWSPAPER CONCERNED), in Quezon City, Philippines, the above-named accused, (NAMES OF THE ACCUSED, DESIGNATIONS OF THE ACCUSED and THE NAME OF THE NEWSPAPER), a daily newspaper circulating in Metro Manila, conspiring together, confederating with and mutually helping one another, with evidence intent of exposing NEAL CRUZ, who is actually residing at No. 26 Layang-Layang St., Miranilla Homes, Tandang Sora, in the said City, to public hatred, dishonor, discredit, contempt and ridicule, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully, feloniously and maliciously write, publish, exhibit, circulate and/or cause to be written, published, exhibited and circulated in the aforesaid newspaper, in its issue of (DATE OF ISSUE OF THE NEWSPAPER), an article entitled (TITLE OF THE STORY), pertinent portions of which, read as follows:

xxx          xxx         xxx


            To recapitulate, the information sheets:

1.                            do not state the status of the offended party as to whether he is a private person or not at the time of the commission of libels; and

2.                            do not state the province or city where the article was first published and printed at the time of the commission of libels.


Additionally, it is very basic also that that jurisdiction is the requirement for the concerned criminal court to have authority to try the case and for that jurisdiction to be conferred the corresponding information sheet must state those facts that should confer jurisdiction.

Now, as excuse, the RTC claimed that the petitioners were already barred by laches just because the petitioners already submitted themselves to the arraignment and pre-trial conference.

The RTC used the case law Tijam vs Sibonghanoy to justify its conclusion that the petitioners were already barred by laches.

This is a clear act of bias in favor of private respondent Neal Cruz.

The public respondent very well knew that Tijam cannot apply because it is not on all fours with the cases at bar.

The RTC very well knew that Tijam concerns a civil case while the instant cases are criminal where any doubt shall be resolved in favor of the accused and against the state.

The RTC very well knew that Tijam involved a case where there was already a decision that was already final and executory while the instant case is one where trial has not even begun.

Ergo, it is very clear that the RTC wantonly disregarded the law and the case law on the matter.

It also showed clear bias in favor of the private respondent.

Despite being silent on the issue about laches applied as a very rare exception by the Tijam vs Sibonghanoy case law, the Court of Appeals did not rule the use by the RTC of laches as a grave abuse of discretion on the part of the RTC.


Application for TRO


            The petitioners are applying for the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) and Preliminary Injunction (PI) to stop the null-and-void proceedings from further causing prejudices on the petitioners.

            The public respondent and the private respondent already started the presentation of the first witness who was no other than the private complainant himself.  The accused-petitioner has also started cross-examining the private complainant and is yet to complete the cross-examination at the time of filing this petition.

            The continuous holding of the trial shall continually cost the petitioners expenses in travel and the appearance fees of their counsels.

            Additionally, it disturbs the petitioners’ daily work as journalists and of newspapering.

            There has been much news coverage that has not been attended by the petitioners just because of the schedules or settings in the sala of the public respondent.

            The right of the petitioner not to be disturbed is also clear, considering that they are practitioners in the exercise of the freedom of expression and of the press that they cannot be abridged by any law and considering further that the proceedings being held by the public respondent are clearly NULL and VOID.

            The damage being done to press freedom cannot be repaired.  There is also no issue that the continued trial continuously insults press freedom that is otherwise being placed in a lofty and sacred place by the Constitution.

            Of course, any person has the right to be protected from any official acts that are null and void, including the act of conducting trial when there is a clear issue of nullity in the criminal information sheet from which the proceedings got the authority to do so.

            The acts that prejudice the rights of the petitioner are actual and being done.  The damage being done is material and substantial, as well.

            Ergo, the instant proceedings should be stopped by means of a TRO and the subsequent preliminary injunction.


The Prayer

            WHEREFORE, it is respectfully prayed of the Honorable Court that this Petition for Review on Certiorari be given due course and be granted after due notice and hearing.

But before the petition is to be heard, it is also prayed that a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) and a Preliminary Injunction be issued to protect the clear rights of the petitioner from further damage and irreparable injury.

Other reliefs just and equitable are also prayed for.  November 12, 2012. Manila.
RENTA PE CAUSING SABARRE CASTRO & ASSOCIATES
Mailing Address:
Unit 1, No. 2368 Leon Guinto St. corner JB Roxas St., Malate, Manila


By:
CIRILO P. SABARRE JR.
IBP No. 856677/ 01-03-2012
PTR No. 11731429 / 01-03-2012
Roll No. 53639  /   MCLE No. IV-0003755 / 12-07-2011




DERVIN V. CASTRO
IBP No. 836900/ 11-18-2010 up to 2012
PTR No. 0335125 / 01-03-2012
Roll No. 53624 / MCLE No. IV-0007336 issued August 10, 2012




BERTENI CATALUÑA CAUSING
IBP No. 894664 / 03-20-2012 / Manila
PTR No. 0675267 / 03-27-2012 / Manila
Roll No. 60944 / MCLE Compliance No. IV – 0007338 issued August 10, 2012


Copy furnished:

REGIONAL TRIAL COURT of QUEZON CITY, BRANCH 220
Care of Judge Jose G. Paneda
Hall of Justice, Quezon City Hall, Elliptical Circle, Quezon City

OFFICE OF THE CITY PROSECUTOR
Hall of Justice, Quezon City Hall, Elliptical Circle, Quezon City

Counsels for Private Respondent Neal Cruz
ELMAR B. GALACIO, MARK HADRAN P. GAMO & JULIUS GREGORY B. DELGADO
6th Floor, CVCLAW CENTER
11th Avenue corner 39th St., Bonifacio Triangle
Bonifacio Global City 1634, Taguig, Metro Manila


Explanation
Far distance and lack of manpower compelled the firm to furnish the parties copies of this PETITION FOR REVIEW CERTIORARI by registered mails with return card.

CIRILO P. SABARRE JR. / DERVIN V. CASTRO / BERTENI C. CAUSING
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