MANILA - The libel case against several ABS-CBN past and present news personalities and executives in connection with the 2004 video footage of kidnapped Filipino overseas worker Angelo Dela Cruz will proceed, as the Court of Appeals (CA) junked their plea to have the trial stopped.
In a 21-page decision dated June 9, the appellate court's Tenth Division junked the petition for certiorari of Erwin Tulfo, Lilibeth Frondoso, Lynda Jumilla, Maria Progena Reyes, Anna Eugenio, Fernando Garcia, Eugenio Lopez III, Luis Alejandro, Jose Ramon Olives, Jesus Maderazo, Luisita Cruz-Valdes, Jose Magsaysay, Jr., and Alfonso Marquez, citing the absence of grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Department of Justice (DOJ) in indicting them in connection with the libel case filed by rival network GMA-7.
The case stemmed from on-camera remarks made by ABS-CBN news program anchors Tulfo and Jumilla about GMA-7's alleged use of ABS-CBN's live video footage of Dela Cruz's homecoming, beamed to Reuters Television Service with whom ABS-CBN had an existing agreement.
"Far from preempting the outcome of the criminal process... our appraisal on want of whimsical abuse of discretion from public respondent's (DOJ) appreciation of preconditions for defamation did not perforce elicit petitioners' perdition for libel...
"Without necessarily placing the cart ahead of the horse, so to speak, and mindful of a possible different perspective from another judicial forum which may later be constrained to interpret the import of petitioners' expressions, and as opposed to petitioners Tulfo and Jumilla during the news segment plainly imparted to an ordinary person that "GMA-7" was a 'thief,'" the decision read.
The appellate court further stressed that the words used by petitioners: "nagnanakaw," "pamimirata," and "pagnanakaw" all "alluded to the commission of a criminal act of taking someone's property without the owner's consent."
"Indeed, the use of the calumnious term 'nakaw' coupled with it repetition in the ABS-CBN News programs, instilled in the minds of the public about the alleged thievery by 'GMA-7.' Patently, the ascription to 'GMA-7' as a 'thief' in national television, scurrilous and ignominous as it was, exposed it to public ridicule and contempt," the decision read.
The live ABS-CBN footage had a "No Access Philippines" restriction, according to ABS-CBN, which barred Reuters subscribers/clients in the Philippines from airing the video.
ABS-CBN claimed GMA-7, in its news bulletin, Flash Report, aired the subject footage.
The appellate court said that "[t]he issue of whether or not there was a justification for 'GMA-7' to use the questioned video footage or whether a crime had been committed is a matter for 'GMA-7' and ABS-CBN to resolve with or without the aid of judicial (court) intervention."
The libel case against the ABS-CBN news personalities and executives was filed on July 27, 2004 with the Quezon City Prosecutor's Office.
The complaint was junked on Dec. 3 of the same year.
GMA-7 filed a petition for review which was denied on Sept. 15, 2005.
However, the same was reversed by the DOJ in a ruling dated June 29, 2010 on the motion for reconsideration of GMA-7.
The DOJ, under Sec. Leila De Lima, sustained this ruling.