Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz entered a not guilty plea Tuesday to the libel case filed against him before the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 52.
In an interview, Cruz said it was not his intention to malign female employees of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. who served as usherettes during a birthday party for Jose Miguel Arroyo, President Arroyo's husband, in 2004. The PAGCOR employees sued the archbishop for saying that they were treated like guest relations officers, a euphemism for prostitutes.
Cruz, however, said he was merely criticizing PAGCOR for allowing the marketing assistants to go to the party.
He said the reopening of the case, which was already dismissed in September 2004, could be retaliation for his vigorous campaign against gambling. He said none of the complainants appeared during Tuesday's hearing.
Judge Antonio Rosales set the pre-trial conference on the case for August 26 and the start of formal hearings of September 16.