MANILA - Businessman Dennis Uy insisted that his company’s purchase of Chevron’s stake in the Malampaya Gas Project was "a strictly private transaction" and that he suffered “reputational damage” after ABS-CBN and several other media outlets reported on the graft complaint filed against him over the deal.
In the 12-page cyberlibel complaint filed Nov. 25 with the Davao City Prosecutor’s Office - but was only received by ABS-CBN Jan. 10 - Uy also said ABS-CBN did not get his side before publishing the story on the graft complaint he was facing before the Ombudsman together with Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi.
“They could have even asked me directly, and I would have been happy to disabuse them of their suspicions. They did no such thing. They relied on their shallow analyses of the limited materials they reviewed and on pure speculations and conjectures,” Uy claimed.
ABS-CBN was reporting on the graft complaint filed by a group of private individuals over the sale of Chevron Malampaya LLC’s stake in the Malampaya gas-to-power project to a unit of the Uy-led Udenna Corp.
The ABS-CBN News article cited in Uy’s complaint included Udenna’s statement that the company had yet to receive the "supposed complaint" filed against its officials.
"At the proper time and venue, we will address all allegations raised against the company to prove that everything is done above-board," Udenna said in the statement, as quoted in the news story.
In his cyberlibel suit, Uy insisted he did not violate the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practice Act with the Udenna-Chevron deal.
“The share purchase was a strictly private transaction between Udenna and Chevron. The government was not affected in any way,” Uy said in paragraph 35 of his suit.
He also disputed the graft complainants’ allegation the Udenna-Chevron deal was an “incredible crony agreement” and maintained he was not given undue advantage by the government.
“Respondents’ accusation that I am a “crony” is intended to conjure up the specter of Martial Law cronyism, with all the negative feelings and sentiments they awaken in every Filipino who remembers,” Uy said.
The word “crony” was used by complainants Balgamel Domingo, Rodel Rodis, and Loida Nicolas in their graft complaint against Uy and Cusi. The graft complaint was filed October 18 at the Office of the Ombudsman (Visayas) in Iloilo City.
“I suffered damages to my reputation to the public and my good standing in the business community here and abroad, which I built through many years of effort and expense. It will take years for me to recover from that reputational damage,” Uy claimed.
A lawyer of Uy and Cusi earlier said in an interview with ANC that they filed the cyberlibel complaint against ABS-CBN because no graft complaint had been filed at the time of the publication of the story on Oct. 19.
“If they have the complaint that’s properly dated and properly signed and properly docketed, then that’s a very good defense. But like I said, no one has shown me a complaint,” Atty. Ruy Rondain said in an interview with ANC on Dec. 6.
That same day, a lawyer for the graft complainants, Atty. Rico Domingo, made public a copy of the complaint that was stamped received by the Ombudsman’s Iloilo office on Oct. 18.
Several journalists’ organizations have criticized Uy and Cusi’s cyberlibel complaints against ABS-CBN and several other media outlets.
"The journalists did not accuse him; the complainants did. The journalists only covered the complaint,” the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said in a statement last December.
“The media is simply doing its job - to report based on the facts presented to them. Secretary Cusi is a public official and is therefore subject to scrutiny,” the Economic Journalists Association of the Philippines said.
The Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines also said it was alarmed over the Malampaya libel suits.
“The libel complaint can intimidate and muzzle independent and courageous reporting on issues surrounding Malampaya, a critical infrastructure that supplies a fifth of the Philippines’ energy requirements and benefits millions of Filipinos and businesses,” FOCAP said in a statement.
EJAP also pointed out the transaction was an issue of great public concern as it is crucial to the country’s energy security thus deserving scrutiny from the media without interference or threats.