MANILA (UPDATE) — Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors have junked cyber libel raps against former and current Makabayan bloc House representatives filed by the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) over statements made in 2021 accusing the police of red-tagging and planting of evidence.
In a resolution dated May 12 but which was only made public on Tuesday, assistant state prosecutors Bryan Jacinto Cacha and Moises Acayan dismissed “for lack of merit” 2 counts of cyber libel or violation of section 4(c) paragraph (4) of the Cybercrime Prevention Act (RA 10175) filed against Gabriela Women’s Party-List Rep. Arlene Brosas and former Makabayan bloc House representatives Carlos Isagani Zarate, Luzviminda Calolot-Ilagan and Liza Maza.
The case stemmed from a CIDG operation in November 2021 to implement a 2015 arrest warrant against a certain Lourdes Bulan alias “Simang” for 2 counts of murder.
During the service of the warrant, PNP-CIDG allegedly recovered tarpaulins and flyers of Bayan Muna and Gabriela along with firearms and explosives.
In response, Zarate was quoted on Manila Times Online calling the evidence allegedly recovered as “dirty tactic” while Gabriela Women’s Party was quoted on Manila Times Online and Inquirer.net claiming that the tarpaulins were planted and part of “red-tagging gimmicks.”
The PNP-CIDG, represented by Maj. Jonathan Mostoles, filed the cyber libel raps.
But DOJ prosecutors found “no basis to indict respondents.”
They pointed out the persons liable for cyber libel are either the author who published, exhibited or caused the publication of the libelous post, the person who created the libelous post or the editor or business manager of a book, pamphlet, newspaper, magazine or serial publication.
“It bears stressing that Rep. Zarate, Rep. Brosas, Ms. Ilagan and Ms. Maza are neither the author nor the person who created such a post. Respondents likewise did not publish, exhibit or cause the publication of the articles in news question. Moreover, there is also no indication that the respondents are either the editor or the business manager of the Manila Times Online or of Inquirer.net,” they said.
“What is only apparent on the published article is that respondent, Rep. Zarate, was interviewed regarding the incident and was only made subject of a news report published over the internet. While respondents or the organizations they represent were alluded to in the articles, there was no sufficient allegation that they caused the online publication of their statements. This demonstrates the absence of participation in the publication or showing of lack of probable cause to indict the respondents for the offense charged,” they added.
BAYAN MUNA REACTION
In a statement, Zarate welcomed the junking of the cyber libel raps, which he called “harassment suit.”
"We laud our state prosecutors for junking the utterly baseless cyberlibel case filed by the PNP-CIDG represented by Major Jonathan Mostoles in 2021. Like the other harassment suits filed against us by state agents, this latest case was also dismissed because it is destitute of any merit. Clearly, it is a fatuous act only aimed to harass members of the progressive groups," he said.
Zarate challenged the police to focus instead on other more urgent matters.
"In this time of severe crisis, why can not the police use their time and resources instead in running after syndicates and cartels that caused the spike in basic necessities like sugar, salt, rice, and even oil and power? Or, by seriously going after the corrupt government officials and employees, the drug lords and other criminal syndicates that prey on our suffering poor people?” he asked.
"Sinasayang nila ang oras at pera ng mamamayan sa ginagawa nilang pagsasasampa ng mga trumped-up and frivolous cases laban sa mga opposition at kritiko ng pamahalaan," he continued.
Department of Justice, DOJ, Gabriela, Bayan Muna, Makabayan bloc, cyber libel, PNP, Philippine National Police, CIDG, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, Arlene Brosas, Carlos Isagani Zarate, Luzviminda Calolot-Ilagan, Liza Maza