MANILA - The Department of Justice has found probable cause to indict Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV anew for libel, acting on a complaint filed by former Vice-President Jejomar Binay in September 2015.
The complaint stems from Trillanes' pronouncements in connection with a legislative inquiry against alleged corrupt practices committed by Binay during his stint as Mayor of Makati City and his incumbency as VP.
In a seven-page resolution issued on October 9, signed by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Edwin Dayog, and approved by Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Richard Anthony Fadullon, the DOJ directed the filing of a criminal information against Trillanes before the Makati RTC, ruling that malice was established against Trillanes’s pronouncements, and these were not covered by parliamentary immunity.
The case was filed with the trial court on Monday afternoon.
The case stemmed from pronouncements made by Trillanes, which appeared on a tabloid and a news website, about so-called exposes against Binay, including a statement on August 19, 2015 “accusing [Binay] of perpetrating a ‘P100 million racket a year in Makati City’ allegedly involving ghost senior citizens.”
Binay alleged that these statements are “defamatory as they publicly maligned his reputation by imputing to him vices and defects, as well as the commission of various crimes, including violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and other special laws.”
“Malice in fact is evident from the fact that the public statement in question was not based on established facts. Apparently, the public statement was made without regard to the truth or falsity thereof and at such a time as complainant was consistently coming out in the surveys as front-runner in the May 2016 presidential election.
"The questioned publication being defamatory and malice being apparent, a prima facie case for libel exists,” the resolution read.
The DOJ added that the questioned publication on the alleged P100 million racket a year “does not fall under any of the absolutely or qualifiedly privileged communications."
“It is not absolutely privileged as implementation of parliamentary immunity recognized by the Constitution as the communication was not made in the discharge of respondent’s duty as Senator in course of legislative proceedings,” the resolution read.
Trillanes also failed to convince the DOJ that the complaint has already prescribed, and must be dismissed because of the delay in its resolution.
In his counter-affidavit during the preliminary investigation of the case, Trillanes said he did not recall making the subject pronouncements; he also argued the City Prosecutor of Makati City had jurisdiction over the complaint, not the DOJ main office.
Makati City prosecutors inhibited from the case, which caused its transfer to the DOJ main office.
Trillanes was also indicted for libel by the DOJ in February 2016 in relation to a separate complaint filed by Binay’s son, dismissed Makati City Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay.
The younger Binay filed the complaint after Trillanes publicly accused him in April 2015 of bribing two Court of Appeals (CA) magistrates to halt his first suspension order by the Office of the Ombudsman over the allegedly overpriced Makati City Hall Building 2.
Trillanes is out on bail on the first libel case.