Surigao City mayor sues radio ‘blocktimers’

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/23 December) — Surigao City Mayor Ernesto T. Matugas has hailed to court two radio “blocktimers” identified with his political rivals for supposedly maligning him “as a person and as a public official”.

Matugas said Rey A. Culbo and Jamar D. Gavino should be held liable for libel for portraying him as a crook and a corrupt public official on their paid radio program.

Culbo acted as host and Gavino the researcher cum writer in the weekday program “Abante Surigao,” which has recently stopped broadcasting over dxRS-RMN.

In particular, the mayor cited the program’s June 27, 2011 airing in which Culbo allegedly declared that Matugas took a P5-million bribe from businessman Henry Gaisano in exchange for certain favors to the latter’s mall project.

Gaisano’s three-storey mall held a soft opening last week eight months after construction began this summer.

Culbo and Gavino, who are identified with the rival Barbers camp, have been summoned to appear before Assistant City Prosecutor Maureen E. Chua for a clarificatory hearing on January 04, 2012.

While he underscored the political nature of the program, Matugas said the bribery allegation was too much for him to bear.

“Specifically, Mr. Culbo uttered defamatory statements. The utterance is malicious since after they have filed the formal complaint with the Office of the Ombudsman, Mr. Culbo was still making comments with no purpose other than maligning my private person and as my being an elected public official,” the mayor said in his three-page affidavit-complaint.

Anomalies supposedly taking place at the City Hall and other local topics were the duo’s staple in their afternoon program, aired Monday to Friday.

While the mayor admitted having received a P 5-million check from the mall magnate after the mall’s groundbreaking rites sometime in March, he insisted the amount was “clean money”.

“Gaisano purchased a P10.5-million property in my subdivision in Tagaytay, he made a down payment of P5 million. There is a paper trail here, a check was issued and a contract to sell, Matugas had earlier explained.

Matugas, an engineer by profession, is the president of Woodridge Property Inc (WPI), a firm that is into several realty developments throughout the country.

He said that before he became mayor he had been dealing with Gaisano as a client for years.

Prior to the filing of the libel case by Matugas, Culbo, Gavino and another resident had already pressed charges against the mayor for alleged bribery.

In a five-page complaint before the Ombudsman, the complainants alleged that on March 17, 2011, during the groundbreaking rites of Gaisano Capital, Gaisano handed Matugas the P5-million check drawn from Banco de Oro Cebu Branch.

Gaisano owns other malls and superstores in the country.

The complainants alleged that the amount was paid in exchange for Gaisano’s entry in the city.

Gaisano Capital started building its two-storey mall on a 3.4-hectare area in Barangay Luna last April. In accepting the money, the complainants said Matugas should be held liable for graft because it was tantamount to bribery, nothing that Gaisano, as an investor, was likely to ask favors in permits and other licensing requirements for his department store.

Matugas said that while the libel case is related to the case filed before the Ombudsman, Culbo’s utterance, based on the information fed by the program’s researcher cum writer,” projected him as a “corrupt person and public official.”

“The utterance made a sweeping judgment as if I were an extortionist, which tended to cause dishonor and discredit on my person as a private individual and as an elected public official,” the mayor said in his complaint. (Roel N. Catoto/MindaNews)