3 Surigao journalists say article vs mayoralty bet not libelous

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews / 28 Apr) – Three local journalists here had filed their counteraffidavit before the city prosecutor’s office Tuesday afternoon, saying the libel case filed by a mayoral candidate will not hold water because their story was not libelous.

“The article based on interview with a public official involves matters of public concern. It was news worthy and thus it was only proper and appropriate for us to disclose the story to the public. And there was no malice in our article,” said Edito Mapayo, editor and publisher of Pinas Balita, a weekly publication in Surigao del Norte.

His colleagues Paul Boncaros and Jun Ramirez were the other two included in the libel case filed by businesswoman Elizabeth Matugas, who is running for mayor in the municipality of Dapa, before the Surigao City Prosecutor’s Office last March 22 March.

The case was based on a news report in the weekly newspaper’s Feb. 8-14 issue which alleged that Matugas has not been paying the owners of several lots in Mt. Patag, Barangay Jubgan, San Francisco town in Surigao del Norte where she reportedly operated an illegal mining activity in 2014.

In her complaint, Matugas accused the journalists of “conspiring and confederating with each other, knowingly, intentionally, and feloniously, with intent to discredit or cause dishonor or contempt” on her.

Matugas further wrote in her complaint that “the wicked article of the respondents portrayed me as a villain, a swindler and a cheat. … The ignominy of it all is the fact that I was not even involved in the supposed illegal transactions.” The businesswoman also claimed that the report on a “trivialized alleged event” that transpired in 2014 was obviously meant to discredit her in the coming elections.

Elizabeth Matugas, who is sister of incumbent Rep. Francisco T. Matugas (1st District, Surigao del Norte) and Surigao City Mayor Ernesto Matugas, claimed she did not engage in illegal mining activity.