SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews / 24 November) – A local journalist who was sued for libel for reporting on an illegal mining activity of a firm owned by public officials in Surigao del Norte felt vindicated after the issue recently resurfaced.
Edito Mapayo, editor-publisher of the defunct Pinas Balita, a weekly local publication, said he now feels free from the “trumped-up charges” filed by Mayor Elizabeth Matugas of Dapa town, although the case remains pending in court.
Mapayo was referring to the mining operations of GoSun Siargao Waves Corp. in Barangay Jubgan, San Francisco town, Surigao del Norte.
San Francisco Mayor Val Pinat told MindaNews last Nov. 6 that GoSun, which he said has a binding contract with another firm, Surimin, has not obtained a permit for its large-scale mining operations.
Surimin is owned by Mayor Matugas, sister of Surigao del Norte Gov. Francisco Matugas.
One of the owners of GoSun is Assistant Provincial Administrator Ramon Gotinga.
Environment officials confirmed in a dialogue last Nov. 9 that GoSun was not issued a permit for its operations.
The company stopped operating on the same day.
“As the old saying goes, ‘the naked truth will always prevail, so to speak and this sets me free now,” Mapayo said on Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 23, before a few media workers in Surigao City who commemorated the infamous 2009 Ampatuan Massacre.
Mapayo is currently the station manager of EOS Broadcasting Services with three radio stations operating in Surigao del Norte.
Mapayo published a follow-up story in the February 8-14, 2016 issue of his paper alleging the non-payment by the mining company for the actual damages to the landowners in Barangay Jubgan.
The libel case is still pending at the Regional Trial Court Branch 29 in Surigao City. Aside from Mapayo, his two co-workers, Paul Bongcaros and Joselito Ramirez, were also charged.
Matugas denied the allegations in the story. She accused the three of “conspiring and confederating with each other, knowingly, intentionally, and feloniously, with intent to discredit or cause dishonor or contempt.”
She alleged 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.”
She claimed that the report on a “trivialized alleged event” that occurred in 2014 was obviously meant to discredit her in the 2016 elections.
But Mapayo said the complaint filed by Matugas should not have gone to court because their story was “not libelous.”
He said the article was “based on an interview with a public official and involves matters of public concern. It was newsworthy 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.”
Matugas filed a separate complaint for a civil case and demanded 5 million pesos for the libel suit against Mapayo and company.
Mapayo, however, admitted that while he felt vindicated the suffering continues because the case remains.
He said the case was meant to harass and persecute them. (Roel N. Catoto/MindaNews)