Prosecutors dismiss motion for reconsideration on P100-M libel suit vs media company

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 30 July) — Prosecutors once again dismissed a move by a former lawmaker to pursue a P100-million libel suit she filed against a media company here and some of its personnel.

The City Prosecutor’s Office in a resolution dated July 27 trashed a motion for reconsideration lodged by former South Cotabato representative Shirlyn Bañas-Nograles, citing a provision in the 2017 Revised Prosecutor’s Manual, Volume 1 “motions for reconsideration must be verified.”

Bañas-Nograles’ motion was not verified.

Fierce rivals in GenSan’s mayoral post – business leader Elmer V Catulpos and South Cotabato Rep. Shirlyn Nograles – are cordial during candidates’ forum organized by the academe in General Santos City during the election campaign for the May 9, 2022 elections. Conspicuously absent is mayoral aspirant Lorelie Pacquiao, sister in law of senator and presidential aspirant Emmanuel Pacquiao. Lorelie won the mayoralty race. Photo courtesy Genesis Fernandez

In filing the motion for reconsideration on July 21, the former lawmaker assailed the earlier resolution of the prosecutor’s office on June 29, dismissing the libel and cyberlibel suit she filed against radio anchors Abner Francisco ug Carlo Dugaduga, station manager Ruel Domantay of Brigada News FM Gensan and the Brigada Mass Media Corporation, represented by its president – CEO Elmer Catulpos.

Catulpos and Banas-Nograles were among five candidates for mayor of General Santos City in the May 9 election. Lorelie Pacquiao won as mayor. 

The second resolution that threw out the motion of the complainant was signed by assistant city prosecutors Kayugenn Mato Kuda Jr., Gilbert B. Bandiola and Richard Dale V. Escolano, and approved City Prosecutor Atty. Clemencia E. Dinopol-Cataluna.

The case stemmed from a commentary in the March 30, 2022 episode of the high-rating morning program “Tira Brigada” of Brigada News FM Gensan, when the two anchors tackled an issue on “payola” being present in some local government projects.

In her complaint, the former congresswoman quoted Dugaduga as saying during the radio program, “Unya, ah notorious man ni si ah, Bañas nga mangayo ug payola gikan sa kontraktor. Ipadayun gihapon na kung siya’y ma Mayor puhon. Ipadayon gihapon na. O, unya kay ang iyang bana moapil man pud ug pangayo, moapil pud bisag dili congressman.”

The prosecutors dismissed the complaints in a resolution dated June 29, stating that “Not all of the elements of the crimes of libel or cyber libel are present in this case.”

In denying the allegations against them, the respondents argued that “they were charged separately which violates their right against double jeopardy; the contents of a compact disc submitted by the complainant was obtained without court warrant and the moral damages claimed were not supported with evidences.”

The respondents further argued that “for an imputation to be libelous, it must have four elements – it must be defamatory, it must be malicious, it must be given publicly, and the victim must be identifiable.”

All these elements are not present in the case, the respondents noted. “Absent one of these elements, a case of libel will not prosper,” they pointed out.

The former congresswoman filed the case before the prosecutors’ office on June 10, a month after the May 9 elections.  (Rommel Rebollido / MindaNews)