By Mortz C. Ortigoza
LINGAYEN – The counsel of broadcaster Lina M. Cervantes said that he hopes the provincial prosecutor could not find probable cause to indict the latter on the eight counts of libel filed by Pangasinan Governor Amado T. Espino, Jr.
Probable cause, according to the Supreme Court of the Philippines, is defined as the existence of such facts and circumstances as would excite the belief in a reasonable mind, acting on the facts within the knowledge of the prosecutor, that the person charged was guilty of the crime for which he was prosecuted.
Lawyer Joseph Emmanuel Cera said that cases filed by Governor Espino to Cervantes, a morning broadcaster at DwPR-Radyo Asenso in Dagupan City, were not libelous because she based them on past public records like the black sand mining in Barangay Maluempec here were the governor and some provincial high officials were indicted by the Ombudsman, the charges of plunder against the governor by former Bugallon, Pangasinan Mayor Ric Orduna, and others.
One of the arguments of Cervantes, penned by Cera, on her counter affidavits at the prosecutor’s office in San Carlos City said that “even the defamatory statement is false, no liability can attach if it relates to official conduct unless the public official proves that the statement was made with actual malice. That is with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not this is what the gist of the ruling in the landmark case New York Times v. Sullivan”.
Cera’s argument comes from one of the excerpts on the counter affidavit of Cervantes who said on her April 21, 2015 program about the governor and his gubernatorial aspirant's son and namesake Board Member Amado Espino III“... ipamana po niya pagnanakaw ng mga lupain diyan sa Brgy. Malimpuec para ipatayo iyong eco-tourism na ginawang black sand mining o nag i-extract sila, pinader ng mataas para hukayin itong mga buhangin para extract ang black sand na iyan, di ba (?)”.
Cervantes, together with fellow DWPR broadcasters Macky Delgado and Tito Tamayo, and Action Radyo announcer Ike Palinar were sued by the governor with criminal libels.
Cera would not give an unequivocal answer to the query by Northern Watch if those cases filed by Espino were weak.
COUNSEL OPINES. Lawyer Emmanuel Joseph Cera answers queries from media men
after he assisted his client Lina M. Cervantes after she filed her counter affidavits on the
libel complaints of Governor Amado T. Espino, Jr. at the prosecutor’s office in Lingayen,
Pangasinan. MORTZ C. ORTIGOZA
Cera explained that there is a thin line between a private and public lives of a government official where he could file a case to those who offended him because they violated his private life.
Espino, on his media interviews, smarted with those media men because they dragged her sick nonagenarian mother in their vitriol against him.
“Kung minsan if you are a public official and since embraced public life, private life mo nakaka apekto din sa public life mo doon sa desisyon sa public office then the media could also comment on those matters,” he stressed.
He said the general rule is a government official act is a public act.
“Ano e consumption for the media in the sense you have embraced (public) life,” Cera explained.
Libel, according to the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines, is a public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead.