Court orders arrest of Trillanes over Junjun libel

Mike Frialde (The Philippine Star) - February 1, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines – The Makati City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 142 has ordered the arrest of Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV in connection with a libel case filed against him by former Makati mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay.

According to Binay’s counsel Claro Certeza, they have information that the court had the warrant of arrest for Trillanes mailed to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) instead of having it personally delivered for faster service.

Reports have quoted Branch 142’s clerk of court Maricel Cairo as saying that the warrant was sent to arresting officers from the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the NBI last Jan. 29.

Certeza yesterday said he finds it strange that while Trillanes’ arrest warrant was sent through the mail, the ombudsman’s order to dismiss then Makati mayor Binay was hand-carried to his office at the Makati City Hall last October.

Reporters tried but failed to get a copy of the Department of Justice (DOJ) resolution finding probable cause for Trillanes to be held for trial in the libel case from the Makati RTC Branch 142. They were told by the clerk of court that only parties to the case can have copies.

The issuance of an arrest warrant for an accused in a libel case comes after the determination of probable cause.

“The recent DOJ finding of probable cause for the indictment of Sen. Trillanes for libel is a clear vindication of what Vice President  (Jejomar) Binay has been saying all along – that the accusations made against him and members of his family are lies and politically motivated. The case for libel stemmed from the statement made by Sen. Trillanes that mayor Junjun Binay allegedly bribed the Court of Appeals justices with P50 million to obtain a TRO (temporary restraining order) and later a writ of preliminary injunction to stop his suspension,” Certeza said in a statement.

He said that while the libel case was originally filed with the Makati Prosecutor’s Office last year, Trillanes requested that the case be transferred to the DOJ after alleging that the Makati City prosecutor is biased for Binay.

“But even with the transfer of the case to the DOJ, whom Sen. Trillanes stated will give him an unbiased determination of his case, the finding was that his bribery charges have no basis and hence, the finding of probable cause to charge and arrest him for the crime of libel,” Certeza said.

“Sen. Trillanes and his cohorts are clearly resorting to trial by publicity to destroy the reputation of VP Binay and derail his bid for the presidency. They have not produced any evidence that are legally acceptable to substantiate their charges,” Certeza added.

Last April 13, then mayor Binay filed a complaint for libel before the Makati City Prosecutor’s Office against Trillanes for having claimed that he bribed justices of the CA 6th Division into issuing the writ of preliminary injunction against the ombudsman’s order to have him suspended over his alleged involvement in the reportedly irregular construction of the Makati City Hall Building 2.

Binay said Trillanes, in an interview aired last April 7 over several radio and television programs, and in an article published in the April 8 issue of another broadsheet, publicly claimed that members of the 6th Division of the CA were given bribes in millions of pesos in exchange for the favorable action on the petitions for a TRO and writ of preliminary injunction.

Binay said Trillanes was also quoted as saying that he and his family were “part of a syndicate” that has committed various crimes and irregularities.

In his complaint-affidavit, Binay said it was evident from the media interview of Trillanes and the subsequent article published in the broadsheet titled “Trillanes: I will expose Binay paid for TRO,” that he had made the statements “despite the utter lack of evidence.”

“The damaging and ruinous claims spewed out by respondent Trillanes are mere concoctions and fabrications with no other purpose than to malign, discredit, ruin my reputation and besmirch my good name as well as that of my family,” Binay said.

He pointed out that Trillanes himself had admitted during the interview that he had no valid proof or factual basis for his pronouncements.

Based on the actual interview, the senator appeared “evasive” when asked directly by reporters how he came to know about the alleged bribery. Instead, he, a former Navy officer, cited his use of “intelligence,” which he said was military parlance for information gathered for purposes of “decision-making.”  

In his complaint, Binay said the acts of Trillanes in connection with the defamatory statements made against him constitute a violation of Article 355 in relation to Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code.

In his complaint-affidavit, Binay cited a ruling that says, “No bona fide efforts having been made to ascertain the truth of such statements before they were written and published in reckless disregard of the truth, the presumption of malice applies as these article(s) are not privileged communication.”

Binay said the libelous statements made by Trillanes in public were “attended with malice in fact as they were prompted by ill will and spite inasmuch as they have no factual basis whatsoever and were not made in response to duty, but only with obvious intention to injure my reputation as well as those of my family.” 

Trillanes files motion

Meanwhile, Certeza said Trillanes’ lawyers yesterday afternoon filed with the Makati RTC Branch 142 motions to suspend the service of the arrest warrant and for the suspension of court hearings on the libel case as they will be filing a motion for reconsideration on the DOJ’s ruling of probable cause.

Certeza said the hearing on the motions would be held at Makati RTC Branch 142 at 8:30 a.m. on Friday.

“We will see them in court,” said Certeza.

Trillanes said he would face the case filed against him by Binay, but would not let such legal maneuvers cow him from making further exposés about the Vice President and his family. –With Marvin Sy, Cecille Suerte Felipe

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