Complaints filed by Misibis Bay Resort, owner Elizaldy Co vs Bikoy, Facebook, Youtube Philippines seeking P1-billion in damages over 'Totoong Narco List' video.
Edu Punay
P1 billion cyber libel suit filed vs Facebook, YouTube, ‘Bikoy’
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - May 24, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Prominent Bicolano businessman Elizaldy Co and his posh Misibis Bay Resort have filed a P1-billion cyber libel suit against social media giants Facebook and YouTube together with Peter Advincula, the self-confessed “Bikoy,” over the “Ang Totoong Narcolist” video that implicated them in the illegal drug trade.

This is the first suit filed against social media giants Facebook and YouTube in the Philippines amid efforts to combat the spread of fake news online.

After vindication in the charges following the recantation of Advincula, Co and the resort management filed two separate complaints before the Legazpi City Prosecutor’s Office seeking the criminal indictment of respondents for cyber libel under Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act, in relation to libel under the Revised Penal Code.

“The truth is finally out. By his own admission, Bikoy said everything in the viral video series that implicated me, Misibis Bay resort and other personalities in the illegal drug trade are pure fabrication,” Co said.

“While my family and I are happy that this episode is finally over, our fight to clear our tarnished name and reputation continues,” he added.

Apart from Advincula, who came forward on May 6 to reaffirm his allegations in the videos only to resurface again yesterday to retract his claims, the first charge sheet also included as respondent Facebook Philippines, represented by country director John Rubio, and other unidentified individuals responsible for the video.

The complaint sought civil damages from the respondents amounting to P150 million in moral damages and P100 million in exemplary damages as well as payment of 10 percent for attorney’s fee for each of the two complainants, or a total of P550 million.

The second complaint, on the other hand, named Advincula, Google Philippines as owner of YouTube where the videos circulated, through its country manager Kenneth Lingan, and other unidentified persons as respondents.

Co and Misibis Resort Management also demanded the same amount of damages of P500 million and P50 million in attorney’s fees from the second set of respondents, for a total civil damage claim of at least P1.1 billion.

The complainants stressed the “false, malicious and libelous accusations in the video” that went viral on Facebook and YouTube affected not only his good reputation in the business field but also the operations of the popular resort destination in Albay.

“I and other officers of the Complainant Corporation received several phone calls and/or messages from our business partners, suppliers, creditors, clients and some concerned individuals, inquiring about the veracity of the statements in the said video,” Co said in the complaint-affidavit.

“Evidently, my good name, business reputation and social standing, as well as the good name, business reputation and good will of Misibis Bay Resort, as well as its owner, Complainant Corporation Misibis Resort and Hotel Management Inc., which were painstakingly built through the years, were gravely tarnished, irreparably tainted and/or unduly smeared as a result of the publication of the subject video,” he pointed out.

The complainants alleged “some banking and financial institutions with which we have significant financial dealings have raised questions on my credit worthiness.”

“In particular, one bank, upon learning about the video, immediately suspended the processing of my pending application for a significant amount of loan,” Co said.

The complainants said they asked both Facebook and YouTube to take down the video last April 26, but both social media giants have ignored the request and the video has remained online.

This was why they impleaded Facebook and YouTube in the complaint, they said.

“Evidently, the said libelous video was recklessly and wantonly made and published by the respondents in the internet and in cyberspace with no regard to the veracity or falsity of the statements made therein. Said video does not only discredit and/or malign if not totally destroy our good names, honor and respective business reputations of the Complainants, but also ascribes to us alleged active membership, nay, leadership and/or participation in a supposed drug syndicate and worse, our alleged commission of acts and/or indispensable cooperation in the continuing commission of a heinous and/or ruthless crime – that of involvement in the illegal drugs business,” Co lamented.

The complainants stressed all necessary elements of cyber libel under the law are present in this case to make the respondents criminally and civilly liable.

Co lamented how the video destroyed the reputation he built for many years.

“I am an upright citizen and a reputable and well-respected businessman not only in the Bicol region but nationwide as I have been, over a span of several decades, into such businesses as renewable energy, real estate, luxury hotels and resorts, retail, information and communication technology, aviation and mining. In fact, most of my businesses have greatly contributed in elevating not only the Bicol region’s economic condition but that of the country as well,” he stressed.

He said Misibis Bay Resort has also built its image “not only throughout the country but also throughout the world as excellently-run and reputable tourism oriented luxury establishment of which every Bicolano can be proud,” only to be destroyed by the respondents.

“With the posting, uploading, publication, circulation and republication of the subject video, we, as a consequence, have suffered extreme and irreparable injury, grave prejudice and/or unconscionable damages to our good names, business reputations, good will and our social standing and/or status in our society and/or the business community,” complainants added.

In the video – the fifth episode of the “Ang Totoong Narcolist” series – Bikoy said a drug syndicate working out of Bicol was called the “Quadrangle Group” and included former politicians and businessmen.

Bikoy identified Co as the supposed leader of the group and claimed the illegal operations were conducted inside Misibis Bay Resort.

He also identified the other members of the group as Albay Rep. Fernando Gonzalez, Camarines Norte Gov. Edgardo Tallado, former Camarines Sur congressman and governor Luis Villafuerte, Catanduanes Gov. Joseph Cua, Sorsogon senior provincial board member Krunimar Escudero, Victor Lorenzo Rosales, Naga businessman Thomas Enrile and businesswoman Tess Rañola.

Advincula is a former convict who had served sentence at the national penitentiary in an estafa case. After he surfaced in a press conference at the headquarters of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, it was learned that he is also a wanted man facing multiple cases of estafa and illegal recruitment in several provinces.   

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