Court finds Trillanes guilty of libel over 2015 statements vs ex-Makati Mayor Junjun Binay

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Court finds Trillanes guilty of libel over 2015 statements vs ex-Makati Mayor Junjun Binay
In this Dec. 10, 2018 file photo shows Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV visiting the Pasay court to pay the bail amounting to P96,000 or P24,000 for each of four counts of libel.
The STAR / Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines — A Makati court has found former Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV guilty of libel over his media statements against then-Makati Mayor Junjun Binay on the “Justice for Sale” issue in 2015.

The Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 148 also slapped Trillanes with a fine of P100,000. Judge Andres Soriano also ordered the former senator to pay Binay with P500,000 in moral damages and cost of suit.

Binay, private complainant, sued the former senator over his statements in radio and television interviews that, according to the Information or charge sheet, “[imputed] the crimes of bribery, graft and corruption… to [Binay], which exposed the latter to hatred, contempt and public ridicule, to his damage and prejudice.”

Among the assailed statements are Trillanes saying: “E kasama naman sya dyan e. Di ba konsehal yang si Mayor Junjun nung nangyari itong lahat. So kasama yan, sindikato yang pamilya na yan.”

The Information also cited the following statement: “Pero kita mo, dahil sa paggapang eh ganyan. Malaking pera ang iniluwal ng mga Binay para dito sa injunction na ito.”

Trillanes had also accused Binay of bribing two Court of Appeals justice with P50 million for their ruling against the former mayor’s suspension by the Office of the Ombudsman.

The court said Trillanes should “not have relied on his assumptions and should have refrained from making such grave allegations against the private complainant and his family, until after proper verification was completed and the appropriate resolution was filed before the Senate.”

“Making and releasing the subject statements absent a serious verification and investigation is recklessness bordering on a disregard of what is true or false,” the ruling further read.

The court also noted that while the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee later issued a resolution recommending charges against the Binays for their supposed connection to the “Makati corruption scandal,” this is not vindication. “[T]he present libel case pertains to the Justice for Sale issue which is altogether different and distinct from the Makati corruption issue,” it added.

Judge Soriano, who previously junked the government’s bid to revive a coup d’etat case against the Trillanes, also said the former senator cannot use as defense the right to freedom of expression or speech as this should be exercised responsibly. “The recognition of a right is not a free license for the one claiming it to run roughshod over the rights of others,” the ruling also read.

Trillanes, in a statement, said the conviction is “the price to pay for standing up against very powerful people.”

He also said they will exhaust legal remedies to reverse the ruling. “Regardless, we will not let this legal setback discourage us in pursuing our advocacy to purge our government of corrupt and abusive public officials,” he added.

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