Castro appeals DOJ dismissal of complaint vs Duterte

Daphne Galvez - The Philippine Star
Castro appeals DOJ dismissal of complaint vs Duterte
Congresswoman France Castro files a petition for review to annul the dismissal of her complaint against former president Rodrigo Duterte at the Department of Justice (DOJ) in Padre Faura, Manila on February 5, 2024.
STAR / Ernie Penaredondo

MANILA, Philippines — ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro has asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) to annul the dismissal of the grave threat complaint she filed against former president Rodrigo Duterte.

Castro filed a petition for review on Feb. 5 before the DOJ to ask the department to have the Jan. 9 resolution of the Quezon City Prosecutors Office annulled. The QCPO threw out the complaint “for want of sufficient evidence.”

In her petition, Castro said the prosecutor committed grave abuse of discretion when it “disregarded” the evidentiary weight or value of the pieces of electronic evidence presented in her complaint-affidavit, adding that the QCPO “misapplied the rules on electronic evidence.”

She said the QCPO is “grossly mistaken” when it ruled that Castro had supposedly failed to comply with the required “authentication or certification” of the subject videos in her complaint.

The lawmaker said there was nothing in the Rules of Court that provides for an “authentication or certification” from social media platforms or from the television network where the electronic document was taken.

“The (QCPO) committed grave abuse of discretion when it refused to give due evidentiary value to the complainant’s sworn statement that she has personally watched, downloaded and saved the video footage containing respondent-appellee’s threatening remarks,” the petition read.

Castro argued that a careful reexamination of her complaint would show that all the elements of grave threat are present.

She also pointed out that the dismissal of her complaint against Duterte sets a precedent of “selectively interpreting statements, potentially extending protection to public figures who make violent remarks or casually red-tag others in mass media.”

“This undermines efforts to address online threats, contributes to normalizing violent rhetoric and erodes public trust in the legal system’s ability to handle explicit threats from those in power, effectively deterring dissent,” the petition read.

Castro filed the complaint against Duterte for statements the latter made during a television show at Sonshine Media Network International against the lawmaker as he defended the proposed confidential fund for the offices being headed by his daughter Vice President Sara Duterte.

In the program, Duterte said he told his daughter to use the intelligence fund to target Castro, whom he said is a “communist” he wants to kill.

In dismissing Castro’s complaint, the QCPO said the way or the manner by which Duterte uttered his remarks and the words he used “do not convincingly establish that (he) intended them to be taken seriously.”

It also ruled that Duterte’s words do not establish these were made for the purpose of making Castro believe that it would be carried out.

The QCPO added that it is unusual “if not ridiculous” for an individual to make public pronouncements of death threats or threatening remarks.

It also said that Castro failed to obtain authentication from Facebook, YouTube or SMNI regarding the authenticity of the post, video or television broadcast.

“Absent of any proper authentication, this Office cannot just take on its face value the genuineness and veracity of the subject threatening remarks/utterances/statements allegedly perpetrated by the respondent, most especially so that it constitutes so to speak the ‘corpus delicti’ of the crime subject of the case,” it said.

“Without the necessary and proper authentication, there is no assurance that the afore-quoted threatening remarks and/or statements were correctly quoted or extracted from the original text/upload/post,” it added.

Lawyers from the Movement Against Disinformation led by Tony La Viña and Rico Domingo are representing Castro in her complaint against Duterte.

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