The reckoning

CITIZEN Y - Yoly Villanueva-Ong - The Philippine Star

A number of concerned friends and readers have inquired about the status of Civil Case No. R-PSY-12-12031-CY filed by plaintiff Juan Ponce Enrile versus defendant Yolanda “Yoly” Villanueva-Ong. Rappler’s Carmela Fonbuena posted the summary of the complaint. A synopsis of the answer to the summons filed last Jan. 17, 2013 follows. This is being shared at the request of those monitoring this case.

The Summons (posted and updated last Dec. 21, 2012)

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile has filed a P31-M damage suit against veteran advertising executive and Philippine STAR columnist Yolanda Villanueva-Ong for a supposedly libelous article that he claimed “besmirched” his reputation and caused him “mental anguish, serious anxiety, wounded feelings, moral shock, and social humiliation.”

Enrile was offended by Ong’s October 16, 2012 column “Like father, like son,” which he said had “malicious objective.” 

”The article characterizes JPE [Enrile] as liar, fraud, and manipulator. It accuses JPE of attempting to “revise history” with a devious purpose of enticing the electorate to support his only son, Juan Castañer Ponce Enrile Jr. (popularly known as Jack Enrile), an incumbent congressman in the province of Cagayan and a candidate in the upcoming senatorial elections,” according to Enrile’s complaint.

Ong’s column exposed inconsistencies in claims Enrile made in his book Juan Ponce Enrile: A memoir. Ong cited various accounts of how Enrile admitted after the 1986 “People Power” revolution that the assassination attempt against him — which was one of the reasons used to justify martial law — was staged. He recants this in his book.

The column moves on to discuss the senatorial bid of his son and namesake Cagayan Rep Juan “Jack” Ponce Enrile Jr. She cited the “intrigues” involving Jack - the “urban legend” that he killed the late actor Alfie Anido and the Enriles’ supposed involvement in smuggling in Cagayan.

“Defendant Yoly, instead of giving fair comments on JPE as a public official, deliberately focuses on attacking his character with false and defamatory accusations and intrigues affecting his family and personal life,” the complaint added.

Enrile asked the court for P30 million in moral damages, P1 million in exemplary damages, and P500,000 in attorney’s fees.

The civil case was filed before Branch 118 of the Pasay City Regional Trial Court

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The Answer: (filed last Jan. 17, 2013)

Columnist and advertising guru Yolanda “Yoly” Villanueva-Ong counter-sued Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile yesterday for P88 million in damages for violating her freedom of speech and filing an unfounded libel suit against her.

The case, which Enrile filed last month, arose from a column that Ong had written on Oct. 16, 2012 entitled “Like father, like son?” Enrile, claiming that the column was libelous, asked the Court to order Ong to pay him P31.5 million in damages for allegedly ruining his reputation.

In her answer to the complaint, Ong denied Enrile’s claim of libel and asserted that her column was a fair comment on a matter of public interest involving his conduct as a public officer and public figure. She also disputed his claim that he had an “untarnished reputation for probity, integrity, uncompromising belief in the rule of law, and professional excellence.” Her Answer provided:

A person’s reputation is his overall quality or character as seen or judged by other people. It is defined by Black’s Law Dictionary as “the total sum of how we are seen by others.” Plaintiff does not have the untarnished reputation for probity, integrity, uncompromising belief in the rule of law, and professional excellence that he alleges in the Complaint.

His contradictory public statements regarding the “ambush” or “assassination” attempt that took place on 22 September 1972; his active participation in and support of the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, as a member of the latter’s inner circle, as Executive Committee Chairman of the National Security Council from 1972 to 1986, and as Minister of National Defense also from 1972 to 1986 during which time thousands of Filipinos were arrested and denied their basic human rights, by government agents under plaintiff’s jurisdiction; his prosecution for rebellion in 1990; and other incidents over the many years of his public life (including the recent controversy over the senators’ “Christmas gifts”), have tarnished or sullied his reputation significantly.

Plaintiff may be a popular public figure, but popularity is different from reputation; and plaintiff’s reputation is not the spotless or untarnished one that he alleges in the Complaint.

Ong also said that she would donate whatever amounts she recovers from Enrile to the victims of the Marcos dictatorship. She added that the amount of P88 million in damages was not exorbitant considering Enrile’s financial resources and standing, substantial business interests, and net worth of over P100 million based on his latest Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth.

Ong said that if the case will progress, she welcomed the opportunity to defend her right to speak and write freely on a matter of public concern. Her legal counsel, Atty. Jose Manuel I. Diokno said that he is also looking forward to the trial of the libel suit. “It’s not often,” he said, “that we get a chance to litigate history and look deeply into the reputation and character of a public figure as prominent as Senator Enrile. The trial will give the public a unique window into Senator Enrile’s past. It will also be the first time that a Philippine court will hear evidence on his role in the Marcos regime, and more generally on his public conduct, reputation, and character.”

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