Nalzaro pleads not guilty to libel
Iris Hazel M. Mascardo (The Freeman) - February 1, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  Veteran broadcaster-columnist Pablito “Bobby” Nalzaro has pleaded not guilty to two counts of libel filed by the son of former Cebu City mayor Tomas Osmeña.

Nalzaro was arraigned before Judge Ricky Jones Macabaya of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 5 in Cebu City yesterday.

In an interview with The FREEMAN, Nalzaro said a mediation has been set in April to explore a possible settlement of the libel case.

If failed, he said, another mediation will be scheduled in June with a presiding judge, who is tasked to assist the disputing parties arrive at a settlement.

But if the second mediation still fail, the preliminary investigation into the case resumes.

Ramon Miguel Osmeña filed four counts of libel— two counts of libel for the printed articles and two counts of cyber libel for the online versions of these articles— for violation of Republic Act 10175, or the Cyber Crime Prevention Act of 2012, in relation to Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code, against Nalzaro in October 2018.

Miguel sued Nalzaro over his column published in September 2018 in a local newspaper and online, where the latter allegedly implicated him that he was involved in an illegal butane canister refilling business.

In the column entitled “Projecting a Poor Image,” dated September 5, 2018, Nalzaro stated that Miguel was “reportedly” a stakeholder of an “illegal” butane cannister-refilling business allegedly owned by an ally of Mayor Osmeña.

In another article entitled “Mikakak Man Diay” dated September 12, 2018, Nalzaro once again insinuated Miguel’s involvement to the illegal business.

In his complaint, Ramon vehemently denied being a part owner of the alleged illegal business. The column of Nalzaro, he added, had ruined his reputation being a private individual.

Nalzaro, in his counter-affidavit, contended that the alleged libelous articles were privileged communication, thus, an exception to the general principle that any defamatory imputation is presumed to be malicious even if it is true in the absence of good intention and justifiable motive.

Nalzaro’s columns were based on an incident where Parian police closed-circuit television camera caught the former mayor intervening in the arrest of three butane canister traders.

In May 2019, Nalzaro was indicted for four counts of libel.

In his seven-page resolution, Prosecutor 1 Russel Busico found probable cause to charge Nalzaro for two counts of libel under the Revised Penal Code and two counts of libel under the Special Penal Laws before the court after he failed to negate Osmeña’s allegations.

Nalzaro filed motion for reconsideration on the libel cases, but the motion was junked in September last year.

Nalzaro then filed a petition for review, which resolution is still pending before the Department of Justice (DOJ), on Busico’s resolution.

This was the reason Nalzaro asked for the postponement of the arraignment in November last year pending the DOJ resolution.

As for the two similar counts of cyber libel—violations of the Revised Penal Code’s Article 353—these were dismissed last year.

RTC Branch 11 Judge Ramon Daomilas Jr., in his joint order signed on Dec. 6, 2019, dismissed the two counts of cyber libel against Nalzaro citing the double jeopardy rule.

Daomilas granted Nalzaro’s motion to quash the two cyber libel cases, citing the Supreme Court’s 2014 ruling on libel in the Jose Jesus M. Disini Jr. et al. vs. the Secretary of Justice et al. The motion to quash was filed in September 2019.  KQD (FREEMAN)


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