Pacquiao’s libel case vs GenSan journalist still up in the air
Eight-time boxing champion and Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquaio’s P75-million libel case against Mindanao journalist Edwin Espejo has yet to be decided even as a separate-but-similar libel charge has been dismissed.
Pacquiao and former head of the Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group in Central Mindanao, Mohamad “Bong” Aquia, had separately sued Espejo because of two articles he posted online: "Dealer of stolen cars last seen in Pacman mansion" and "Stolen car dealer finds refuge in Pacman mansion".
The articles allege that Aquia, who felt that law enforcement was on him for selling stolen cars, evaded authorities by hiding out in Pacquiao’s General Santos mansion.
The report said that Pacquiao could not be reached for comment as he was in the “US promoting his June 9 fight against American Timothy Bradley”.
The story contained statement’s from Pacquiao’s lawyer.
However, Aquia’s P18-million libel suit was dismissed June 29 by the General Santos City Prosecutor's Office.
According to a Tuesday press statement from the Center for International Law, Prosecutor Jose Blanza Jr. said, “There is no convincing proof presented by complainant [Aquia] showing that respondent (Espejo) was actuated by the desire to impeach his integrity and reputation.”
Espejo’s lawyers argued that “current definitions of libel in Philippine law do not yet cover online publications and Aquia is a public figure whose doings are subject to fair comment and reportage.”
In a text message to GMA News Online, Espejo lawyer Atty. Harry Roque reiterated this defense and added that, though they have not seen the Pacquiao complaint, this is also the reason that the GenSan fiscal “may not act on Pacquiao’s complaint”.
Furthermore, Roque said, “Yes, we’re pushing the prosecutor to formally dismiss it [the Pacquiao suit].”
He added that his client is, in fact, surprised by the complaint as Pacquiao and Espejo are good friends.
Roque theorized that, though the two are friends, Pacquiao’s international publicist must have insisted on the suit.
“The online story was carried by many newspapers abroad. I was in Brussels when it broke and it was front-page material,” said Roque.
He recalled that one of the headlines was “Good boy of boxing tarnished.” — DVM, GMA News
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