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Win Gatchalian files P16 million civil suit vs ex-DOE chief Cusi

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian filed a civil lawsuit against former Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, seeking up to P16 million in damages over an alleged defamatory statement made during Cusi's time as chief of the Department of Energy (DOE).

The civil case, filed February 20, 2023, was raffled off to Branch 282 of the Regional Trial Court of Valenzuela City.

Gatchalian is seeking P10 million in moral damages, P5 million in exemplary damages, and P1 million in attorney's fees.

The case stemmed from Cusi's February 4, 2022 statement, in which the former Energy chief claimed that the Udenna-Chevron Malampaya Consortium shares deal "has been politicized" and that Gatchalian, in the course of the Senate Committee on Energy's hearing on the matter, "had chosen to lend his ear to those adversarial business interests." 

Cusi allegedly issued the said statement the same day the Senate Secretariat-Records Management and Mailing Service transmitted to the Office of the Ombudsman the adopted Senate resolution which expresses the sense of the Senate that appropriate criminal and administrative charges needed to be filed against Cusi and other Department of Energy (DOE) executives over the Udenna-Chevron Malampaya Consortium shares deal. 

The Senate resolution arose from the series of inquiries launched by Gatchalian, who was then the chairman of the Senate Energy panel and the senator's privilege speech in which he concluded that Cusi and key official of the DOE were “criminally and administratively liable for graft, gross neglect of duty, and grave misconduct and should immediately resign from their posts... for railroading the approval of the sale of participating interest of Chevron in Malampaya gas field.”

"[Gatchalian's] reputation as a Senator and as a public servant was severely tarnished by [Cusi's] malicious and defamatory statement published on the DOE's official website, which is one of the online government platforms that is accessible to the public in general," said Gatchalian in his lawsuit.

"To be sure, not only the ordinary Filipino citizens visited the website, but also foreign investors and stakeholders from the energy sector. The press release as published on the DOE website was even reported by the media and reproduced in several news articles."

Gatchalian's lawsuit also says that by publicly stating that the Senate Committee hearings, which Gatchalian presided over, were based on innuendoes, speculation, and hearsay, and that he was influenced by adversarial business interests, Cusi portrayed the senator not only as a corrupt public official, but also as a criminal for committing corrupt practices by giving those alleged adversarial business interests unwarranted benefits, advantage, or preference in the discharge of his official functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith, or gross inexcusable negligence, which are punishable under Section 3(e) of [Republic Act] No. 3019.

GMA News Online has sought comment from Cusi and his representatives on the matter, but they had yet to respond as of posting time.

In November last year, Valenzuela City prosecutors indicted Cusi for cyber libel based on a complaint filed by Gatchalian over the same statement posted on the DOE website on February 4,2022. — DVM, GMA Integrated News