Prosecutor junks ex-DILG official's raps vs Maria Ressa, Rappler reporter

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 19 2019 07:49 PM | Updated as of Nov 19 2019 08:25 PM

MANILA - The Quezon City Prosecutor's Office has dismissed libel charges that former Interior Undersecretary John Castriciones filed against Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and reporter Rambo Talabong over articles published in 2017 on the ex-official and two others regarding corruption complaints against them.

In a resolution dated Sept. 10, 2019, prosecutors recommended the dismissal of the libel charges for "lack of probable cause."

The former DILG official's complaint stemmed from three online articles Rappler published in June and August 2017, which reported on the supposed "floating status" of Castriciones and his fellow officials Emily Padilla and Jesus Hinlo over alleged corruption. 

Talabong's first article on the DILG officials was published June 20, 2017, reporting that other officials of the Department of the Interior and Local Government had raised issues against the three accused. 

A "confidential memorandum, which outlined the alleged wrongdoings" of the officials was reportedly sent to President Rodrigo Duterte's office.

The second article, on June 23 of same year, reported that the accused were placed on "floating status" and that their tasks were "delegated to other officials, but the three (3) continue to receive salaries."

Talabong's third story on August 14, 2017 reported that the then DILG officer-in-charge, Catalina Cuy, appealed to Malacañang to decide on the fate of the accused.

Castriciones said that the articles authored by Talabong were "malicious" accusations and that there was no truth that he was placed on floating status as no corruption charges were filed against him by any office, and that he continued to fulfill his duties and functions.

"Respondent Talabong's allegation that he (Castriciones) is on a floating status and yet receiving salary is a malicious imputation which was merely designed to tarnish his honor and reputation and to expose him to public ridicule and contempt," the complainant's affidavit read.

However, Castriciones had admitted he was stripped of his powers by ex-DILG chief Ismael Sueno.

Prosecutors said that due to this admission, "it is ludicrous" for Castriciones to question Talabong's use of the term "floating status."

"Respondent's (Talabong) assertion, therefore, that complainant (Castriciones) is on floating status is truthful," the resolution read.

The prosecutors added that all of Talabong's reports were "factually accurate."

"In order that such discreditable imputation to a public official may be actionable, it must either be a false allegation of fact or a comment based on a false supposition."