SC junks Tril­lanes ap­peal on dam­age suit

Manila Bulletin - - National News - By REY G. PANALIGAN

The Supreme Court (SC) has dis­missed the pe­ti­tion filed by Sen. An­to­nio F. Tril­lanes IV as it or­dered the Que­zon City re­gional trial court (RTC) to hear the P5 mil­lion dam­age suit filed against him by a busi­ness­man.

In a de­ci­sion writ­ten by Jus­tice Noel G. Ti­jam, the SC ruled that Tril­lanes can­not in­voke par­lia­men­tary im­mu­nity to es­cape pros­e­cu­tion for dam­ages on his state­ments is­sued to jour­nal­ists in 2014 that busi­ness­man An­to­nio Tiu was a dummy of for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Je­jo­mar C. Bi­nay in the pur­chase of a 150-hectare prop­erty in Batan­gas.

Tiu filed a P5-mil­lion dam­age suit against Tril­lanes be­fore the Que­zon City RTC.

Tril­lanes filed a mo­tion to dis­miss the case but it was de­nied by the trial court. With the de­nial, Tril­lanes el­e­vated the is­sue be­fore the SC.

Tiu told the trial court he is a le­git­i­mate busi­ness­man en­gaged in var­i­ous busi­nesses in the agri­cul­ture sec­tor.

He said that be­cause of Tril­lanes’ accusation, his busi­nesses were af­fected as ev­i­dence by a steep drop in the stock prices of his pub­licly listed com­pa­nies.

He de­nied be­ing a dummy of Bi­nay.

In his de­fense, Tril­lanes said Tiu failed to prove own­er­ship of the es­tate in Batan­gas.

He said his state­ments to jour­nal­ists were pro­tected by his con­sti­tu­tion­ally guar­an­teed rights to free speech and free­dom of ex­pres­sion and of the press con­sid­er­ing that these were made as part of an on­go­ing pub­lic de­bate of a mat­ter of pub­lic con­cern.

“… par­lia­men­tary non-ac­count­abil­ity can­not be in­voked when the law­maker’s speech or ut­ter­ance is made out­side ses­sions, hear­ings or de­bates in Congress…,” the SC said.


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