The Philippine Star

Prosecutor charges blogger for libel

- – Marvin Sy

The Pasay City Prosecutor’s Office has indicted blogger Rey Joseph Nieto in the libel case filed against him by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV.

Trillanes on Nov. 22, 2017 filed a case of cyber libel against Nieto, the blogger behind the Facebook page Thinking Pinoy, for an article claiming that United States President Donald Trump called Trillanes a “drug lord.”

In a post titled “Trump Calls Trillanes A Drug Lord” dated Oct. 31, 2017, Nieto claimed that “US President Donald J. Trump reportedly called Senator Antonio Trillanes IV a ‘little Narco’ with narco being the colloquial for a ‘drug baron’ or ‘drug lord’.”

Nieto’s claim turned out to be false after the US government itself pointed out that there were no such statements made by Trump about Trillanes.

Nieto’s controvers­ial post generated 62,000 reactions and was shared 15,759 times as of Nov. 21, 2017.

The Pasay City Prosecutor’s Office said that Nieto did not file a counter-affidavit during the preliminar­y investigat­ion of the case.

In a resolution dated Jan. 16, 2018, the prosecutor’s office noted that all the elements of cyber-libel are present in the case. These are imputation of a crime, vice, defect, real or imaginary; the imputation was made publicly; it was done in writing and other similar means; it was malicious; the imputation was directed against a natural or juridical person; the imputation tends to cause dishonor, discredit or contempt of the person defamed; and it was committed through a computer system.”

The prosecutor’s office recommende­d that a libel case under Section 4(c)(4) of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 be filed against Nieto for his “false and baseless defamatory imputation against complainan­t.”

The resolution prepared by Associate Prosecutio­n Attorney II Honey Rose Delgado was recommende­d for approval by Senior Assistant City Prosecutor Remmel Balinbin on June 11, 2018 and was subsequent­ly approved by Senior Deputy City Prosecutor Dolores Rillera.

“The post is also malicious, as no good intention and justifiabl­e motive for making it is shown. The imputation that complainan­t is a ‘narco,’ ‘drug baron,’ or ‘drug lord’ is not only false and baseless, but also not covered by privileged communicat­ion,” the resolution stated.

While the resolution acknowledg­ed that public officials should not be onionskinn­ed, it argued that this should not be an excuse for anyone to make baseless lies and make up stories against them, especially when there is no good intention or justifiabl­e motive for doing so.

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