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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

CA dismisses Binay’s libel complaint vs. Trillanes

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The Court of Appeals (CA) has affirmed with finality its decision dismissing a libel case filed by former Vice President Jejomar Binay against former Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV in connection with the latter’s alleged complicity in a P100-million a year racket involving “ghost” senior citizens. In a two-page resolution, the CA’s former Fourth Division held that Binay failed to raise new arguments that would warrant a review of its June 27, 2023 decision.

“Upon careful deliberation of the motion for reconsideration, the Court finds no compelling reason to deviate from its findings and conclusion. The arguments raised in the motion are merely a rehash of the issues which the assailed decision has already passed upon,” the CA resolution stated.

“Petitioner has not been able to establish that the proceedings below were conducted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, which is the core issue to be resolved in any petition for certiorari,” it said.

In its June 27, 2023 decision, the CA affirmed the ruling by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in November 2020 granting the demurrer to evidence filed by Trillanes.

A demurrer to evidence is a motion to dismiss on the ground of insufficiency of evidence where a defendant cites that the evidence produced by the prosecution is insufficient to make out a case, whether true or not.

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If granted, the case will be dismissed tantamount to acquittal. If denied, the trial will continue with the presentation of evidence by the accused.

Binay’s motion for reconsideration was denied in January 2021 by the Makati RTC.

The libel case stemmed from a 2015 online news article quoting Trillanes accusing Binay of perpetrating a P100 million racket a year involving ghost senior citizens in Makati City.

Binay accused Trillanes of conspiring with other unscrupulous individuals to politically assassinate him being then the consistent front-runner in the 2016 presidential elections, by maligning his reputation.

But the Makati RTC held that the prosecution failed to present evidence to establish that Trillanes was the source of the news reports.

It noted that the media personality named as the author of the article was not presented to substantiate Binay’s claim.

The RTC said it was aware of Trillanes’ counter-affidavit submitted before the DOJ where he did not deny making such claim, but only alleged that he could not remember the particular interview.

The trial court ruled however, that the prosecution failed to offer the said affidavit as evidence.

It can be recalled that in May 2021, the Makati RTC found Trillanes guilty of libel filed by former Makati Mayor Junjun Binay Jr. in connection with “Justice for Sale” revelation in 2015.

Trillanes also accused Binay of bribing two CA justices to secure an injunction order that stopped the Ombudsman from implementing its first suspension order against him issued in March 2015.

Trillanes was ordered by the Makati RTC to pay a fine of P100,000, and P500,000 in moral damages.

“Making and releasing the subject statements absent a serious verification and investigation is recklessness bordering on a disregard of what is true or false,” the RTC stressed.

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