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Bautista files cyberlibel rap vs. accusers

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Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista on Tuesday filed a cyberlibel complaint against Manibela transport group leader Mar Valbuena and a radio broadcaster for linking him to allegations of corruption in the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).

In his complaint, Bautista accused Valbuena and co-respondent Ira Panganiban, also the lead convener of the Coalition for Filipino Commuters, of uttering and posting false accusations implicating him in multi-million-peso bribes to secure LTFRB franchises, especially for modern jeepneys.

“I am well aware that all of my actions are subject to the strictest of scrutiny, and the freedom of expression guarantees the public’s right to comment on the administration of government, including my own actions,” Bautista said, in his complaint.

“But this freedom has its limit. It cannot be used as a license to malign and destroy the reputation of individuals regardless of who they are and what office they hold,” he added.

Bautista referred to Panganiban’s Facebook post on Oct. 11, 2023, saying that the bribe given to suspended LTFRB chief Teofilo Guadiz III eventually went to him.

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“I cannot allow myself to be the subject of another’s desperate attempt to attain fame, especially when malicious, baseless, and untruthful statements are hurled against me, if only to put a blemish on my untarnished track record and reputation of excellence and integrity,” Bautista said.

He said he was never part of any bribery schemes at the Department of Transportation (DOTr) or the LTFRB.

Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Jaime Bautista has filed cybercrime complaints against Journalist Ira Panganiban and MANIBELA Transport group Chairman Mar Valbuena who have accused him of involvement in alleged irregularities within the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) inside the Department of Justice (DOJ) in Manila, on 17 October 2023  ( Photo by Norman Cruz)

“For the record, I have never received any bribe… much less used any amount of money to maintain my position as secretary of the DOTr,” Baustista said.

Earlier, former LTFRB information officer Jeff Gallos Tumbado held a press conference implicating Guadiz in corruption in the agency, which he said also benefited officials in the DOTr and in Malacanang.

Tumbado’s accusations were echoed by Valbuena, who even called for Bautista’s resignation.

But Tumbado later recanted his statement and apologized to Bautista for dragging his name into the controversy.

Tumbado said his earlier statement was “borne out of impulse, irrational thinking, misjudgment, (and) poor decision making.”

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is still conducting an investigation on the issue and has invited Tumbado to shed light on his allegations.

Bautista said Tumbado’s recantation only proves that Panganiban’s Facebook post was made with “reckless disregard of the truth…with utter irresponsibility as to the truth or falsity thereof, or with the knowledge of the falsity thereof.”

Valbuena said the filing of a cyber libel case against him was “purely harassment and abuse of power and authority.”

“This is their way to silence us like what happened to the whistleblower. We are ready to face all the accusations against us. This will not deter us from bringing out the truth,” Valbuena said.


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