February 24, 2016
MANILA, Philippines – The Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office has junked the libel cases filed by the religious sect Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) against its three former ministers and three online news site personnel for lack of evidence.
In a 12-page joint resolution, Assistant City Prosecutor Manuel Luis Felipe dismissed the libel cases against former INC ministers Isaias Samson Jr., Eliodoro “Joy” Yuson Jr. and Roel Rosal.
Also exonerated from the libel case were reporter Marc Jason Cayabyab, editor-in-chief John Nery and publisher Abel Ulanday of Inquirer.net online news.
The INC had filed the case against Samson after he allegedly issued “libelous” statements at a press briefing in Bayview Hotel, Manila last July 23.
In the press briefing, Samson, who is also a former editor-in-chief of the INC official publication “Pasugo,” said he was prevented from having visitors and barred from leaving the INC compound.
He also said the INC leadership lied and concealed the truth, particularly on the alleged abduction of some of the church ministers.
But lawyer Glicerio Santos IV, who filed the case on behalf of the INC, said the allegations that the church committed illegal detention is scurrilous and clearly defamatory.
He also said the accusations that the leadership of INC lied and concealed the truth are also negative and libelous.
Two counts of libel, on the other hand, were filed against Yuson for accusing the church as well as its Sanggunian members of being involved in corruption and abduction of four ministers.
Complainants led by INC general evangelist Bienvenido Santiago and Sanggunian member Radel Cortez said Yuson made the malicious statements in the July 24, 2015 radio interview over DZMM.
It was also aired during the ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol news on the same day.
In his interview, Yuson also alleged that the wives of the Sanggunian members have been wearing expensive signature clothes and bags amounting from P30,000 to P500,000.
In the complaint, the complainants said Yuson’s allegations of kidnappings and corruptions are baseless and fabricated.
They added that Yuson’s acts have not only besmirched the INC’s reputation, but have also caused severe damage to the good will of the church, which it has established for more than a hundred years.
Meanwhile, the libel cases filed against Rosal and Inquirer.net personnel were filed after the publication of two articles on July 23, 2015 and July 24, 2015, wherein Rosal accused INC auditor Jun Santos and his staff of dipping their hands into the “abuloy” or donations for the INC.
The INC denied all of Rosal’s allegations and said all the statements he issued were malicious and libelous.
But in his resolution, Felipe said not all the elements of libel are present in said cases.
He noted that the element of malice is not present.
“The subject TV/radio interviews and news articles are clearly defamatory,” Felipe said.
“But the weakness in the complainant’s cases lies in the second element -which is malice,” he added.
Felipe further noted that the complainants failed to prove that the allegations of corruption on the part of the Sanggunian are false.
“The office finds that the subject televised interviews and news articles are qualifiedly privileged in character. The INC and other complainants in the cases are public figures,” he said.
“In the final analysis, an investigating prosecutor is under no obligation to file a criminal action, where he is not convinced that he has the quantum of evidence to support the averment,” he added.