May 3, 2016
MANILA, Philippines – A Quezon City court has junked the appeal of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV to reverse its earlier decision upholding the P5-million civil suit filed against him by businessman Antonio Tiu.
In a two-page order, Judge Evangeline Castillo-Marigomen of the QC Regional Trial Court Branch 101 dismissed Trillanes motion for reconsideration for lack of merit.
The defamation case stemmed from the statements of the senator in October 2014 that claimed Tiu as being a dummy of Vice President Jejomar Binay.
Trillanes accused Tiu of being the Vice President’s dummy after the businessman claimed ownership of a Batangas property allegedly owned by the Binays.
In his complaint, Tiu said the various defamation statements issued by Trillanes against him in the media had negatively affected his businesses.
He added that “the defendant’s vicious attacks” on him did not only besmirched his reputation, “but also caused him sleepless nights, wounded feelings, serious anxiety, mental anguish, and social humiliation.”
In his reply, Trillanes said the court should dismiss the case since his accusation that Tiu is Binay’s dummy was based on documents and factual reports and anchored on the fact that he failed to establish that he is the “absolute owner” of the said property.
But the court, in May 2015, junked the senators’ appeal to dismiss the case, saying his camp’s arguments lack merit.
Trillanes appealed for reversal of the ruling and said the “court committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in not dismissing the complaint.”
In his motion for reconsideration, the senator stressed that “more than being curt, the conclusions/findings of the court are arbitrary and whimsical, and hence, completely baseless and erroneous.”
He reiterated that his alleged defamatory statements “rest on valid and legal bases” and were made in connection with the hearings of the Senate Blue Ribbon Sub-Committee.
He added that the court has no jurisdiction to try and render judgment against him as “he enjoys parliamentary immunity under Section 11, Article 6 of the 1987 Constitution.”
The senator noted that in applying the said constitutional provision, Tiu could not question or hold him liable for statements he made in connection with the Senate inquiry “in any other place.”
But in her latest order, Marigomen said parliamentary immunity is subject to special circumstances, which must be established in a full blown trial.
The judge further noted that the complainant stated that the defamatory statements were made in broadcast and print media, and not during a Senate hearing.
“Hence, between the allegations in the complaint and affirmative defenses in the answer, the issue on whether or not the alleged defamatory statements were made in Congress or in any committee thereof arises,” the judge said.
“It would be then up to the Court to determine whether the alleged defamatory statements are covered by parliamentary immunity after the trial,” she added. – AIB