Firms clarify libel suit vs Facebook account

TWO pharmaceutical and medical companies clarified the criminal complaints filed against the owner of a Facebook account allegedly spreading libellous statements against the firms.

In a statement, lawyer Maylene B. Villanueva, counsel for Phil Pharmawealth Inc. (PPI), confirmed that on Feb 7, 2019, PPI and Endure Medical Inc. (EMI) filed a complaint with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) against Facebook account “PHIL PHARM” for libellous statements directed against the two companies.

Villanueva issued the statement in her Facebook account after former police officer Charlie Sustento tagged Iloilo 4th district Rep. Ferjenel Biron in the subpoena he received from NBI relative to the case filed by PPI and EMI.

A check of the PHL PHARM account showed that it bears the handle or account name “FightForSustento.”

In his statement, Sustento urged the owner of the Facebook account to stop using his name.

Villanueva said they are wondering why Sustento would blame Biron for the NBI subpoena when he was never named as respondent in the case.

“A certain Charlie Sustento was never mentioned in the complaint as we have a different suspect. However, we allowed the NBI to conduct the investigation and pursue their own leads,” Villanueva said.

While they have a suspect behind the Facebook account, Villanueva said they leave it to the NBI to shed light on their complaint.

“To reiterate, the complaint was directed against the Facebook account Phil Pharm. We have a suspect on who manage/s the account and it is not this person claiming to be Mr Charlie Sustento and the NBI will be able to validate that soon,” she added.



Sustento had been tagging Biron as the one behind his dismissal from the PNP.

Sustento and three other police officers were ordered dismissed by the Office of the Ombudsman in June 2017 for grave misconduct and conduct unbecoming of a police officer.

The administrative case was filed by Richard Samontosa and Janice Braga of Dumangas, Iloilo, for grave misconduct, conduct unveiling of a law enforcement officer, gross incompetence, violation of Republic Act 6713 (Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees), and abuse of authority.

Samontosa alleged that at around 8 p.m. of Nov. 24, 2014, the respondents, except Sustento, invited him to the police station in connection with an alleged theft of a motorcycle.

The issue was never elaborated but reports claimed that Samontosa was allegedly working for a motorcycle distribution company.

It was alleged that Samontosa may have taken the motorcycle, without the full knowledge of the owner, for apparent failure to pay its dues.

In his affidavit, Samontosa refused to go with the policemen. It was then that Sustento arrived and allegedly shouted at him.

As alleged by the complainant, Sustento suddenly grabbed his shirt and pulled him from the outside of the locked gate.

The decision reads that “while in that position, Detorio and a civilian hit his head repeatedly.”

“At the same time, Sustento took Detorio’s gun, cocked and pointed it to his head.”

At that juncture, Samontosa claimed to have asked for help. One of his companions came out of the sleeping quarters and took a picture of the incident.

Samontosa further claimed that Sustento climbed over the gate and once inside, grabbed his neck and punched his face.

But he later went with the policemen after the latter presented a written invitation.  After the investigation, he was allegedly forced to sign an affidavit of non-interest to file charges.

In her separate complaint, Braga corroborated Samontosa’s allegations, adding that “Sustento even squeezed the trigger of the firearm pointed at her several times.”

Fortunately, the gun went dud, she added.

In support of their claims, complainants submitted the judicial affidavits of their witnesses, Rafael dela Rosa, Apple Jay Porcal, Domingo Estorque, and Quennie Grace Dorado, who all attest to their complaints/claims.



In their joint counter-affidavit dated March 30, 2015, the respondent-police officers denied the acts imputed against them.

They said they merely invited Samontosa and Braga to their station through a document denominated as invitation.

“According to them, they never entered the premises of complainants because its gate was closed and entry is impossible.”

They presented a photograph showing that the gate was secured by barbed wires.

The four respondents claimed that the filing of the charges was to gain leverage in the robbery case they filed against Samontosa.

But in their rebuttal, the complainants claimed that the barbed wires were installed only after the incident due to the fear caused upon the household of Braga and her tenants.

They attached a photograph which showed the gate had no barbed wires.

But Emmanuel Ringpis Jr., Ombudsman Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer II, stressed that “the issue is whether there is a substantial evidence to hold respondents administratively liable” for the charges hurled against them, in connection with the alleged coercive and high-handed manner of inviting Samontosa to the police station.

The decision reads, “moreover, complainants were able to substantiate their allegations by presenting a copy of the photograph taken during the incident. It depicted Sustento as the one standing outside the gate; Samontosa, as being the one dragged outside the gate; and Braga, who appeared distressed, as the one on the foreground.”

“More importantly, even the defense of the respondents tends to support the complainants’ version.”

The decision cited that the invitation “was rendered doubtful by Sustento’s allegation in his sworn statement that when he was informed about the incident, he immediately proceeded to Braga’s residence.”

It allegedly appeared that when the three policemen arrived at the compound of complainants, they did not have any document.

Sustento’s allegation supports the allegation of Samontosa that the invitation was produced only after he demanded it.

As to the presence of the barbed wires, the Ombudsman stated that it is indeed impossible for Sustento to climb over and enter the compound.

However, the complainants refuted such claims.

Samontosa’s affidavit of non-interest was never taken into consideration since “it is not unreasonable to assume that the respondents had a hand in its preparation and knowledge of its contents.”

The decision noted that the defense of respondents is mainly denial.

“Denial is an intrinsically weak defense which may be buttressed with strong evidence of non-culpability to merit credibility.”