Guvs P10-million libel suit junked

ROXAS CITY, Capiz – The City Prosecutor’s Office here dismissed the P10-million libel suit filed by Capiz Gov. Antonio del Rosario against a mayoral candidate and a radio anchorman here.

In a 14-page resolution dated March 25, 2019, the prosecutors said there is not enough ground to prosecute the case.

“Wherefore, in view of the foregoing, the undersigned panel of investigating prosecutors, after a careful and thorough evaluation, finds that the instant complaint for libel filed by Antonio del Rosario against respondents Rommel Lastimoso, a Roxas City mayoral candidate; Alistair Panes, a blocktimer of the PDP-Laban in Capiz; and Radyo Todo-Capiz staff Noemi Balbao, Jonathan Cabrera and Sherwin Gepanaga is not supported by sufficient evidence to sustain the offense charged and is, therefore, hereby recommended dismissed for lack of probable cause”, the resolution said.

In a statement, Cabrera welcomed the dismissal of the case as a victory for freedom of the press. He said they were confident that the case will be dismissed as there is no basis in the filing in the first place.

The resolution added that “in order to engender a well-founded belief that a crime has been committed, and to determine if the suspect is probably guilty of the same, the elements of the crime charged should, in all reasonable likelihood, be present… and that the complainant miserably failed to establish the presence of all the elements of the crime charged”.

The resolution was signed by Associate City Prosecutors Richel R. Rivera-Siriban, Ronald G. Ang, and Socorro G. Rapiz-Oliveros and approved by City Prosecutor Erwin D. Ignacio.

Del Rosario along with his daughter and provincial administrator Michelle del Rosario and some members of their family filed the case before the City Prosecutor’s Office on Jan. 7, 2019.

Del Rosario said the case stemmed from the alleged libelous comments by Lastimoso and Panes on the construction of Espacio Verde Resort in Brgy. Dayao which is owned by the governor.

The governor claimed that his family’s reputation was tarnished because the two commented that the Del Rosario’s became rich because of corruption.

“It’s no longer good to hear that I constructed a hotel because the money which I used in the construction came from the circumferential road,” he said.

The governor added that “for my almost 40 years in public service, no one had charged me of corruption in court or Ombudsman and the libel case which I filed is an opportunity for my critics to prove the truth where my wealth came from”.

On the other hand, Del Rosario described the case filed by PDP-Laban provincial chairman Essex Quintia as politically motivated because it was filed before the May 2019 midterm elections.

Del Rosario is seeking reelection against Vice Governor Esteban Evan Nonoy Contreras and businessmen Joel Longares and Elmer VIllasis.

He said if his critics “wanted to know me and my background in running the government, they should have filed the case long before and not when election is coming.”

Del Rosario is facing graft and corruption charges before the Office of the Ombudsman and the Office of the President after the provincial government hired a private security firm owned by his sister. He is also facing charges after he was seen in a cockfighting casino in Manila, and for nepotism for hiring his relatives in the provincial government.

Aside from that, the governor is facing a disqualification charge before the Commission on Election for hiring lawyer and former Roxas City vice mayor Ronnie Dadivas as focal person of Gender and Development in the provincial government despite having filed his certificate of candidacy for mayor of Roxas City. Dadivas was also included in the disqualification charge.

Quintia said the governor is criminally and administratively liable for violating Republic Act No. 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) in relation to RA 9184 (Government Procurement Reform Act).

Quintia also asked the Ombudsman to preventively suspend del Rosario while his complaint is being investigated.