P10m libel suit a diversionary tactic

Rommel Roberto Lastimoso shows the drug test results to prove to his critics that he is negative of illegal drug use.

ROXAS CITY, Capiz – “The P10-million libel suit filed against me and the staff of the Radyo Todo-Capiz radio station is a simple diversionary tactic employed by my critics.”

This was the reaction of former Capiz first district board member and Roxas City mayoral bet Rommel Roberto Lastimoso to the libel case filed by Gov. Antonio del Rosario on Monday.

“I welcome the legal action filed against me and the staff of the Radyo Todo-Capiz”. I don’t think it’s libelous what we uttered in the block time program,” he said.

Lastimoso said that the governor suppressed freedom of the press in filing the suit and wanted to divert the real issue that hounds his administration instead of answering the graft and corruption complaints filed by Essex Quintia.

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

The governor said the case stemmed from the alleged libelous comments on the circumferential road connecting barangays Culasi to Dayao. Also included in the libel suit were anchorman Alistair Panes, Operations Manager Sherwin Gepanaga, Station Manager Jonathan Cabrera and technician Noemi Balboa.

Del Rosario said his family’s reputation was tarnished because Lastimoso and Panes commented that they got rich because of corruption in the road project.

“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, businessman 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 after the provincial government hired a private security firm owned by his sister.

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.

The governor said he has the right to hire security guards that he trusts.

He cited the incident happened few months ago in the provincial park where a man was stabbed to death without the security guard knowing about it.

Meanwhile, the governor said he has no idea on who the security firm was hired nor does he know that his sister owned the firm.

“I cannot comment on the issue as I have yet to receive a copy of the complaint,” the governor added.