Former senator Antonio Trillanes IV was found guilty of libel by a Makati court over a statements he made in 2015 against former Makati City mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr. accusing him of graft and corruption by bribing Court of Appeals justices to stop the first suspension order by the Office of the Ombudsman.
Makati City Regional Trial Court Branch 148 Judge Andres Bartolome Soriano sentenced Trillanes to pay Binay PHP500,000 in moral damages as well as the costs of law suit and a fine of PHP100,000 adhering to a Supreme Court circular preferring the imposition of fines rather than imprisonment in libel cases.
Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code penalizes libel with prison correctional (two years, four months and one day) in its minimum and medium periods or a fine ranging from PHP40, 000 to PHP1.2 million, or both, in addition to the civil action which may be brought by the offended party.
The former senator made the statement on April 7, 2015, which was aired in various radio and television programs in the country.
The case stemmed from the senator’s statements that Binay and his family bribed the Justices of the Court of Appeals for the issuance of the temporary restraining order against the preventive suspension order issued by the Office of the Ombudsman in 2015.
Trillanes had also accused two Court of Appeals justices — Justices Jose Reyes Jr. (now a retired Supreme Court Associate Justice) and Francisco Acosta of receiving PHP50 million to stop the Office of the Ombudsman from carrying out its suspension of the mayor over corruption charges.
Soriano noted Trillanes cannot use the resolution of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee recommending the filing of corruption charges against the Binays for their alleged involvement in anomalous contracts in the city as his vindication in the libel case because it is different and distinct from his allegation involving Court of Appeals Justices.
Soriano said Trillanes cannot also use as a cloak the right to freedom of expression or speech.
“Accused right to freedom of expression must be exercised responsibly. The exercise of any right enshrined in the Bill of Rights comes with an equal burden of the responsible exercise of that right,” said Soriano in his decision.
“The recognition of a right is not a free license for the one claiming it to run roughshod over the rights of others,” added Soriano
The suspension of Binay then was in connection with the allegedly anomalous construction of the Makati City Hall Parking Building 2.
The CA 6th Division through Justices Reyes, Acosta, and Eduardo Peralta Jr. issued a temporary restraining order stopping Binay’s suspension.
The senator further accused Binay and his family as “part of a syndicate” that has committed various crimes and irregularities.
In February 2016, Trillanes posted PHP10,000 bail, a week after Makati City Branch 142 Judge Dina Pestaño Teves issued an arrest warrant in connection with the case.
Trillanes posted bail for his temporary liberty following his official visit in the United States, where he said, he was invited by members of the US Congress.
Teves issued the warrant of arrest against Trillanes on February 5 after finding probable cause in the libel case.
“If the Binay family believes that I can be intimidated and threatened from exposing them, they are badly mistaken. I will do everything I can to make sure that plunderers will not rule this country again”, said Trillanes when he posted bail last February.
In his libel complaint, Binay emphasized that the damaging and ruinous claims spewed out by Trillanes are mere concoctions and fabrications with no other purpose than to malign, discredit, ruin his reputation and besmirch his good name as well as that of my family.
Binay added Trillanes’ allegations “have no factual basis and were not made in response to duty, but only with obvious intention to injure my reputation as well as those of my family.”