MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court has junked a petition filed by actress Sharon Cuneta to revive a libel case against two tabloid editors, saying to do so would violate a person’s constitutionally enshrined right against double jeopardy.
The high court reversed a Court of Appeals decision in 2009 favoring Cuneta’s petition to revive the libel case against Bandera editors Lito Bautista and associate editor Jimmy Alcantara. It noted that the case had already been dismissed by a Mandaluyong trial court in 2008 and any review of it would “place the accused in double jeopardy.”
The actress filed the case after the two editors published articles in 2001 that insinuated the actress was “a domineering wife to a browbeaten husband.” The actress is married to Sen. Francis Pangilinan.
Bandera is owned by the Inquirer Group of Companies, which also includes this newspaper.
The high court castigated the intermediate court for entertaining Cuneta’s petition despite procedural defects.
In its 19-page decision dated Oct. 24, the Court’s Third Division said the petition “should have been outrightly dismissed by the Court of Appeals,” adding that Cuneta “lacked the personality or legal standing to question the trial court’s ruling.” “Only the Office of the Solicitor General can bring actions on behalf of the State in criminal proceedings before the Supreme Court and the CA,” it explained.
Cuneta had claimed that the controversial articles, written by Pete Ampoloquio Jr., had “impugned her character as a woman and wife, as they depicted her to be a domineering wife to a browbeaten husband.”
Ampoloquio had commented on reports that a political supporter of Cuneta’s husband had been angered by the actress’ actions in a campaign sortie in Bulacan.
The Mandaluyong court dismissed the libel cases against the two editors in 2008 on grounds that the prosecution did not submit its comment or opposition to their petition to dismiss the case for lack of evidence.
The Supreme Court noted that Bautista and Alcantara, being the editor and assistant editor, respectively, of Bandera, could have been answerable with Ampoloquio, for the latter’s alleged defamatory writing.
Libel laws encompass “anyone who shall publish, exhibit or cause the publication or exhibition of any defamation in writing or by similar means, shall be responsible for the same.”
But the high court said the two editors “could no longer be held liable in view of the procedural infirmity that the petition for certiorari was not undertaken by the OSG, but instead by respondent (Cuneta) in her personal capacity.”
The Court said that “Although the conclusion of the trial may be wrong, “to reverse and set aside the order granting the demurrer to evidence would violate petitioners’ constitutionally-enshrined right against double jeopardy,” the high court ruled.