Cebu judge dismisses libel rap vs journalist Nalzaro
CEBU CITY – A Cebu City judge has dismissed the libel case filed by City Mayor Tomas Osmeña against tri-media personality Pablito “Bobby” Nalzaro, saying there was no sufficient basis to hold the broadcast journalist for trial.
In an order, Executive Judge Gilbert Moises of the Regional Trial Court in Cebu City said he found nothing wrong with Nalzaro’s column on Osmeña and that there was no malice in writing the article.
“Being a public figure, the private complainant (Osmeña) opens up himself to the risks of criticism (and) to public ridicule even,” he said.
“The commentaries may be unfair and inaccurate but for as long as they stay within the realm of protected speech or publication as in this case, the same could not be considered as libel,” the judge added.
Nalzaro, in a statement, was happy over the outcome of the case that stemmed from his column on Sun.Star Cebu on Oct. 25, 2014.
“I know from the start that it was pure harassment to silence me. But the truth prevailed,” he said in a text message to CDN.
Osmeña’s lawyer Kirk Bryan Repollo said he had yet to receive a copy of the court’s order.
“I have to wait and go over it. Once I have read it, we will explore all possible legal remedies including filing a motion for reconsideration,” he said in a chat over Messenger.
In 2014, Osmeña filed a libel case against Nalzaro for allegedly accusing him of “fabricating some charges” against former Cebu City Treasurer Diwa Cuevas in an attempt to sabotage the administration of then Cebu City mayor Michael Rama.
Osmeña had lodged administrative complaints against Cuevas before the Department of Finance over alleged lapses in handling Cebu City’s financial transactions based on findings of the 2012 and 2013 audit reports of the Commission on Audit (COA).
The prosecutor’s office earlier elevated the case to the court, prompting Nalzaro to contest it before the Department of Justice.
In 2016, then Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II ordered Prosecutor Jesus Rodrigo Taga-an to withdraw the libel suit filed against Nalzaro in court, saying there was no sufficient basis to indict the broadcast journalist who delivered a factual commentary and had no intent to discredit Osmeña.
Moises granted the prosecutor’s plea to withdraw the case against Nalzaro.
The judge said Nalzaro’s use of the words “fabricated charges” actually alluded to some of the charges that Osmeña field against Cuevas.
These reports, Moises said, did not directly impute any malfeasance or misfeasance on the part of Cuevas which may hold her administratively or criminally liable.
“The words ‘fabricated charges’ may not be the accurate words to use and may strike a few chords yet it is not entirely without basis,” he said.
Nalzaro, the judge added, is a “hard punching columnist” and it was no surprise that he chose strong words to perk up the interest of the readers.
Moises cited a Supreme Court ruling in New York Times vs Sullivan that “even assuming that the contents of the articles are false, mere error, inaccuracy, or even falsity alone does not prove actual malice.
“Errors or misstatements are inevitable in any scheme of truly free expression and debate. Consistent with good faith and reasonable care, the press should not be held to account for honest mistakes or imperfections in the choice of language,” the High Court added.
Popularly known as “Super Bob,” Nalzaro anchors the afternoon news program Balitang Bisdak in GMA 7 and a morning radio program over dySS where he is the station manager. His columns appear on Sun.Star Cebu and Super Balita.