Lorna Kapunan found guilty of unjust vexation over statement vs UST law dean
MANILA, Philippines — A Manila regional trial court (RTC) has found lawyer Lorna Kapunan guilty of unjust vexation for a statement she made against the dean of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Faculty of Civil Law, reversing an earlier decision made by a lower court acquitting her of the crime.
In his July 24 decision, Manila RTC Branch 11 Presiding Judge Cicero Jurado Jr. said the Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC) Branch 17 acted with grave abuse of discretion in dismissing Nilo Divina’s complaint, saying that it was “erroneous and obviously tainted with discrepancy.”
“It is apparent that the private respondent’s statement is annoying and [vexatious] to petitioner Divina. The term ‘obstructionist’ is upsetting to him,” Jurado said.
Kapunan was sentenced to up to 30 days of imprisonment and ordered to pay Divina P2.5 million in damages.
The complaint stemmed from Kapunan’s statement in October 2017 tagging Divina in the hazing death of UST law freshman Horacio “Atio” Castillo III published in The Varsitarian, the official student publication of UST, saying that Divina “should come forward and not be an obstructionist to justice.”
Kapunan made the statements during the Department of Justice’s investigation into Castillo’s death.
Jurado said that in acquitting Kapunan, the lower court “disregarded” the prosecution’s evidence that it was not categorically shown that Divina had recruited Castillo in the Aegis Juris fraternity nor did Castillo’s parents deny that they personally knew the dean.
He added that the MeTC’s decision ruling that the words “not be” before “an obstructionist to justice” negated malice was “grievously wrong.”
“To the judicial eye and, applying the definition of unjust vexation to the arguments of petitioner, there can be no other conclusion that indeed there is unjust vexation. Thus, the ruling of the lower court contravenes jurisprudence and the very definition of unjust vexation,” Jurado said.
In 2019, the Department of Justice indicted Kapunan for two counts of slander for her statement against Divina, saying that there was probable cause to file a case for violation of Article 358 of the Revised Penal Code.
When sought for comment, Divina said he feels vindicated by the RTC decision.
“I have no hatred nor rancor for Atty. Lorna Kapunan. I have moved on. But, justice should be served,” he said.
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