QC court finds Baguio-based journalist Frank Cimatu guilty of cyber libel
MANILA, Philippines — A Quezon City Regional Trial Court has convicted Baguio-based journalist Frank Cimatu of cyber libel over a Facebook post against former agriculture chief Manny Piñol.
Quezon City RTC Branch 93 Acting Presiding Judge Evangeline Cabochan-Santos sentenced Cimatu “to suffer the penalty of imprisonment of six months and one day of prision correccional as minimum, to five years, five months and 11 days of prision correccional as maximum.”
The journalist was also ordered to pay Piñol the sum of P300, 000 in moral damages.
A libel case was filed against Cimatu for his Facebook post “Agri Sec got rich by 21 M in 6 months. Bird flu pa more.”
“A cursory reading of the Facebook post would show the intention of the writer, herein accused Cimatu, to injure the reputation, credit, and virtue of Piñol and expose him to public hatred, discredit, contempt and ridicule. Accused made it appear that during the bird flu outbreak, Piñol, who, at the time the Facebook post was published, the secretary of DA, committed corrupt acts and gained P21 million in six months,” the court’s ruling dated December 12 said.
“Taking into consideration the words used by Cimatu and the subject Facebook post, which appears to be an imputation of a crime, the same is defamatory and, thus, satisfies the first element of the crime of cyberlibel,’ the court added.
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The court also said that the social media post was made with reckless disregard for whether what Cimatu said was true and that he did not present any evidence to prove his claim against Piñol.
“Accused failed to show any proof that that his post was done in good faith, this notwithstanding, being afforded with all the opportunity to ventilate his defenses and pieces of evidence in the present action. In view of his option to waive the presentation of evidence, accused failed to prove that he made further research on the matter before making the Facebook post,’ the court noted.
While Piñol already commented on the post explaining his side, the court said Cimatu “did not relent in his actions, but went on to continue defaming the private complainant.”
“This is a clear indication of the intention of the accused to malign Piñol, no matter the cost, and is clearly proof of malice. Henceforth, the Court finds the imputation to be untrue and that accused acted with malice,” the court decision states.
While Cimatu said his post was intended to be seen only by his friends, the court pointed out that during the pre-trial, it was stipulated that the post was viewable by the public.
“’In addition, it bears emphasizing that the prosecution was able to show that the subject Facebook post had 210 reactions, 25 shares with several comments, as evidenced by the screenshot of the subject Facebook post,” it said.
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