TACLOBAN CITY — A trial court in Ormoc City has convicted an overseas Filipino worker for maligning former mayor and now Rep. Richard Gomez.
Judge Maria Corazon Naraja, presiding judge of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 47, found Julius Tahanlangit, a returning overseas worker, guilty of cyber libel.
The accused was meted a five-year imprisonment and fine of P300,000 in moral damages with an interest of six percent per year until fully paid.
The 21-page decision was issued on March 17.
The case stemmed from Tahanlangit’s posts on his Facebook account, claiming that Gomez, as mayor of the city, did not exert effort for him to return to Ormoc upon arrival at the Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport in Tacloban on May 25, 2020 by not providing him a vehicle.
At that time, the Department of Interior and Local Government directed local governments to pick up an overseas worker or resident returning to their hometown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his posts, Tahanlangit remarked about the “sluggish response” of Gomez, claiming that the city mayor thought the situation was just part of a television show.
He claimed that his remarks and posts were meant to get the attention of the city government and part of his freedom of expression.
But he admitted on his narration during the hearing of the case that the city government of Ormoc fetched him and his companions on May 26 upon the assistance of the regional office of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.
Gomez filed the cyber libel against Tahanlangit on August 27, 2020 saying the remarks were not only without basis, but made him appear incompetent and had no concern for his people.
The court gave credence to Gomez’s claims.
“The court finds that the accused was motivated by actual malice in posting the defamatory statements (which) were no longer relevant to his supposed purpose of seeking the help of LGU Ormoc,” the court said.
“The number and frequency of those statements indicate that the accused was not just letting off steam but consciously attacking the private complainant…and diminish the dignity of the private complainant and erode the respect for his authority as mayor of Ormoc City,” it added.
The court also stressed that the derisive remarks by the accused were made when respect and obedience to local authorities like Gomez were “most needed to generate compliance with health protocols imposed by the national and local governments.”