PH envoy to Milan sues Manila newspaper for cyber libel
ANGELES CITY, Pampanga – Consul General Elmer Cato, who is posted in Milan in Italy, filed on Monday here a P10-million defamation suit against the Manila-based newspaper Daily Tribune for allegedly falsely accusing him of coddling an immigration consultancy firm that is under investigation for supposedly defrauding Filipinos seeking jobs in Italy.
The case was docketed as III1NV24A00139-00155 at the Office of the City Prosecutor in Angeles City, a marked copy from Cato’s lawyer, Atty. Jo Martinez-Clemente showed.
Copies of the suit filed before Prosecutor Oliver Garcia showed that Cato filed 17 counts of cyber libel for reported violations of Republic Act No. 10175, or the Cybercrime Prevention Law of 2012, against Daily Tribune.
The respondents included Willie Fernandez, president of Concept and Information Group Inc., publisher of the Tribune, editors and reporters of the publication, and several other individuals.
Cato, a journalist and editor before joining the foreign service, said a series of news reports and commentary published in both print and online editions of the Daily ribune and its sister publication, Dyaryo Tirada, accused him of “dereliction of duty and corruption for supposedly sitting on the complaints of Filipinos who claim to have been defrauded by the Filipino-owned Alpha Assistenza SRL.”
Before his posting in Milan, Cato served in consulate offices in New York, Iraq and Libya.
He said the Tribune “based its repeated allegations on the statements made by Vanessa Antonio, Enrique Catilo, and Apple Cabasis, who are among the more than 200 applicants in the Philippines who paid Alpha Assistenza more than P20 million for what they said were nonexistent jobs in Italy.”
He said in his complaint that the Tribune waged a “disinformation campaign” against him using informants that “disowned” the statements attributed to them or were in the Philippines during the controversy.
“The series of articles and commentary published by the Tribune beginning in September were part of a narrative that was all made up to depict Consul General Cato as a negligent, insensitive, incompetent, and corrupt diplomat who should be removed from his position because he is an embarrassment to the foreign service, ” Martinez-Clemente, a former journalist, said in a statement.
“The fact that 92 complaints of aggravated fraud have been filed against Alpha Assistenza before the Office of the Public Prosecutor in Milan is proof enough that the Consulate was not sleeping on the job,” Martinez-Clemente added.
She said Cato was “dragged” into the issue because of business rivalry among Filipino-owned agencies in Milan, following his plan to regulate these companies to put a stop to the exorbitant fees being charged for services rendered to Filipino clients.