Prosecutor dismisses libel case filed by trader tagged in rice smuggling vs FPI head
MANILA, Philippines—The Manila City Prosecutor’s Office has dismissed the libel and grave slander charges filed early this year by controversial businessman Davidson Bangayan against Federation of Philippine Industries chair Jesus Arranza for tagging him as the “David Tan,” the alleged “Goliath of rice smuggling” in the country.
In a six-page resolution, Assistant City Prosecutor Raul Husmillo said the head of the FPI, a group of some 800 business firms in the country, was “motivated not by malice but by his social duty as a crusader against smuggling” in his public statements against Bangayan.
“Moreover, Arranza uttered the supposedly defamatory statements in connection with the burning issue of the day, which is rice smuggling, and his statements thus partook of the nature of commentaries on matters of public interest and were therefore privileged,” he noted.
Husmillo brushed aside the complainant’s assertion that he was not a public figure, saying it was “immaterial.”
“What is important is that he is involved in a matter of public interest,” he said.
According to Husmillo, Bangayan “makes much of the fact that Arranza claims him to be David Tan.”
“This is, however, fully supported by evidence, among them the complainant’s own documents,” he pointed out. The evidence included “a certification issued by the Philippine National Police on May 5, 2005, referring to Bangayan as Davidson Bangayan, a.k.a. David Tan,” and “an affidavit of a Singaporean businessman engaged in the scrap metal trade identifying Bangayan as Davidson Bangayan, a.k.a. David Tan.”
Husmillo said the “news report that was complained of, yields the conclusion that Arranza merely raised the possibility that the David Tan who was involved in rice smuggling could be Bangayan.”
“Even if it turns out to be false, the same is not malicious within the purview of the law on libel,” he added.
Husmillo’s resolution, dated April 2 and reviewed by Senior Assistant City Prosecutor Winnie Edad, was approved recently by Senior Deputy City Prosecutor Eufrosino Sulla.
Earlier, Bangayan dismissed Arranza’s public statements against him as “false,” “defamatory,” “malicious” and “misleading.”
The 33-year-old scrap metal trader also said he had “never engaged in any smuggling activity, yet (Arranza) has persistently been linking me to the reported rice smuggling without the benefit of solid evidence.”
The FPI chair, however, said “if there is any person whose actions are tainted with malice, it is (Bangayan) for singling me out in the face of other accusers pointing to him as David Tan.”
“There are other notable persons who have categorically pointed to him as Davidson Bangayan, a.k.a. David Tan. Among them were Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, but the complainant chose to file this suit against me alone,” he also said.
Arranza added he “could not help believing that the case is purely harassment and calculated to intimidate me into silence so that I will be daunted from exposing him for who he really is.”
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.