P100-M suit vs Mercado junked
The city prosecutor has dismissed a P100-million libel suit filed by businessmen Roberto Ongpin and Mario Oreta against former Makati City Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado, saying the subject matter was of public interest and the latter had no control over the media that published his allegations.
Ongpin and Oreta, owner and president of Alphaland Corp., respectively, had demanded P50 million in moral damages and P50 million in exemplary damages from Mercado last year for making “false accusations” of a sweetheart deal between their company and the Boy Scouts of the Philippines (BSP) led by Vice President Jejomar Binay.
The Alphaland officials had countered that it was Mercado himself—not Binay—who had facilitated the deal, which they maintained was not disadvantageous to the Boy Scouts.
But Assistant City Prosecutor Arnold Magpantay said Mercado could not be held liable for the published reports because “respondent had no control over media outfits covering the investigation and the manner in which his statements would be conveyed to the general public. Whether or not respondent dissents, the publication is inevitable and cannot be stopped as it is imbued with public interest.”
“It may be true that Mercado is the source of the news report, (but) it is our considered view that the respondent had not caused the publication of the news reports, neither was he responsible for placing the news reports in the website.” the resolution said.
“Premises considered, the complaints of libel against Mercado are hereby dismissed,” Magpantay said in a 12-page resolution dated March 11.
The resolution recalled that sometime in January 2015, respondent (Mercado) issued a statement and was quoted by several media regarding alleged “kickbacks” received by Binay, then Makati mayor, amounting to as much as P2 billion from the real estate deal between Alphaland and BSP. The report was published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer and its website Inquirer.net.
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