NBI: No libel proof found in report on Lim brothers
CEBU CITY — A court here found no evidence of libel in a radio report insinuating that a link between the National Bureau of Investigation and two businessmen-brothers, one of them tagged by President Rodrigo Duterte as among the country’s biggest drug lords, had led the NBI to clear the brothers of involvement in drugs.
The Regional Trial Court Branch 16 dismissed the libel case against broadcaster Cirse “Choy” Torralba filed by businessmen Wellington and Peter Lim. Peter had been tagged by Mr. Duterte as a big-time drug supplier.
Presiding Judge Sylva Aguirre-Paderanga, in the decision granting Torralba’s plea to dismiss the case, said the prosecution failed to support the allegation of libel with evidence.
The prosecution, according to the judge’s ruling, failed to formally offer as evidence taped remarks made by Torralba in his radio program.
Torralba had claimed in his program over radio station dyAR seeing the Lim brothers having dinner with a top NBI official in 2005 at the height of the NBI’s investigation of the brothers’ alleged involvement in drugs.
The Lim brothers had been investigated by the House of Representatives in 2001 over their alleged involvement in the drug trade.
In the decision clearing Torralba of libel, Judge Paderanga noted inconsistencies in the testimony of lone prosecution witness Dioscoro Fuentes Jr., the Lims’ employee.
In January 2005, while the NBI was investigating the Lims, Torralba said in his radio program that he saw the brothers having dinner with late NBI director Reynaldo Wycoco at a restaurant here.
Wellington fought back and sued Torralba for libel.
The prosecution presented Fuentes as a witness. In his testimony, Fuentes said he recorded Torralba’s “nasty and unkind” remarks about the Lims’ meeting with Wycoco. But no tape recording was presented as evidence in court, Judge Paderanga said.
A stenographer, who was supposed to have transcribed the taped report of Torralba, was also not presented as witness “to corroborate the claim of the prosecution witness,” Paderanga said in the decision.
The judge added that Fuentes’s testimony was not worthy of belief. During cross examination, Fuentes claimed it was he who recorded Torralba’s report but in an affidavit, the same witness said another person did so, a certain Evangeline Canares.
“The lone and uncorroborated testimony of Dioscoro Fuentes Jr. cannot be relied upon by the court for it to render a guilty verdict,” Paderanga said.
Antonio Cuenco, who was then representative of the city’s south district and one of those who investigated the Lims’ alleged involvement in drugs, had said the House of Representatives’ panel that conducted the probe found probable cause to prosecute the Lims for involvement in drugs.
The NBI, however, cleared the brothers for insufficiency of evidence.
Judge Paderanga’s ruling was released a few days after the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group filed a criminal complaint of drug trafficking against Peter Lim and seven others at the Department of Justice (DOJ), which has supervision over the NBI.
Following the filing of the case, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II placed Peter Lim and his coaccused on the immigration watch list to prevent them from leaving the country.
The DOJ summoned Peter and the others to a preliminary investigation set on Aug. 14 and 17.
Peter repeatedly denied he was involved in drugs.
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