Prosecutor Dismissed Libel Case Of Tvi Allies Vs. Bishop Jose R. Manguiran & Eight OthersPublished by MAC on 2006-12-18
Prosecutor Dismissed Libel Case of TVI Allies Vs. Bishop Jose R. Manguiran & Eight Others
By: Tito Natividad Fiel, DIOPIM Committee on Mining Issues (DCMI)
18th December 2006
Dipolog City The DIOPIM Committee on Mining Issues (DCMI) received on Friday afternoon, December 15 a copy of the prosecutors decision here dismissing the libel suit against the Most Rev. Jose R. Manguiran, Bishop of this city and DCMI Bishops head together with Fr. Albert K. Bael and seven personnel.
The complainants were the allies of the Canadian Mining firm, TVI Pacific, namely Juanito Tumangkis, who claims to be president of Siocon Subanon Association Inc (SSAI) and Atty. Pablo Bernardo, a lawyer of the said association. Both are well known proponents of TVI Pacific.
The accused within DCMI were Bishop Jose R. Manguiran, Fr. Albert K. Bael the former chairperson; Charles Alferez, executive director; Tito Natividad Fiel, program coordinator; Celestino Tano, former advocacy officer; Wilma Tompong former advocacy volunteer; Roger Daguinotas, community organizer; Elnoel Peñalosa and Ofelia Davi both former community organizers.
According to the 6 page resolution penned by Third Assistant City Prosecutor Aleth B. Hamoy-Velasco, and approved by City Prosecutor Rodrigo Ladera, dated November 3, 2006 the charge against the accused was dismissed for lack of merit.
The case stemmed from the primer published and circulated by DCMI on August 9 and 10 this year in the Visayan language, which was translated into English by the prosecutor as Did TVI construct a Road from R.T. Lim to Canatuan?
The primer answered the question by saying that The company declared that it generated 12 million dollars in 1995, which if converted to peso is valued at 600 million pesos, more or less, while the royalty payment for the IP dealer headed by Juanito Tumangkis and Atty. Pablo Bernardo amounted only to 3 million pesos.
The primer added that the three million was only a grain of the income generated by TVI from Canatuan and in addition to it the royalty payment did not go to the legal and legitimate owners of the Ancestral Domain, instead it went to these Dealers.
The prosecutors decision noted that the central issues of the case are the phrase IP dealer and the last sentence of the primer that the royalty payment did not go to the legal and legitimate owners of the ancestral domain; instead it went to these Dealers.
The complainants argued that the item in question is libellous and defamatory as they were tagged as IP dealers, which allegedly is plainly and ordinarily understood as an imputation or a commission of devious crimes of large scale or mass swindling, and selling out of their people.
However the decision noted that the accused claim that the publication is not libellous and defamatory as the item did not impute a crime or vice or defect, but were statements of fact which are in the public interest.
The prosecutors decision was that naming the complainants a leader of the IP dealers and the statement that the royalty payment is with the IP dealers and not with the legal and legitimate owners of the ancestral domain is not libellous.
The alleged defamatory publication of DCMI informed the public that it is not TVI who funded the construction of the road from R.T. Lim to Canatuan, and it discussed the income generated by TVI from the mining operation at Canatuan and compared the income to the royalty payments made to IP dealers.
The decision explains that in determining whether a statement is defamatory, the words are understood to be construed in their entirety and should be taken in their plain, natural and ordinary meaning as they would naturally be understood by persons reading them. In this case decision states that thee term IP dealers headed by the complainants does not connote swindling or selling out of the Subanons for personal improvement.
The decision concludes by noting that the statement that the royalty payment did not go to the legal and legitimate owners of the ancestral domain but to the dealers, is also not malicious as it simply states that the royalty payments has gone to them.
Mr. Charles Alferez, Executive Director of DCMI, and one of the accused, noted that the dismissal of the case strengthened the work of the committee in its advocacy against the environmental destruction, and human rights violations as well as the churchs commitment in defending the rights of the Subanon people to their ancestral domain.
The decision affirms that DCMIs statements published in the primer are true and correct and are merely stating the factual situation, which is in the public interest. The libel suit filed against the Bishop and eight others is mere harassment to curtail the freedom of publication and expression.
Since 1999, TVI and its allies had allegedly and consistently harassed the affected communities who oppose its mining operations due to the impact on the environment and human rights violations by filing several charges.
And now, DCMI has faced the same harassment because it supports the efforts of the communities to defend their rights over their land and their means of living against the encroachment of large and foreign open pit mining.
136 clergy, including bishops, condemned the above libel case as a kind of harassment through their signed declaration on November 14 2006, during the 31st DOPIM Clergy convention in Ozamiz City.