SUWECO sues local radio blocktimer for cyberlibel
posted 1-Dec-2018  ·  
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In its second legal action against members of the local media, the billion-peso Sunwest Water & Electric Co. (SUWECO) has filed in faraway Pasig City a P10-million cyberlibel suit against a blocktimer at a Virac radio station.

Last week, Janelyn Victoria Rima, a blocktimer at Padaba FM, received a subpoena from the Office of the City Prosecutor of Pasig City, directing her to submit her counter-affidavit and other supporting documents or affidavits of witnesses on the complaint filed against her by SUWECO, represented by its public relations officer, Lorenza Rojas.

According to the complaint affidavit, Rojas claimed she was at the SUWECO head office in Pasig City sometime in June 2018 when she came across Rima’s facebook account with a lengthy post allegedly containing “false and malicious tirade” against the corporation, the First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative, Inc. (FICELCO), National Electrification Administration (NEA), Ako Bicol Partylist, and their shareholder/members.

The post, based entirely on the statement released by C-POWER or the Catanduanes People’s Organization Working for Energy Reform, called for a campaign against a conspiracy of the three power entities that led to high power rates and persistent brownouts.

Rojas said the libelous contents of Rima’s facebook post alleged that SUWECO is owned by brothers Elizaldy and Christopher Co, who are known to be contractors of the Arroyo regime and that Sunwest organized AKB, with the Co family benefiting from pork barrel and government contracts. It also claimed that the contracts entered into by FICELCO with independent power producers such as SUWECO were anomalous, biased, and a burden on consumers

Rojas said that following the Rima post, she received calls from SUWECO’s business partners, suppliers and concerned individuals inquiring about the veracity of Rima’s statements. She added that she subsequently issued a statement denying the respondent’s accusations.

Rima must be held criminally liable for cyber libel, punishable under Section 4(c)(4) of Republic Act No. 1-10175, otherwise known as Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

The complaint stated that SUWECO is entitled to receive moral damages in the amount of P5 million, plus exemplary damages of another P5 million and attorney’s fees of at least P500,000.00.

Rima told the Tribune that she will answer the complaint filed with the Pasig City prosecutor’s office in due time.

     It may be recalled that SUWECO filed  a similar libel complaint against former columnist Rosulo Manlangit and Tribune publisher Fernan Gianan in April 2016. Two years later, on the last day of his service before retiring,  Regional Trial Court Branch1 Judge Ignacio Almodovar Jr. returned a guilty verdict on the local journalists and sentenced them to three years imprisonment and to pay SUWECO over P9 million in damages. The case is on appeal to this day.

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