By MANUEL L. MORATÓ
Libel? – Part II
When I used to write in the Philippine Star for seven years from 1987 to 1994, I was sued for libel by a female politician on whom I took fancy without malice. She pushed the weight of her office against me and charged me with 9 cases of libel against the columns I had written in Philippine Star. Betty Go Belmonte, a dear friend was sending me the lawyers of the Philippine Star to defend me. But I told her: “no more Betty for there was no malice in what I wrote in my column.” Nakakatawa nga raw. When I entered the court on the final hearing, the Lady Judge made me stand near the lady Clerk of Court to state “guilty or not guilty.” The Clerk of Court read the portions I was being accused of libel in the 9 columns I had made fun of. But the Lady Judge butted in: “Chairman Morato (I was then PCSO Chairman), do you plead guilty or not guilty” on the portions read to me by the Clerk of Court but I could not stop laughing pero pigil na pigil while being read to me. I answered: “Your Honor, kulang pa po ‘yong sinabi ko.” The Lady Judge banged the gabble and said: “cases dismissed.” There was really no malice. Nagpapatawa lang ako. Kasi nakakatawa naman talaga ‘yong pinag-gagagawa nong head of that Department on whom I was writing about. I liked her; I did not hate her.
In like manner, the libel charges of Joy Belmonte against me and 11 other newspaper reporters is done to coerce the media including myself for explaining only the facts that I have the documents proving that she favored her 1st Degree relatives when the law prohibits government officials from favoring relatives up to the 3rd or 4th degree of consanguinity. As Chairman of PCSO, I did not extend medical assistance to my relatives, especially those who carried my name.
Joy, who is the present Quezon City Vice Mayor in the many years of control of the Quezon City by one family, a political dynasty of various relatives as well, accused me and 11 newspaper columnists and reporters of libel for saying what are based on documents that her family suddenly owned the ancestral home of my parents, including the land; demolished the six bedroom ancestral home and she gave a Special Permit to the contractor, Sta. Lucia Land Developer for them to be able to build a 21-storey condo/hotel in a residential area, the first of its kind and the neighborhood are up in arms for the water supply will be sucked in by this high-rise building and leave nothing for the residences in the residential neighborhood who have been living here since the pre-war years.
A contractor or builder is not the owner of our property. It’s the owners now who were favored by the City Council; and they know who owns my mother’s property now.
Joy should place herself in my place. Am I forbidden to express hurt feelings together with my other siblings who suffered the loss of our parents’ ancestral home and the three lots wherein the house was constructed on in the 1950s without our knowledge? Is the City Council headed by her “higher” than a Republic Act, RA 10066 signed by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo which states that no structure 50 years old and above can be demolished without going to court? My parents’ ancestral home inside our family compound is over 70 years. Hindi lang giniba, ninakaw pa lahat ng laman ng bahay na pag-aari ng aming ina, pati ang mga paintings ko at ibang gamit.
This Republic Act is precisely meant to preserve our historical sites and heritage sites as well. This Republic Act was violated by the Quezon City Council by not taking it into consideration. Not only that, all the local government units cannot be above the law, neither the former Barangay Captain, Alberto Flores who signed a permit to demolish in 2017 alone, without the consent of his Barangay Kagawads; the HLURB; the permits given by the City Hall and other government offices. They should have taken note of RA 10066.
No wonder courts are clogged up with nuisance cases that can be solved on the Barangay level by discussing first the issue concerned by calling all the parties concerned because once a case is brought to court, power play comes in and sure enough those in power will flaunt their powers and use them to make those who challenge them lose in court. That’s something I have never done, nor resorted to when I was in government. I just stood for what is right, win or lose.
In some cases, libel cases are filed against other individuals as a cover-up for the guilt-feeling of an individual who has no valid reasons to squarely answer an issue. I repeat, if I had spoken and written about what happened to the ancestral home of our parents which even surprised us together with my other siblings, my three sisters who are as well heirs to the property were not even told about it. It was a surprise attack what was done to us. Brasohan ang ginawa sa amin. And there was nothing we could do to stop them. Malakas daw sila.
Joy is really flexing her powers to intimidate me and the other media persons who wrote about the problem we are having. The public has the right to know the truth for I was also being blamed by the neighborhood as well thinking that I was into this dastardly act as well. I therefore have to speak out to defend myself that I have nothing to do with this illegal project. I want the public to know that as I am writing this column, April 1 last year 2018, Easter Sunday, exactly a year ago, they took over my mother’s property, welded our small gates connecting us to my mother’s house inside the compound. They did not even honor the Risen Christ, Easter Sunday; and instead played the “April Fool’s Day” on us heirs of our late mother.
But God does not sleep. Aasa na lang kami sa Diyos and seek for His Divine Justice. Wala ng maaasahan yata sa mga Courts of Law. Tulungan sana kami ng aming mga magulang na nasa langit. I deeply pray for their help everyday.
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