MANILA -- A Quezon City prosecutor has recommended the filing of a libel charge against former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez over his supposedly "defamatory statements” against Davao del Norte 2nd District Rep. Antonio Floirendo Jr. and his family.
In a six-page resolution signed April 26, 2019, Assistant City Prosecutor Marizen Grutas said "every defamatory imputation is presumed to be malicious, even if it be true."
"Even if the offender is able to prove the truth of the defamatory statement, he is not relieved from liability," the resolution read.
Grutas also said that considering the "acrimonious relationship" between Alvarez and Floirendo, the former's motives and claims that he has no actual malice on making such statements are "highly suspect."
“Finally, the defenses raised by the respondent (Alvarez) are best deliberated during the trial proper,” she said.
Sought for comment, Alvarez said in a text message to reporters that he has yet to receive a copy of the resolution.
"But my lawyer will attend to it as soon as we receive it. Nothing to worry," Alvarez said.
The complaint stemmed from the statements made by Alvarez during a press conference in May 21, 2018 wherein he addressed news reports about his properties in Siargao Island allegedly amounting to PHP500 million, four of which were supposedly bought during his term as Speaker.
In the said forum, Alvarez admitted to have accumulated several properties in the island as early as 1996, but dismissed the valuation ascribed to the properties.
He named Floirendo as the person allegedly spreading the false rumors about his Siargao properties, even challenging the latter to file a case if he has the goods against Alvarez.
Alvarez said the properties that are not his should not be asserted as his, otherwise he would look like a land-grabber.
"Hindi Floirendo ang apelyido ko para maging land-grabber. At kung pipilitin din nila na tanggapin ko na akin 'yun, bilhin nila doon sa may-ari yun at ibigay nila sa akin (My surname is not Floirendo to be a land-grabber. And if they force me to accept that the properties are mine, they should buy it from the owners and give it to me)," Alvarez said.
In his complaint, Floirendo argued that Alvarez's statements constitutes libel, as his supposedly “base and defamatory words” have prejudiced his reputation and his office.
He claimed that the “malicious imputation” that he was behind the spreading of false rumors regarding Alvarez’s properties, and that he and his family are land grabbers, “is but a deliberate effort” to injure his reputation and character.
Floirendo said with the statements, Alvarez attacks not just his reputation but also that of his father, Antonio O. Floireindo Sr., and the rest of his family.
He added that his father, who has passed way, is now unable to personally address and confront the allegations made against him by Alvarez.
In his counter-affidavit, Alvarez said the complaint for libel should be dismissed as he did not personally write or publish the supposedly defamatory statements, and that the press conference was not even about Floirendo or about his company, Tagum Agricultural Development Company (TADECO).
He also maintained that the statements he made were not "defamatory" or "malicious," and that the evidence presented by Floirendo are insubstantial to prove malice.
Alvarez said his much-publicized public spat with his former friend led him to logically conclude that Floirendo was the source of the rumors against him.
He argued that his statement supposedly calling the Floirendos as land-grabbers was not also baseless, and constitute “fair comment,” since opinions from the Department of Justice, Office of the Solicitor General and the Commission on Audit reveal that TADECO is occupying an area, which is beyond the scope of the company’s contract.(PNA)