February 21, 2017
Pasay court finds Drilon accuser guilty of libel
A Pasay City trial court yesterday found an accuser of Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin M. Drilon guilty of libel.
The Pasay City Regional Trial Court Branch 188 found Manuel Mejorada guilty of four counts of libel filed by Drilon in 2014. The court sentenced Mejorada to an imprisonment of two to four years.
"I welcome the Pasay Regional Trial Court's decision holding Manuel Mejorada guilty of libel for publishing malicious articles and social media posts against me," Drilon said in a statement.
"My family and I are grateful that the court's decision confirms the truth--that Mejorada is merely peddling lies and malicious stories to further whatever ulterior motive he has," he said.
The senator said that the decision only validates the fact that Mejorada was motivated by pure malice and all his allegations against me are complete lies and fabrications.
"The records of any case is bereft of any showing that Mejorada verified his stories," the court said in a 33-page decision penned by Presiding Judge Rowena Nieves A. Tan.
"Accused claimed that his accusations were based on established and documented facts, and yet he never presented any proof of such accusation," it added. "My record as a public servant for three decades speaks of my firm belief in press freedom. I am a staunch believer and defender of the freedom of the press. Throughout my career I have always maintained an open and healthy relationship with the media and held them in high regard," Drilon said.
However, he added, this freedom also demands accountability and does not give the media or anyone free rein to maliciously tarnish a man's reputation.
"To defend my name, my honor and my family, I filed a case against Mr. Mejorada in 2014 for fabricating vitriolic and false accusations against me," Drilon said.
Drilon underscored that even the Ombudsman previously junked all the cases that Mejorada filed against him for being baseless, particularly with regard to the construction of Iloilo Convention Center. Also the subject of Drilon's libel cases against Mejorada is the construction of Iloilo Circumferential Road and Iloilo Ferry Terminal Project, wherein Mejorada accused Drilon of overpricing.
"You will recall, too, that Mejorada himself, during the Senate hearing, admitted that he had no material evidence to prove his allegations, and that he merely relied on online sources such as Wikipedia.
"Mr. Mejorada will stop at nothing to ruin my name and my credibility as a public servant. My only recourse was to invoke the aid of the law."
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