The pre-trial proceedings in the civil case of Mayor Agustin R. Perdices and Negros Chronicle columnist Dindo Generoso went as scheduled last Wednesday at the sala of city court Judge Antonio Estoconing.
It was by and large an amusing pre-trial session.
By the way, I am acting as Dindo’s counsel for this case. I took personal interest in this case because it is one concerning press freedom.
I have surveyed Philippine jurisprudence on the civil liability of public officials who harass journalists writing for the press, and I have not found one yet, so I view the case as a test which could hopefully enrich jurisprudence.
If you have jurisprudence on this subject, please inform me so we can share it.
As you remember, Mayor Perdices felt he was defamed by an opinion article when Dindo wrote and questioned the canvassing of the mayoral elections.
Mayor Perdices felt the article defamed him, so he sued Dindo ---not for criminal libel--- but for civil defamation and abuse of rights.
Mayor Perdices’ theory is that Dindo Generoso as an opinion writer, abused his rights when he demanded an explanation by the canvassing board, on the counting of votes in the the mayoral elections in 2007 where mayor Perdices was a candidate.
Dindo opined that if he gets no sufficient explanation, he believes that Atty. Art Umbac was robbed of his road to victory in the mayoral elections.
Coming out of nowhere, Mr. Perdices who obviously was not a member of the board of canvassers since he was a candidate himself, sued for defamation perhaps wrongly thinking he was the one made to explain.
Dindo sued Mayor Perdices back for violating Dindo’s constitutional right to write for the press, as a columnist.
Yes, the civil code explicitly holds liable any public official who violates any persons constitutional rights, including the right to press freedom.
It is not true that journalists do not have legal remedy against public officials who them harass in court while they do their jobs. They have. We have.
This is the aspect that interests me about this case.
As a lawyer, I am trying to put a human face to this civil code provision.
Back to the pre trial, the judge as a matter of procedure, asked both Perdices and Dindo if there is a way to settle the case.
I was told by Perdices’ lawyers, Myles Bejar S.U. Dean of the College of law, and brod Lester Nique, that Perdices wants Dindo to make a written apology.
Perdices' offer was that if Dindo apologizes, then Perdices will settle.
Dindo was present in the hearing so I relayed to him what Perdices' offer of settlement was.
Upon hearing this, Dindo almost fell off his chair.
I, too, was amused. Mayor Perdices, after harassing a journalist by filing what many believe is a nuisance suit, now wants the journalist to apologize.
Pasi-aw giyud ning kang Senior Perdices.
Dindo instead told me to tell Senior Perdices that if Perdices will be the one to apologize, then perhaps Dindo will be open to settlement.
So, Mayor Perdices, as Dindo’s messenger, he is asking you to publicly apologize for your harassment acts, because that is an act un-befitting a public servant paid by taxpayers' money. I think the Negros Chronicle will be willing to publish the mayor’s apology free of charge.
Dindo’s offer is indefinite. Mayor Perdices, you may contact Dindo at this number: 225-1825. Para mahusay na ni, the earlier the better.
Everybody happy, including Judge Estoconing kay puntos ni sa iyang case disposals.
Mayor, dunay pa ra ba'y pending perjury complaint batok nimo. Na-ay pa giyu’y falsification of public documents mo-sunod.
Ah, I will write about that falsification public documents, next.
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