Mayor Malapitan files cyber libel charges vs 5 city councilors over students’ tablets issues

Published February 17, 2021, 2:13 PM

by Joseph Pedrajas

Caloocan City Mayor Oca Malapitan has filed three counts of cyber libel charges against five city councilors for allegedly maligning the local government’s students’ tablet devices project.

(Office of Caloocan City Mayor Oca Malapitan / MANILA BULLETIN)

Malapitan on Wednesday filed complaints before the city’s prosecutor’s office against councilors Christopher “PJ” E. Malonzo, Ma. Milagros “Rose” S. Mercado, Alexander “Alex” V. Mangasar, Ricardo “Carding” J. Bagus, and Marylou “Alou” N. San Buenaventura for supposedly claiming through “a series of videos” posted online that “the digital tablets procured by the city government were substandard and that its distribution [was] delayed.”

The mayor cited Section 4 (c) (4) of the Republic Act No. 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, which pertains to cyber libel.

Malapitan also made the move after the councilors allegedly “insulted” the project, which in turn “deprived” the recipients “the benefits of the digital tablets which are meant to facilitate their distance learning due to pandemic,” the local government said.

In one of their videos accessible on YouTube, the five councilors—who were sitting close to each other in front of a long table and with a backdrop of the Caloocan City Hall—made various claims against the project.

They alleged that the tablet devices had generated complaints from the parents in terms of their technical aspects, and said that they were overpriced.

However, Malapitan denied the councilors’ accusations by saying that the project “underwent a thorough bidding process” and that “the local government ensured that the tablets that were purchased were right and of quality.”

The local government argued that the councilors, which are now part of the opposition party, “had every opportunity to ascertain the truth or falsity of their allegations” since they are city officials but “they chose to air their alleged complaint via social media.”

Malapitan called the councilors’ move as part of “politicking” as the election season nears. To wit, the councilors are already publicly expressing support to supposed mayoral aspirant and current 2nd District Rep. Egay Erice.

“Kung ako lamang ang sinisiraan ng mga kalaban ko sa pulitika, maliit na bagay ‘yan. Ngunit kung inuumpisahan na sirain at malisyosong kinukutya ng ilang mga indibidwal ang proyektong ginawa ng pamahalaang lungsod para makatulong sa edukasyon at pagaaral ng mga batang taga-Caloocan ay hinding hindi ko yan papayagan (It’s not a big problem if they only maligned me. But if they’d start badmouthing and insulting the project of the local government, which only aimed to help the students’ education, then I would not allow it),” Malapitan added in a statement.

Asked for their collective comment regarding the charges, Mercado told Manila Bulletin in a text message that they will release their side “as soon as” they receive the “copy of complaints” and upon “the advice” of their lawyers.

In November 2020, the local government started the distribution of tablet devices to Grade 9 to 12 students. This came after Malapitan announced that they would give about 66,000 tablets to help students in their blended learning system, which was implemented amid the COVID-19 pandemic.