Cusi files libel, cyberlibel raps vs exec, editors, reporters of 7 media outfits

Published December 3, 2021, 6:26 PM

by Joseph Pedrajas

Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Alfonso Cusi has filed ​​libel​ and cyberlibel​ charges against officials and reporters of seven ​Philippine ​media outfits for their alleged ​”​libelous attacks​”​ published in articles about his supposed involvement in the controversy surrounding the Malampaya Project.

DOE Secretary Alfonso Cusi (Photo from DOE Facebook page)

In a statement Friday, Dec. 3, ​Cusi said he filed charges against 18 officials and reporters of Manila Bulletin, ABS-CBN News, BusinessWorld, Rappler, Philippine Star, GMA News, and Business Mirror. The complaint dated Nov. 29, 2021 was lobbied before the Taguig City Prosecutor’s Office​.

The Energy chief said he filed the complaint “to protect the integrity of honorable people” and “to support and honor them” as well as “to defend his family’s honor, and to send a strong message that there is a fair and humane way to settle misunderstandings and differences without resorting to malicious news reporting.”

“I firmly believe that there are a good number of people who have agreed to faithfully serve our countrymen — they are honorable, well-meaning, and, at the expense of their personal lives and fortunes, remain dedicated public servants,” he said.

“They do not deserve to be maligned, viciously accused of wrongdoing and favoritism, and attacked with unfair and baseless charges of corruption,” he added.

In the case against Manila Bulletin, Cusi filed two counts of cyberlibel against respondents Herminio Coloma, publisher; Loreto Cabañes, editor-in-chief, and Jel Santos, reporter.

In his complaint, Cusi said he “was shocked and horrified” to find out that Manila Bulletin, Cabañes, and Santos supposedly accused him of graft.

This came after Manila Bulletin published an article dated October 19, 2021 entitled “Graft charges involving P21-B in gov’t losses filed vs DOE Sec. Cusi, Udenna’s Uy, others.”

The article reported about the details of the graft complaint filed by a group of concerned citizens against Cusi, Udenna Corp.’s Dennis Uy, and executives of Chevron Philippines among others before the Office of the Ombudsman.

The complainants had alleged that Cusi and other respondents “conspired to give unwarranted benefits and advantage” to Uy’s Udenna Corporation and its subsidiary, UC Malampaya, in the sale of Chevron’s share and transfer of rights in the Malampaya Project, a deep-water gas-to-power project in Palawan.

Citing the definition and requisites of libel, Cusi said: “Under these standards, the article published online…is defamatory and injurious” to his reputation.

Cusi accused the respondents of claiming that he committed illegal acts in the sale of the Malampaya share. The story presented the position of the complainants who filed the graft charges.

The Manila Bulletin had released a separate story presenting Cusi’s side after he issued a press statement in response to the filed graft charges.

Cusi, in his complaint, demanded at least P200 million from Manila Bulletin for the “damages” he suffered as a result of the article posted.

He also demanded the same amount from each of the other media outfits.

Other respondents in Cusi’s complaints were Carlo Katigbak and Lynda Jumilla of ABS-CBN; Wilfredo Reyes and Bianca Angela Añago of BusinessWorld; Maria Ressa, Glenda Gloria, Chay Hofileña and Aika Rey of Rappler; Camille Diola, Rhodina Villanueva and Ian Nicolas Cigaral of PhilStar; Jaemark Tordecilla and Ted Cordero of GMA; and Samuel Medenilla, Lenie Lectura and Lourdes Fernandez of Business Mirror.