Cusi withdraws libel cases versus media outlets

Published June 24, 2022, 6:15 PM

by Myrna M. Velasco

Outgoing Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi has withdrawn the libel and cyber libel suits that he filed against seven media outlets in November last year relating to the controversies linked to the sale of the Malampaya deep water gas-to-power venture to businessman Dennis Uy.

In a statement to the media, Cusi announced that he executed affidavit of desistance on Friday, June 24, with the Taguig City’s Prosecutor Office “to withdraw the separate libel and cyber libel complaints filed last November against seven news organizations that published stories about the Malampaya deal.”

He stated that “despite the hurt feelings and damage done to my name, a deeper reflection on what has transpired has led to the realization that the many interactions with the respondents have undeniably resulted in the forging of valued friendships and professional relationships.”

The Manila Bulletin has been one of the media entities rapped with cyber libel complaint by the energy chief of the Duterte administration, who will step down as Department of Energy (DOE) chief on June 30 this year.

Apart from Manila Bulletin, the other media networks which became subject of Cusi’s complaints had been ABS-CBN Corporation, Philippine Business Daily Mirror Publishing, Inc., BusinessWorld Publishing, GMA News Media, Philstar Global Corporation and Rappler.

Cusi stressed that “the filing of cases was precisely brought about by the hurt feelings from unverified actions or words.”

Nevertheless, he noted that “in the interest of preserving what can be saved from these valued relationships, I am therefore executing this affidavit of desistance to move forward from the unfortunate events by sparing everyone from the rigors of prosecuting and defending criminal cases.”

The initial sale of Malampaya’s 45 percent shareholding was consummated in March 2020 by American energy giant Chevron for $565 million with a subsidiary company of Uy’s Udenna Corporation.

Additionally, Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. (SPEX) announced the unloading of its 45 percent shareholdings in May last year for $460 million also to Udenna subsidiary Malampaya Energy XP, but the deal closing had been delayed because of the controversies that bedeviled the Malampaya deal.

So far, Udenna and Razon-led Prime Infrastructure Holdings Inc. are holding talks for a partnership to eventually take over the gas field’s operations.

The service contract of the Malampaya gas field project will expire in February 2024. It will be incumbent upon the next leadership of the DOE to whether or not a license extension will be granted to the Uy-Razon tandem.