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Arrest orders vs Casanova, ex-BCDA directors issued

BAGUIO CITY – A Manila court has issued warrants of arrest recently against former Bases Conversion Development Authority president Arnel Paciano Casanova and seven BCDA directors for a libel suit filed by Camp John Hay Development Corporation president Robert John Sobrepena in 2012.

Acting presiding judge Maria Paz Reyes-Yson of the Regional Trial Court branch 54 of Manila, in a 12-page decision signed last March 30, found “probable cause to hold all cause for the offense of libel” and a warrant of arrest be issued against the eight BCDA officials.

Yson found probable cause that accused-movants committed the offense charged and should be held for trial and on April 10 issued the warrant of arrest against the seven BCDA officials who were likewise ordered to pay the P10,000 cash bond.

Sobrepena filed the libel case against Casanova and the seven directors for the publication of a notice in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on April 10, 2012 “with (the) intent of causing irreparable injury to the complainant’s (Sobrepena) reputation and standing” which were false and malicious.

The notice said that Sobrepena is the owner of Fil-Estate Corporation, and his Sobrepena group runs both the College Assurance Plan and the Metro Rail Transit Corporation. While the former failed to give the educational benefit of hundreds of thousands planholders, the latter owes more than P1billion to the Department of Transportation and Communication.

Named in the libel are: former Subic Bay Management Corporation president Felicito Payumo, Zorayda Amelia Alonzo, Teresita Desierto, Ma. Aurora Gotina-Garcia, Ferdinand Golez, Elmar Gomez and Maximo Sangil.

Desierto has already posted the P10,000 cash bond, exempting him from the warrant of arrest issued by Yson.

In Jan. 19 of that year, the seven accused, except Desierto, filed an omnibus motion for judicial determination of probable cause and for suspension of issuance of warrants of arrest saying that the notice is not defamatory.

They argued, “It is privilege for being a fair and commentary on matters of public interest.”

Casanova said that it was just one “in a series of harassment suits initiated against the acussed-movants for taking a serious stand and protecting the interests of the Government against CJHDevCo.”

Casanova and group further said that the publication in question was not malicious, arguing that for it to be malicious, “there must be positive proof that the questioned publication was issued with actual malicious or with the knowledge that it was false or in reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.”

In response, Sobrepena said accused-movants attempt to “reduce the case into a harassment suit, trivializing the issues and the circumstances surrounding it…”

It was also an attempt to “muddle the issues to shift the attention of the court to extraneous issues such as the alleged dismissal of the prosecution offices in Manila and Baguio City of the complaints against the accused.”

Sobrepena in countering that it is not libelous quoted Article 354 of the Revised Penal Code which states: Every defamatory imputation is presumed to be malicious, even if it be true, if no good intention and justifiable motive for making it is shown.”

Back in 2014, Sobrepena was issued a warrant of arrest by the Pasay Regional Trial Court Branch 119 in connection with the P1.15 billion estafa case filed against him by the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) wherein he immediately posted bail of P40,000.

The warrant ensued after the Department of Justice indicted Sobrepena for his failure to pay the BCDA for the rental of 247 hectares within the John Hay Special Economic Zone (JHSEZ).

Now that both parties got it even with warrants what is left now is still for all stakeholders to wait. Pigeon Lobien / ABN

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