Court acquits former CamSur BM from libel
By PAULO DS. PAPA
NAGA CITY --- A Naga City court has acquited a former Camarines Sur provincial board member from a libel case filed in 2016.
In a decision dated October 18, 2022, Regional Trial Court Branch Branch 61 presided by Judge Soliman M. Santos Jr, former Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Camarines Sur Member Carlo M. Batalla was cleared of the libel charge that stemmed from a radio interview, in which he allegedly defamed then Camarines Sur Governor Luis Raymund F. Villafuerte Jr.
“May this judgement contribute to a more progressive approach and development of jurisprudence that broadens the constitutional perspective in dealing with criminal cases of libel or eventually decriminalized cases of libel,” says the court in deciding criminal case no. 2016-0732.
In 2016, Batalla allegedly uttered defamatory remarks by accusing Villafurte Jr of stealing public funds based on a Commission on Audit report and a Joint Resolution from the Office of the Ombudsman.
Villafuerte was subsequently exonerated by the Sandigan Bayan in 2021 from corruption charges.
But the court says Batalla should not “unceremoniously gloat about his herein acquittal as if it were an honoris causa doctorate degree.”
The court in its decision reminds Batalla that the context and considerations might be different the next time.
It says the acquittal primarily results from the “ balancing between the prosecution evidence of accused Batalla’s ‘ill will or spite… merely to injure the reputation’ of, and thus actual malice towards, complainant
Villafuerte, and the defense evidence of acting ‘in response to duty’ as ‘a dedicated advocate against crime and corruption.’
The court says it acquits Batalla because it believes that the accused only acted as part of his duty, being an anti-corruption advocate.