Prosecutors dismiss 7 more cyber-libel raps filed by Quiboloy group against Rappler

Rappler’s attorney, Theodore Te, said he has so far counted 16 complaints and 50 counts of cyber defamation filed by Apollo Quiboloy supporters against Rappler, his reporters and interviewees in cities. from Cagayan de Oro, Davao, Panabo and Ozamiz.

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines — The General Santos City Attorney’s Office has dismissed seven more cyberdefamation complaints against Rappler and other interviewees in a series of reports about controversial Davao City pastor Apollo Quiboloy and his Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KOJC) group.

In a March 31 resolution, Santos City Assistant Attorney General Kayuggen Kuda Jr. said there was no probable cause to take the case to court based on the complaint filed. by Gemma Completo Sanchez, the coordinator of the South Mindanao cluster of the Quiboloy group.

In his complaints, Sanchez alleged that Rappler reporters and other interviewees “maliciously published several articles and documentary videos…attacking, discrediting, slandering and destroying” the name of Quiboloy and his religious group.

The defendants named in the now-dismissed complaints were Rappler Inday Espina-Varona regions chief, Mindanao office coordinator Herbie Gomez, journalist Pia Ranada and former researcher Vernise Tantuco.

Also included were Jayeel Cornelio, professor of sociology of religion at Ateneo de Manila University, The Outstanding Young Men in 2021, and former KOJC members Arlene Caminong-Stone, Faith Killon and Reynita Fernandez.

The Santos City Attorney General’s Office said four elements of defamation must be present for a complaint to succeed: libel, malice, publicity, and victim identification.

Kuda said Sanchez’s membership and her role as KOJC’s cluster coordinator did not meet the “identity element.”

The prosecutor also noted that Sanchez was never mentioned, described or discussed, and that there were no references to her in Rappler’s reports and videos.

Citing case law, the resolution stressed: “Statements made about a broad category of persons cannot be construed as referring to an identified or identifiable individual. Absent circumstances specifically pointing to or alluding to a particular member of a class, no member of that class has the right to act without infringing at all the equally demanding right of free speech. and expression, as well as to the press, under the Bill of Rights. .”

The point raised in the General Santos City Attorney’s Office’s resolution was similar to the reason cited by Cagayan de Oro and Ozamiz city prosecutors for why they dismissed nearly identical complaints filed against the same group. of respondents by supporters of Quiboloy.

A panel of Cagayan de Oro prosecutors previously ruled there was “insufficient evidence” in the seven complaints filed by KOJC cluster coordinator for Northern Mindanao Cherry Seguiro Cabrillos against journalists and interviewees.

Also in northern Mindanao, Ozamiz City Attorney Cherrymie Mamauag approved the dismissal of seven complaints filed by another KOJC coordinator, Virginia Menoza Villanueva, against the respondents.

Dismissing complaints filed by Villanueva in the city of Ozamiz, prosecutor Noel Boter said, “We find that she does not have legal personality to file this case.”

Rappler’s attorney, Theodore Te, said he has so far counted 16 complaints and 50 counts of cyber defamation filed by Quiboloy supporters against Rappler, his journalists and interviewees in Cagayan towns. of Oro, Davao, Panabo and Ozamiz.

He said there had been several waves of complaints, all for cyber defamation, against Rappler himself and various journalists and resource people.

Te said the first wave, based on the actual receipt of complaints, was filed in January 2022, in Panabo City, Davao del Norte.

The second wave, he said, came in February in Davao City, where six plaintiffs alleged a total of 28 counts against the respondents.

Te said the third wave of seven complaints came in March in the city of General Santos.

He noted: “The prosecutors in all three dismissals no longer considered the respondents’ counter affidavits, relying on the prosecutor’s authority under Rule 112, Section 3(b) to dismiss motu proprio or on its own initiative.

With the dismissal of complaints in Cagayan de Oro, Ozamiz and General Santos, Te said the remaining complaints known to him are those in Panabo City and Davao City.

Quiboloy, who has declared himself a ‘named son of God’, is on the US Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) wanted list for a series of cases involving conspiracy to traffic sex by force, fraud and coercion. , and child sex trafficking; sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion; conspiracy; and bulk cash smuggling.

Quiboloy and several of his church associates were arrested following indictment by a federal grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in Santa Ana, California.

Rommel Rebollido is a Mindanao-based journalist and winner of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship

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