SC: Canoy entitled to P470K damages over Locsin’s articles calling him a ‘certified lunatic’

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The Supreme Court (SC) has affirmed that former Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Reuben Canoy was entitled to P470,000 in damages in connection with now-Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr.’s 1990 articles calling him a “certified lunatic” backer of the Mindanao independence movement.

In a recent 11-page decision, the SC 1st Division
denied the appeal of Philippine Daily Globe publisher Nova Publications, Inc., associate publisher Yen Makabenta (now a columnist for The Manila Times), news editor Angelina Goloy, and associate editor Ma. Socorro Naguit.

The Philippine Daily Globe petition assailed the January 28, 2010 ruling of the Court of Appeals (CA) in favor of Canoy.

Locsin, his late father Teodoro Sr., and his brother Enrique, as well as fellow defendants Esmeraldo Izon, Louise Molina, Ruben Lampa, and L.R. Publications, Inc.—the publisher of the Philippine Free Press—opted not to question the CA decision.

The Philippine Daily Globe and the Philippine Free Press in October 1990 carried four articles written by Locsin and Molina accusing Canoy of supporting the rebellion led by Col. Alexander Noble.

The articles portrayed Canoy as a “veritable mental asylum patient,” a “madman with 10,000 deranged followers,” a leader of a “composite force of rebel soldiers, tribesmen and a large slice of the lunatic federalist fringe,” and a proponent of the “ludicrous federalism/secessionist movement.”

The SC said it was “beyond question” that the words in their plain meaning “[tend] to dishonor or discredit” Canoy.

It said the articles “cannot be said to be fair commentaries on matters of public interest,” because the depiction of Canoy’s purported insanity was “irrelevant” to his alleged participation in Noble’s rebellion and did not involve his duties as a radio broadcaster.

Although the petitioners presented a deposition by late President Corazon Aquino and Gen. Voltaire Gazmin attesting to the existence of “intelligence reports” implicating Canoy, the SC agreed with the CA that they remain “unconfirmed.”

Hence, it said the “defamatory remarks cannot be considered as an expression of opinion based on established facts nor can it reasonably inferred from established facts.”

“The petitioners were not able to establish that the defamatory remarks are privileged, as such, the presumption of malice stands and need not be established separate from the existence of the defamatory remarks,” read the decision penned by Associate Justice Rosmari Carandang.

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