SC clarifies decision in libel case against Raffy Tulfo, 7 others
The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday clarified that what it had affirmed and modified in its April 10, 2019 decision on the libel case against Raffy Tulfo, et al. was only the award of damages to petitioner businessman Michael Guy.
In a statement, SC Public Information Office Chief Atty. Brian Keith F. Hosaka said: “What was modified was only the civil aspect of the case and the award of damages, considering that only Guy elevated the case to the Supreme Court by filing a Petition for Review on Certiorari to seek the reversal of the Court of Appeals (CA) decision.”
In its 18-page decision penned by Justice Marvic M.V.F. Leonen and promulgated on April 10, 2019, the SC 3rd division partially granted Guy’s petition and affirmed with modification the CA’s June 13, 2014 Amended Decision.
The SC ordered Tulfo, and representatives of Abante Tonite’s publisher, Monica Publishing Corporation, namely, Allen Macasaet, Nicolas V. Quijano, Jr., Janet Bay, Jesus P. Galang, Randy Agos, Jeany Lacorte, and Venus Tandoc to solidarily pay petitioner Guy: (1) P500,000 as moral damages; (2) P1,000,000 as exemplary damages; and (3) P211,200 as attorney’s fees.
Guy elevated the case to the SC maintaining that there was factual and legal basis for the award of actual damages to him.
The president of MG Forex Corporation which is engaged in foreign exchange trading, Guy filed libel charges against Tulfo, et al. claiming that the 2004 article written by Tulfo in his “Shoot to Kill” column in Abante Tonite tainted his reputation.
In the subject article, Tulfo reported that Guy, who was then being investigated by the Revenue Integrity Protection Service (RIPS) of the Department of Finance (DoF) for tax fraud, went to former Department of Finance Secretary Juanita Amatong’s house to ask for help.
Secretary Amatong then purportedly called the head of the RIPS and directed that all documents that it had obtained on Guy’s case be surrendered to her.
The SC held that the P500,000 in moral damages was an “adequate recompense to the mental anguish and wounded feelings that [Guy] had endured considering that he failed to present evidence other than his bare allegations of besmirched reputation and loss of clientele. Likewise, the SC reinstated the exemplary damages as it held that “[i]t may be awarded ‘where the circumstances of the case show the highly reprehensible or outrageous conduct of the offender.’”
It held that Tulfo, et al. published the article without verifying the truth of the allegations against Guy, who is a private a private individual. As correctly pointed out by the CA, RIPS only investigates officials of the DoF and its attached agencies accused of corruption.
On February 24, 2019, the Makati City Regional Trial Court (RTC) convicted Tulfo, et al. of the crime of libel and ordered them to each pay a fine of P6,000 with subsidiary imprisonment, in case of insolvency, and to also jointly pay a total ofP10,211,200 in actual and moral damages and attorney’s fees.
On August 30, 2013, upon separate appeals by Tulfo and Macasaet, et al., the CA affirmed the RTC’s decision but reduced the P5,000,000 moral damages toP500,000 and awarded P500,000 in exemplary damages.
Tulfo sought a reconsideration of the CA’s August 30, 2013 decision. Similarly, Guy moved for partial reconsideration and clarification of its decision. On June 13, 2014, the CA modified its August 30, 2013 decision and ordered Tulfo, et al. to jointly and severally pay guy P500,000 as moral damages and P211,200 attorney’s fee and deleted the exemplary damages it had earlier granted, as well as the RTC’s award of actual damages for lack of factual and legal basis.