A criminal complaint for defamation spawned by an alleged derogatory post on social media was filed by Jagna Mayor Fortunato Abrenilla against municipal councilor Anthony “Tonton” Aniscal before the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor.
Abrenilla filed the criminal complaint on June 22, 2016 for Libel under RA 10175 known as the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 against the town councilor for a post in a Facebook account stating “A lazy and drunkard mayor have been re-elected. I pity my hometown.”
The Facebook account where the alleged malicious statement appeared was allegedly owned by Aniscal, according to Abrenilla.
According to Abrenilla’s affidavit, the “malicious” posted statement of Aniscal portraying him as a “lazy and drunkard mayor” had caused him and his family dishonor, discredit or contempt before the bar of public opinion.
The statement “lazy and drunkard mayor” is a product of pure malice on the part of Aniscal and is bereft of any factual basis with the sole intention to put him and my family in disrepute, dishonor and discredit, according to Abrenilla.
The complaint for libel was filed by Abrenilla more than a month after the May 9, 2016 elections after a post allegedly appeared in the Facebook account of Aniscal.
Efforts to patch up the rift between the two parties failed after Abrenilla turned down a proposal from Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Mildred Maglajos, the investigating prosecutor to settle the matter during the preliminary investigation on Friday, July 29, 2016 at the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Bohol.
As ordered by Maglajos, respondent Aniscal appeared with his counsel, Atty. Jan Michael Cagulada and submitted his 5 page counter affidavit and a photo of Abrenilla together with two persons and holding what appeared to be a glass of alcoholic drink.
Citing the Supreme Court (SC) decision in Disini vs Secretary of Justice promulgated on February 21, 2014 that “for libel to hold water in the case of public officials or public figures, “a higher standard of actual malice” must be satisfied to attain conviction.
Since the cybercrime law, mainly target libel against private persons, as such, the laws imply a stricter standard of malice to convict the author of a defamatory statement where the offended party is a public figure, according to Aniscal, quoting the SC decision.
In his affidavit, Aniscal described Abrenilla as one who “drinks liquor publicly” which endears him to his constituents who in return “favors him always during elections that cannot just be replicated by any of his political opponents”.
The mayor, according to Aniscal, should not be offended “when an honest observation is said about him” since his drinking in public, as shown in the pictures attached to his counter affidavit is in “utter disregard of his public office as the town mayor”.
As a public official, Abrenilla is expected to conduct himself honorably in public and set an example as to how public officials should behave under pressure or attack, according to Aniscal’s affidavit.
In his affidavit, Aniscal told the prosecutor that the ‘chilling effect of the libel complaint is “criticize me and I will sue you in court”.
Abrenilla also claimed that Aniscal posted the statement on his Facebook account on May 10, 2016, a day after the election was over therefore such statements cannot be considered part of the election exercise.
But Aniscal countered that the election period was set from January 10, 2016 to June 8, 2016 by the Commission on Elections.
Abrenilla, who is now on his third and last term as mayor of Jagna won over Joseph RaÃ±ola while Aniscal took the 6th spot among 18 candidates who vied for 8 slots in the Sangguniang Bayan of Jagna. Aniscal ran under the party of RaÃ±ola.Â (Chito M. Visarra)