SC dismisses Sharon’s libel case vs tabloid

Posted at 11/09/12 1:59 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The Supreme Court effectively dismissed the libel case filed by veteran actress Sharon Cuneta against some editors of Bandera due to technicalities.

In a decision penned by Associate Justice Diosdado M. Peralta, the third division of the high court said Cuneta made a “misstep” when she appealed the decision of the Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court before the Court of Appeals sans the representation from the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG).

The high court noted that the OSG shall represent the government in any litigation or proceedings where it is a party.

Libel has a criminal aspect. If the case is dismissed by the trial court, the appeal on criminal aspect of the case must be instituted by the government lawyer.

The issue stemmed from the allegedly defamatory statements published on April 24, 2001 in Bandera.

Charges were brought before the city prosecutor, who said that editors Lito Bautista and Jimmy Alcantara deliberately brought Cuneta “into public dishonor, shame and contempt.”

The article described Cuneta’s weight, as well as her being a “mega-brat” and “brain-dead”.

On April 25, 2008, however, the lower court dismissed the criminal case because the prosecutors did not submit an opposition to the editors’ demurrer to evidence. The latter is a legal action used when the prosecution rests its case. The respondent subsequently asks the court to dismiss the action on the ground of insufficient evidence.

“Nevertheless, petitioners could no longer be held liable in view of the procedural infirmity that the petition for certiorari was not undertaken by the OSG, but instead by respondent in her personal capacity,” the high court said.

While the libel case may have warranted further study, “to reverse and set aside the Order granting the demurrer to evidence would violate petitioners’ constitutionally-enshrined right against double jeopardy,” the high court said.