Libel case filed by The Firm vs Fraport AG junked

Posted at 11/21/12 9:13 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Court of Appeals (CA) dismissed the libel suit filed by the Villaraza, Cruz, Marcelo and Angangco Law Firm against German firm Fraport AG for statements alleging extortion in the construction of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3.

In a 25-page decision penned by Associate Justice Normandie Pizzaro, the appellate court sided with the Makati City Regional Trial Court in its dismissal of the libel complaint against Fraport officials Wilhelm Bender, Manfred Scholch and their counsels Cesar Manalaysay and Edgardo Balois.

The appellate court did not agree with the law firm--called simply "The Firm" in legal circles for its supposed power and influence--which claimed that the trial court already acted like a prosecutor when it dismissed the case for lack of probable cause.

"[The trial court] did not usurp the function of the prosecution when it dismissed the information for lack of probable cause...The petitioners' claim of grave abuse of discretion has no leg to stand on,” the CA said.

Fraport had filed a motion to dismiss the libel complaint, thus it is the duty of the lower court to determine probable cause, it said.

“While the prosecution of all criminal actions is under the direction and control of the prosecutor, stress must be laid that once a complaint or information is filed in court, any disposition of the case, such as the dismissal thereof or the conviction or acquittal of the accused, rests in the sound discretion of the court," the appellate court ruled.

In its complaint, The Firm accused Fraport of besmirching its reputation when the German-based company claimed before the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) of the World Bank that it tried to extort "several tens of millions of US dollars" to ensure a successful bid for the airport terminal.

Fraport, the foreign partner of Philippine International Airport Terminal Co., claimed The Firm pledged to give the funds to ranking government officials, such as Presidential Adviser on Strategic Projects Gloria Tan-Climaco.

Climaco and The Firm also filed a separate P100 million damage suit against Fraport.

Piatco’s contract was eventually nullified by the Supreme Court. Fraport thereafter filed a claim before ICSID.