Special Envoy for Public Diplomacy to China and newspaper columnist Ramon T. Tulfo was slapped with strings of libel cases for “false, reckless, and defamatory” allegations in his series of columns at The Manila Times that tarnished the reputation of the entire Bureau of Internal Revenue and revenue officials including BIR chief Caesar “Billy” Dulay.
Named co-accused in the complaint for three counts of libel and seven counts of cyber-libel filed at the Quezon City Prosecutors Office are Times president and CEO Dante F.M. Ang second, editors Rene Q. Bas, Blanca C. Mercado, Nerilyn A. Tenorio, Leena C. Chua, Arnold Belleza and Lynette O. Luna. Dulay is seeking P20-million moral damages which will be donated to L’Arche (Ang Arko ng Pilipinas Inc.), a community dedicated to taking care of mentally handicapped children.
Tulfo’s column “My Line of Sight: Conversations between two BIR execs reveals all,” according to complainant BIR head Dulay contains “malicious, sweeping and unfounded accusations to the effect that under my stewardship as BIR Commissioner, there was rampant corruption and I have allegedly ‘skeletons in the closet at the graft-ridden agency.’”
Aside from being published in print, The Manila Times also published Tulfo’s column in its website and also carried it in their social media accounts, including Facebook.
Saying the publication of the three opinion articles as “undoubtedly false and defamatory” Dulay said that it “not only directly pictured me as a corrupt official, an animal, a thief, minion of Satan, greedy bastard, but it also maliciously portrayed me as a ‘criminal’ to the effect that I made billions of pesos in connection with the transactions of Mighty Cigarettes Corporation and Del Monte Foods Corporation.”
In his second column dated Aug. 8, Tulfo alleged that there was bribery involved in the multibillion peso tax cases with delinquent corporations and had pictured Dulay as an “insatiable greedy extortionist, a cheat and a corrupt official in [president] Digong’s government.”
Tulfo’s third column last August 20 then called for a corruption probe against Dulay regarding the Del Monte’s “compromised” payment of P65 million instead of the “huge delinquent tax amounting to P8.7 billion.
“Clearly, Tulfo did not ascertain the truth of his facts. In truth, the Del Monte case never reached the CTA and, as I emphasized, there was no compromise. The collection was based on a series of assessments based on Revenue Procedures and delegated authority. These assessments were based on documents submitted as part of the Revenue Procedures. Thus, we cannot just make up a collection amount without evidence to support it,” the BIR chief said.
“The way Tulfo presented the article, specifically mentioning the Del Monte and Mighty cases, and on his own, made an explanation of the conversations in the video recording. Then he made false interpretations of the conversations, passing it on as a fact and made it seem as the truth to the readers… He made it seem that I made billions of pesos out of such transactions. He deliberately and falsely made his own interpretation and made it look like I extorted money out of it,” Dulay said.
The Dulay complaint claimed that “the aforementioned defamatory imputation has caused me enormous physical suffering, mental anguish, fright, serious anxiety, besmirched reputation, wounded feelings, moral shock and social humiliation.”
The Tulfo opinion was also “maliciously posted on the Internet, specifically on his social media Facebook account, an alleged illegal video conversation recording as the source of his published article, added with his malicious commentaries.”
Dulay said it cannot be denied that respondents not only published the mentioned articles in a newspaper of general circulation, “but they also published the same articles on their online news website at manilatimes.net. The articles can be accessed not only nationwide but by every netizen worldwide.”
“This is certainly indicative of malice in fact on the part of not only TULFO, but equally his editors and his publisher. Such publication of TULFO, his editors and his publisher is manifestly and patently malicious with the only intention to do ulterior and unjustifiable harm upon my person.They have all the intention to cause my dishonor, discredit, contempt and besmirched reputation before my friends, my peers, subordinates, not just the entire Filipino Nation, and above all, with the easy access of internet, the whole world!,” the complaint added.
Dulay said he even received frantic calls from families and friends within and outside the Philippines, as well as from his own children and extended family, telling him that the video conversation recording had gone viral or gone public in the world wide web.
Dulay added that the articles written in print and posted in the internet showed him the worst possible light.
“I felt betrayed and overwhelmed and the impact was harsh. It has caused me countless sleepless nights and real fear for my family and myself, given the level of insults I received,” he said.
Warning immigration officials, Dulay notes that “Tulfo is a flight risk. He comes from a family of influence within and outside the country, and with high social and financial standing. He is often scheduled to leave the country. With this and other numerous complaints against Tulfo and with the existence of a very strong criminal case against him, there is a high probability that he may go out of the country again anytime soon to evade prosecution and arrest for his crimes.”
“Thus, there is a need to secure a Precautionary Hold Departure Order, which, through this Complaint-Affidavit, I am respectfully seeking.”
BIR executive Teresita Angeles, in her letter to the Manila Times, has denied that she was the woman in that video recording: “I am deeply saddened, shocked and quite angered that you allowed such articles to be published at all. It is outrightly false, malicious, illegal and damaging to my reputation.”
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea earlier filed three libel complaints against Tulfo. His lawyer Elvis Balayan said the complaint was for “two counts [of libel] under the Revised Penal Code and two counts [of cyberlibel] under the Anti-Cybercrime law.”
The complaint was filed before the Manila prosecutor’s office last August 6. Medialdea was present during the filing.
Aside from Tulfo, the complaint also covered Manila Times editors and heads, including executive director Dante Ang II, son of Dante Ang, the paper’s chairman emeritus and Duterte’s special envoy for international public relations. Medialdea is seeking P140 million in damages.