Former Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Alfonso Cusi is facing a cyber libel charge before a Valenzuela court.
This after prosecutors indicted him for cyber libel over his statement against Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian’s handling of the Senate probe on the Malampaya deals, ABS-CBN News reported.
In a resolution dated Nov. 14, Valenzuela Senior Assistant City Prosecutor Rudy Ricamora recommended that “Alfonso G. Cusi be indicted for violation of Sec. 4(c)(4) of Republic Act No. 10175 otherwise known as the Cyber Crime Prevention Act of 2012.”
The case was eventually raffled off to Valenzuela City Regional Trial Court Branch 75,” according to Gatchalian’s staff, quoted by the ABS-CBN News report.
In a text message to ABS-CBN News, Cusi’s lawyer Atty. Rui Rondain said that his client posted bail and would issue a statement later Tuesday.
The cyber libel case stemmed from Cusi’s Feb. 4, 2022 statement uploaded on the DOE website in response to several Senate Committee on Energy hearings led by Gatchalian on the transfer of Chevron Philippines Ltd.’s 45-percent participating interest in Chevron Malampaya Philippines to UC Malampaya Philippines Pte Ltd, a Udenna Holdings Corporation subsidiary.
Cusi claimed Gatchalian had “chosen to lend his ear to those adversarial business interests” which allegedly propagated “innuendoes, speculation and hearsay.”
He also accused Gatchalian of fueling misunderstanding that the Malampaya deals were supposedly “defective, lutong macau and graft-ridden,” calling it an insult to DOE officials and employees.
Gatchalian, as chair of the Senate energy committee, caused the passage of a Feb. 2, 2022 resolution expressing the “sense of the Senate” that appropriate criminal and administrative charges should be filed before the Office of the Ombudsman and the Civil Service Commission against Cusi and other DOE officials for approving the transfer of shares.
In indicting Cusi, Valenzuela prosecutors said his statement pictured Gatchalian as “dishonest,” a “fraud,” abusive of his power as senator and chair of the Senate Committee on Energy, and a “corrupt” public official, to the damage of the lawmaker’s reputation, the ABS-CBN News report further said.
Cusi reasoned out there was no publication.
But Valenzuela prosecutors said Cusi himself admitted that he authored the statement and it was uploaded on the DOE website, a public website.
“A defamatory post uploaded in a public website constitutes sufficient publication since it was parted in such a way that it can be read by person other than Gatchalian,” the resolution said.
Prosecutors also found malice in Cusi’s statement.
Prosecutors also rejected Cusi’s fair commentary defense, saying his remark was “totally alien” to the subject matter of the inquiry because it already talked about Gatchalian’s “tendency to corrupt, commit fraud, being dishonest and abusive,” not the legality of the Malampaya share transfer.
Fair commentaries on matters of public interest are privileged and normally constitute a good defense in actions for libel or slander as long as they are anchored on established facts, not false allegations.