A businesswoman in the Philippines has filed a $220,000 lawsuit against the Archbishop of Ozamiz Jesus Dosado over a news item published by the diocesan newspaper. She claims the story was libelous.
Agnes Grace Y. Chiong’s suit targets the Malindang Herald News, a weekly printed by the Archdiocese of Ozamiz. The archbishop chairs its board. Also charged in the suit were Msgr. Maximino Naron, vice-chairman of the board; editor-in-chief Fr. Sandy M. Cometa; and news editor Neptalie Batolenio, CBCP News reports.
The Herald News’ May 30-June 5 issue published a story on Danila Damason, a former house helper who worked for Chiong. Damason allegedly sustained injuries because of beatings inflicted by Chiong.
The story was based on a complaint Damason filed in the city’s police station.
In Chiong’s affidavit-complaint, Chiong said that the paper published an article “without regard for truth, propriety and fairness; indeed one of a scurrilous, injurious, defamatory and libelous (article).” The complaint said the story’s intention was “nothing but to attack, ridicule, (and) malign her virtue as a person, as a mother and as (a) businesswoman.
She asked for seven million Philippine pesos for moral damages and three million for exemplary damages, totaling to the equivalent of about $220,000.
The paper’s editors filed counter-affidavits denying the charges.
Fr. Cometa said that he performs his duties at the paper because it is a means to then end of promoting life. To the extent of his knowledge the Herald News has “never” since its beginning aimed at “cutting remarks.”
“Its main objective is to publish the news happening within the jurisdiction, that is, the entire Ozamiz Archdiocese,” he stated.
The story published by the Herald News was drawn from the police record, a fact that Fr. Cometa said shows its accuracy. The priest-editor said he is confident the story was well-founded because of its source.
Batolenio, the paper’s news editor, said other reporters with him at the police station also received the same news.
“With this circumstance, I can therefore state that these radio reporters who covered the said blotter, would broadcast it in their radio program and published it also in their newspaper,” he stated, according to CBCP News.
The editor said he thought the story was worth reporting because it involved a woman employer inflicting injuries on her employee. He said he tried to learn Chiong’s view of the reports but could not successfully contact her.