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Philippines archbishop posts bail in libel case

.- Facing an arrest warrant on charges of libel for his comments about a gaming corporation’s employees, Archbishop Oscar Cruz posted a bail of $235.

Archbishop Cruz said he is certain the case will be dismissed.

The libel charges resulted from complaints made by twenty women employed by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor), a government-owned gambling company. 

Archbishop Cruz had criticized a 2004 birthday party held in Malacañang for First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, who is the husband of Philippines President Gloria Arroyo. 

In his critical remarks, the archbishop referred to the women working at the party as “pitiful GROs.” A “GRO,” which stands for guest relations officer, is similar to an escort in the United States.

The women said they were hurt that the prelate had depicted them as GROs and demanded an apology.

Archbishop Cruz is a staunch critic of the Arroyo administration and also heads the People’s Crusade Against Gambling.  He accused the administration of supporting the libel suit, saying a Manila prosecutor had dropped the case in 2004.

“This is their way of getting back against me,” he said.

Archbishop Cruz insisted he did not intend to offend the Pagcor employees, saying he was trying to defend them.

He also said he was willing to go to jail if only to call attention to what he called the “evils of Pagcor.”

After bail was posted, a Manila Regional Trial Court granted temporary liberty to the archbishop.  Arraignment of the case is scheduled for June 17.

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