Tuesday, August 29, 2006

JTR Files Libel Suit Vs. Accusers

By Lourdes Escaros-Paet & Robert Bagalay

PIQUED BY sly insinuations that he is involved in the murder of Fernando “Dong” Batul, Gov. Joel T. Reyes filed a P20 million libel suit last week against his accusers, Cindy Clavecilla and her lawyer Romeo Gerochi.

Local radio stations had interviewed Clavecilla and Gerochi, both from Iloilo City, almost daily in connection with a 10-year old estafa case arising from a botched land deal in Coron.

In some instances, the two implicated the governor to the still unsolved murder of Batul last May, saying the slain commentator was the first to discuss the case against the governor on the radio.

“Si Batul lamang ang matapang na tumalakay sa kasong ito,” Clavecilla had said.

Gerochi said the governor had allegedly refused to give to Homero Clavecilla, the family’s patriarch, his rightful share from the proceeds of a land sale that Reyes had brokered when he was still a board member

But Gov. Reyes assured Palaweños that he is innocent of the accusations of Gerochi, pointing to the decade long inactivity of the case as proof that the complaint against him was not substantial enough.

“Nasa korte na ‘yan at hindi ko tinatalikuran yan,” the governor said.

Reyes believes that politics is behind the “surprising revival” of the case, due to the seemingly coordinated efforts of the Clavecilla camp and some local broadcasters.

Provincial Information Officer Rolando Bonoan Jr. recalled that Batul had indeed discussed the issue in his radio program a few weeks before he was killed, but he had refrained from discussing it further after finding out that the case is already in court.

Bonoan said they already know the political group behind the move to malign the governor’s reputation through Gerochi and Clavecilla, with the help of “hired” local broadcasters.

“Kung hindi nila alam kung paano lilinisin ang duming ginawa nila, hwag nilang ibabato ‘yan sa gobernador,” said Bonoan.

Telephone Brigade

The governor’s camp is also
closely watching the reactivation of the telephone brigade that successfully brought down the Dennis Socrates-Fernando Batul administration from the Puerto Princesa city hall during their 2001 to 2004 term.

Bonoan expressed suspicion that the group is again at work after a number of callers phoned in to radio stations and expressed negative opinions towards the governor after the interviews with Gerochi or Clavecilla.

The case also found space in some national tabloids.

The provincial capitol’s legal team is also studying the filing of libel cases against local broadcasters who interviewed Clavecilla and Gerochi.

Gerochi, when reached for comments by a local station regarding the libel case, said the broadcasters who interviewed them must be included for the suit to stand in court.

The lawyer, who claimed to be a prominent personality in Iloilo City, also disproved the anchorman’s statement that he had called up the station to be interviewed.

“Di ba ikaw ang tumawag sa akin?” Gerochi asked candidly, to the consternation of the obviously bewildered anchorman.

Gerochi also denied the accusation of the governor’s camp that a political group is manipulating him and Clavecilla in an effort to malign the governor.

Meanwhile, the Batul family laughed off the insinuation that the governor was linked to the murder of the former vice mayor. According to family members, nobody would believe such a story since the people know who is the real mastermind of the murder.

“Alam natin kung ano ang totoo at kung may nais kaming pasalamatan, si Governor Reyes yun at wala nang iba,” said Letty Batul-Cabusao, the family’s spokesperson.

Reyes honored Batul’s remains with the Philippine flag, eulogized the broadcaster during the funeral mass, extended assistance to the family, and offered a P500,000 reward for witnesses who could identify the killers.


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