Syjuco files libel rap vs Aquino

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Friday, May 30, 2014

FORMER Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) chief Augusto Syjuco Jr. on Thursday filed before the Office of the Ombudsman a libel case against President Benigno Aquino III in relation to the latter's State of the Nation Address (Sona) in July last year.

In his complaint affidavit, Syjuco said Aquino "acted with ill will and bad faith" after he accused the former Tesda director general in his Sona last year of allegedly overpricing the purchase of training materials for his former agency.

"The above statements [during Aquino's Sona] not only tended to vilify my reputation or character but actually vilified it. The statements held me out publicly as a thief," Syjuco said in his complaint.


The former Iloilo congressman added that the President failed to note that he initiated the investigation into the alleged overpricing.

He also slammed Aquino for singling him out.

Syjuco, who was Tesda chief of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, noted that a board approved the alleged overpriced projects during his term and not solely by him.

He said that all elements of libel were present in Aquino's speech.

"The President's personal attack against me reeks with malice. He specifically singled me out and labeled me a thief in a nationally broadcast speech," Syjuco said in his complaint.

Malacanang on Friday expressed belief that the libel complaint filed against the President will not prosper.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said that Aquino is immune from any suit while in office.

"Habang ang isang Pangulo ay naglilingkod, na-establish na po 'yan ng ating Korte Suprema sa maraming decided cases na bahagi na ng ating jurisprudence, na pinoprotektahan po ang nakaupong Pangulo ng bansa mula sa pagdedemanda," he said in a media briefing.

Coloma also cited that based on the study made by Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte, a lawyer by profession, there is a prescriptive period for filing a libel complaint.

"Kung tutunghayan lamang 'yung aspeto ng paghaharap ng demanda hinggil sa libel o mga ganoong klaseng usapin, mayroon ding prescriptive period na six months from the time of the alleged violation of the law," he said.

"Kaya kung ang tinuturing ay ‘yung pagbibigkas ng allegedly libelous statements noong nagtalumpati ang Pangulo ng kanyang State of the Nation Address, na naganap noong Hulyo 2013, kung dadagdag tayo ng anim na buwan, dapat by January 2014 ay naiharap na ang usapin. Kaya kung doon lang sa aspetong ‘yon ay prescribed na ‘yung alegasyon na ‘yon," Coloma added.

Syjuco is facing six graft charges before the anti-graft court in connection with the alleged P61-million overpricing in the purchase of agency's training materials.

The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division last year had issued a hold-departure-order against the former lawmaker in connection with the said cases. (With SDR/Sunnex)

Local news

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