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Davao City, Philippines

Court gives two men 4-8 years in first conviction under cybecrime law

March 24, 2019 - Sunday 9:03 AM by Ayan Mellejor

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DAVAO CITY – Two persons were sentenced to four to eight years imprisonment and fined a total of P2.5 million each for their libelous comments on Facebook against North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza.

In a joint decision dated March 22, Judge Jose Tabosares of Regional Trial Court Branch 23 in Kidapawan City found Eric Dugaduga Rodinas guilty of online libel and meted an indeterminate penalty of four years and one day of prison correctional as minimum to eight years and one day of prison mayor as maximum.

This is the first libel libel conviction under Republic Act No. 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

Judge Tabosares further directed Rodinas to pay a fine of P1 million and pay the complainant the amount of P1 million as moral damages and P500,000 as exemplary damages.

The moral and exemplary damages also each bear an interest of six percent per annum until it is fully paid.

The same verdict was also rendered on Larry Baja Subillaga Jr.

The judge cited provisions of the Cybercrime Prevention Act pertaining to libel and cybercrime offenses.

The online libel case against Rodinas and Subillaga stemmed from their Facebook post on May 14, 2017 wherein Rodinas commented: “Jajaja klaro datu ng gobernadura? Pero tan-awa Larry Baja Subillaga Jr. Ang project kawatan pa mao na ni resulta (Hehehe. Is the governor truly rich? But see Larry Baja Subillaga Jr she still steals from the projects and these are now the result)."

The comment reportedly exposed the governor to public hatred and contempt to her damage and prejudice.

Subillaga also commented: “Sa una pa na nga hinimuan sa probinsya sa north cotabato. Unta maliso nana sa atong president digong aron hapsay na ug matagaan na gyud ug hustisya alang sa tanang taga North Cotabato. Looy intawon ang katawhan pobre na, nagkalisod pa ilaron pa sa dato ng gobernadora (That has been the practice in the Province of Cotabato. I hope this could be changed by our President Duterte so that all will run smooth and justice would finally be served to the people of North Cotabato, they are being deceived by their rich Governor).”

The Facebook accounts of Rodinas and Subillaga were verified by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) upon the request of the complainant.

During the investigation, both admitted they were the authors of the internet posts.

Both Rodinas and Subillaga pleaded not guilty to the crime on March 16, 2018.

In her testimony, Mendoza said Subillaga and Rodinas posted several “unfounded, defamatory, vilifying, and libelous accusations/statements” against her and which they made to be circulated around the internet through Facebook.

The accusations, Mendoza said, caused her and her family “wounded feelings, sleepless nights and besmirched reputation, which, if quantified in monetary terms, would not be less than P50 million.”

In presenting evidence, Rodinas and Subillaga admitted having posted their comments.

The judge found both respondents to have “wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously and publicly and maliciously with intention of attacking the honesty, virtue, honor and integrity, character and reputation of the private complainant.”

In an interview on Saturday, Mendoza said while she had shrugged off many accusations, before, this time around she had to answer.

She said the case should serve as a lesson to everybody that “we all have to be careful.”

Mendoza said people will still have freedom of expression but they must make sure that what they say is not defamatory.

“Even if we are in public we also have a family. They will also be sad if we have issues,” she said.

When asked if she would accept an apology from Rodinas and Subillaga, Mendoza said the two should have done so from the start.