Trillanes’ media statements vs Junjun Binay found libelous

    In 2015, then Senator Antonio Trillanes accused justices of the Court of Appeals (CA) 6th Division received millions in bribe money to issue a temporary restraining order, and, subsequently, a writ of preliminary injunction in favor of Junjun Binay regarding his preventive suspension by the Ombudsman.

    MANILA — Former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV is guilty of libel against former Makati Mayor Junjun Binay over the ‘Justice for Sale’ issue of 2015, the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 148 decides.

    With the conclusion, the court fines Trillanes of ₱100,000, and Judge Andres Soriano orders the same to pay Binay ₱500,000 in moral damages and lawyers’ fees.

    The decision gave weight to the prosecution for establishing elements of libel in Trillanes’ media utterances when he associated JunJun Binay to alleged acts of bribery, graft, and corruption, among others “which exposed the latter to hatred, contempt and public ridicule, to his damage and prejudice.”

    Statements Trillanes said then: “E kasama naman sya dyan e. Di ba konsehal yang si Mayor Junjun nung nangyari itong lahat. So kasama yan, sindikato yang pamilya na yan.

    “Pero kita mo, dahil sa paggapang eh ganyan. Malaking pera ang iniluwal ng mga Binay para dito sa injunction na ito.”

    The court says Trillanes should “not have relied on his assumptions and should have refrained from making such grave allegations against the private complainant and his family, until after proper verification was completed and the appropriate resolution was filed before the Senate.

    “Making and releasing the subject statements absent a serious verification and investigation is recklessness bordering on a disregard of what is true or false.”

    Meanwhile, the court clarifies that while the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee later issued a resolution recommending charges against the Binays for their supposed connection to the “Makati corruption scandal,” this is not vindication. “[T]he present libel case pertains to the ‘Justice for Sale’ issue which is altogether different and distinct from the Makati corruption issue,” it added.

    Judge Soriano says the former senator cannot use as defense the right to freedom of expression or speech as this should be exercised responsibly. “The recognition of a right is not a free license for the one claiming it to run roughshod over the rights of others,” reads the ruling.

    In a statement, Trillanes says the conviction is “the price to pay for standing up against very powerful people.”

    He will exhaust legal remedies to reverse the ruling. “Regardless, we will not let this legal setback discourage us in pursuing our advocacy to purge our Government of corrupt and abusive public officials.” (LO/The MiNT)


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