by Joel Roja/Asianjournal.com
MANILA – The Department of Justice (DOJ) has ordered the re-filing of libel charges against Lingayen Archbishop Oscar Cruz in connection with his articles that came out in various newspapers detailing how several female employees of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and Office of the First Gentlemen were used as guest relations officers (GROs) during the birthday celebration of First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo.
In a nine-page resolution, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez set aside an earlier resolution of the City Prosecutor of Manila which dismissed the libel complaint filed by 20 female employees of Pagcor and the OFG Cruz four years ago.
The DOJ junked the contention of Cruz that the complainants were not the female employees of Pagcor he referred to in his article and that he wrote the article “Sad and Saddening” in the exercise of his constitutional right to free speech and expression to protest the exploitation of female employees of Pagcor and to call upon concerned civic organizations to take their cause.
Gonzalez said noted that Cruz was clearly referring to the complainants when he wrote the article, which he distributed to several news publications.
“Such allusion to the women employees of Pagcor, taken in light of respondent’s reference to facts and circumstances relating to the party held at the Malacanang Park on June 26, 2004 has rendered the victims identifiable…,” the resolution said.
Gonzalez further declared that Cruz’ reference to the complainants as “nothing more than pitiful GROs’ is certainly defamatory considering that the term GRO has become “synonymous and used alternately” with the words “hostess, bar girl and prostitutes.”
Likewise, the DOJ ruled Cruz’s claim of good intentions in coming up with the article is “self-serving” since the element of malice is apparent when the archbishop sent via fax many copies of the article to the various members of the press.
“His claim of good intention should be considered overturned by the element of malice which is manifest in the manner by which respondent maliciously identified complainants as GROs and the intense publication generated by the article,” the DOJ said.
The DOJ also did not give credence to Cruz claim that he was just exercising his right of free speech when he made the article. The justice department noted that free speech is not absolute even if it is guaranteed by the Constitution.
Records show that the case was initially filed in July 2004 by the 20 women, 17 from PAGCOR and three from the Office of the First Gentleman, after Cruz refused to heed their call for apology over the archbishop’s earlier statement branding them as “GROs” or guest relation officers during the birthday celebration in Malacanang of First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo.
In a three-page statement bearing the name of the Allado, Mendoza & Associates law office, the lady PAGCOR employees denied everything that the prelate has said in his article.
They said it was not true that they were carefully made up and dressed exceptionally well, instructed to remove their wedding rings if they had any, brought to Malacanang at midnight nor they were “made to act as nothing more than pitiful GROs.”
The complainants work as clerk, food attendant, marketing officers and data control clerks in PAGCOR.