by Joel Roja/Asianjournal.com
CONSISTENT to its circular giving preference to the imposition of monetary penalties instead of imprisonment to those convicted of libel, the Supreme Court spared on April 3 a showbiz talk show host from spending time in jail and instead ordered her to pay more than P1 million in moral damages to veteran actor Eddie Gutierrez and wife Anabelle Rama.
In a 24-page decision penned by Associate Justice Antonio Eduardo Nachura, the Supreme Court Third Division affirmed the Court of Appeals and Quezon City regional trial court’s decisions finding Cristtinelli “Cristy” Fermin guilty of two counts of libel in connection with a malicious article that came out in the defunct Gossip Tabloid on June 14, 1995.
The lower court earlier sentenced her to a maximum of eight months and 21 days of imprisonment.
The SC, however, acquitted her co-accused Bogs Tugas on account of non-participation in the publication of the libelous article.
The Court did not give credence to the claim of Fermin that she has no knowledge in the release of the libelous articles.
“It is worthy to note that petitioner was not only the ‘publisher’ as shown by the editorial box of Gossip Tabloid, but also its ‘president’ and ‘chairperson’ as she herself admitted on the witness stand. Obviously, petitioner had full control over the publication of articles in the said tabloid,” the Court noted.
The case arose from the filing of two criminal informations for libel against Fermin and Tugas by the spouses Gutierrez before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 218.
In the said article, Gossip Tabloid reported that the Gutierrez couple had fled back to the Philippines to escape from the manufacturers of expensive cookware that they have been distributing in the United States.
The tabloid article reported that the Gutierrez couple had fled the United States because they allegedly pocketed the earnings from the sale of the expensive cookware instead of remitting it to the manufacturer.