Former senator Antonio Trillanes IV has been found guilty by a Makati Regional Trial Court for alleging in 2015 that former Makati mayor Junjun Binay was buying off Court of Appeals (CA) justices to obtain favorable decisions.
Trillanes was fined P100,000 by Makati RTC Branch 148 Judge Andres Soriano and ordered to pay Binay P500,000 in moral damages and costs of the legal suit.
However, the court imposed no jail time on Trillanes.
“Neither can accused use as cloak the right to freedom of expression or speech. Every person must, in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties, act with justice, give everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith,” Soriano said in his ruling on May 31, using a 2008 Supreme Court decision that found broadcaster Erwin Tulfo guilty of libel.
Soriano said that because Trillanes was convicted for libel for the first time, the punishment would just be a fine. However, he warned Trillanes that freedom of speech is not absolute.
“While freedom of speech is not absolute, it should not also be restrained too harshly,” the judge said.
Binay welcomed the libel conviction of Trillanes, adding that “being a senator is not a license to destroy reputations.”
“He has clearly abused his power as a senator and the decision establishes that beyond doubt,” Binay added. SOVEREIGNPH