Caloocan Congressman Egay Erice
By Junex Doronio
November 23, 2021
CALOOCAN CITY — Convinced that there was indeed malice in the publication on social media of several videos alleging that Mayor Oca Malapitan committed irregularities in the procurement and distribution of digital tablets to the students of Caloocan, the regional trial court of Caloocan Branch 123 issued arrest warrants against Councilors Christopher “PJ” E. Malonzo, Ma. Milagros S. Mercado, Alexander V. Mangasar, Ricardo J. Bagus, and Marylou N. San Buenaventura.
Reliable sources said Congressman Egay Erice, who is running for Mayor, was behind the smear campaign and proliferation of fake news against Malapitan.
Erice will be squaring off with Mayor Oca’s congressman-son Along Malapitan who will be succeeding his father.
The elder Malapitan has dismissed the allegations as premature politicking and said the videos were merely used as a platform to tarnish the integrity of the Caloocan Digital Tablets Program and to promote the candidacies of PJ Malonzo who is the vice mayoralty running mate of Erice, and Bagus and Mangasar who is running for councilor under Erice’s ticket.
Buenaventura, also known as Alou Nubla, another Erice ally, will be facing off with Mayor Oca in the congressional race in the first district of this city.
“We will let our able lawyers handle that and we will focus on governance as we always do,” Malapitan said, adding that he is more focused on governance rather than engaging in political theatrics.
Malapitan, accompanied by his counsel, Law Dean Rico Paolo R. Quicho, filed a criminal complaint for cyber libel against the Councilors before the Caloocan Prosecutor’s Office.
The case was later transferred to San Juan City Prosecutor’s Office, which eventually resolved to charge the Councilors with the said offense.
The issuance of arrest warrants followed the resolution made by the San Juan City Prosecutor’s Office through Assistant City Prosecutor Marianne A. Taro in resolving the case filed by Malapitan against the said councilors.
It was gathered that the councilors caused the Facebook publication in their “Mata sa Mata” post several videos alleging that Malapitan committed irregularities in the procurement and distribution of digital tablets to the students of Caloocan.
On the other hand, the Councilors retorted that they were merely acting on the concerns of their constituents who they alleged to have raised concerns regarding the purchase and distribution of the digital tablets.
They also claimed that is well within their rights to comment on official actions of public officials.
Notably, the Councilors did not present proof of the existence of disgruntled constituents. The videos showed the Councilors specifically asserting that the digital tablets were substandard and that its distribution was delayed.
However, the Councilors failed to convince Assistant City Prosecutor Taro who decided in favor of Malapitan and ruled that the Councilors’ actions reek of ill-motive and malice.
In her resolution, Taro said that all the statements “are clearly defamatory imputations tending to cause dishonor, discredit or contempt upon the complaint.”
As to their right to comment on official actions, Taro reminded the Councilors that “the subject videos cannot be considered a fair and true report of an act performed by a public officer in the exercise of his functions.
Respondent Mercado admitted in her counter-affidavit that there was neither an indication of corruption nor irregularity in the process of procurement of the subject devices including the quality and its eventual distribution to the target beneficiaries.”
The case was raffled to Branch 123 Regional Trial Court Caloocan under Judge Remegio M. Escalada Jr., who ordered the immediate arrest of the Councilors.
On November 19, 2021, the Councilors hurriedly applied for bail for their temporary release.
Erice could not be reached for comment. (ai/mtvn)