University official files defamation case
WORDS | CZARINA JOY B. AREVALO and JOSE LORENZO E. LIM
[UPDATED as of 26 February 2017, 3:50 PM]
“Sa loob ng tatlong taon, kinunsinte ko ang director niyo [Dr. Ruben Tanqueco] sa absenteeism, tardiness at immorality. Nanahimik ako hoping na magbabago kaya lang hindi. Nakokonsensya ako, I cannot look straight to Tita Helen’s eyes.”
This is the statement that UPLB Chancellor Fernando Sanchez uttered during the December 8, 2015 meeting in the Chancellor’s Office with engineers of Physical Plant Maintenance and Services Office (PPMSO), which Engr. Danny Rey Camus attested.
Two meetings transpired last December 8 wherein the grounds for the grave oral defamation case took place. As stated in the complaint, during the earlier meeting with university officials including then Human Resources Development Office (HRDO) Chief Administrative Officer Armando Palanca, he heard Chancellor Sanchez utter to the group, “Dr. Tanqueco is having a relation with a staff of PPMSO and further added that it was for this reason he was ashamed to the husband of this PPMSO staff who works abroad as a seaman and was also ashamed to the wife [Tita Helen] of the complainant [Dr. Tanqueco].”
In an interview with the UPLB Perspective, former HRDO Chief Officer Palanca recalled that he asked to be excused when he heard the Chancellor’s statement during the said meeting, “Sir, tsisimis yan eh pwede ba ‘kong maexcuse na eh. Kung yan ay totoo Sir, kasuhan. Ground ‘yan for dismissal.” However, Sanchez insisted and asked him to stay in the meeting room.
Chancellor Sanchez in his counter-affidavit says he “denied having uttered during the meeting that Dr. Tanqueco is having a relation with a staff of PPMSO” and denied having said that he felt ashamed to the husband of the PPMSO staff and to Tita Helen, the wife of Dr. Ruben Tanqueco. Moreover, Chancellor Sanchez claimed that he did not commit grave oral defamation against complainant Tanqueco because the words he uttered during the meeting were done in good faith in connection with the lawful exercise of his functions as Chancellor and disciplinary authority of UPLB, and in the exigency of public service.
“Imagine you’re being maligned, di ba, in front of so many people, so ano yang prinoproject na image? I’m already working in the university for 37 long years, unblemished record, and then all of a sudden, aakusahan mo ko in front of so many people na ganito ako. Anong intention mo? So that’s precisely the reason why I filed a case against him,” says former PPMSO Director Tanqueco, who also served in the university as Vice-Chancellor for Planning and Development.
Petition for review granted
On July 16, 2016, the grave oral defamation case was initially dismissed by the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Laguna after the preliminary investigation conducted.
The investigating prosecutor ruled that the “utterances made by the respondent was not malicious.” The investigating prosecutor reasoned out grounds of privileged and private communication for the dismissal of the case. Furthermore, the statement “…was made in good and without evil motive.”
Dr. Tanqueco filed for a petition to review the Grave Oral Defamation case in the Office of the Regional Prosecutor.
On January 24, 2017, petition for review has been granted by Regional Prosecutor Ernesto C. Mendoza, which reversed the July 16, 2016 ruling.
Regional Prosecutor Mendoza found the appeal meritorious. After examining the Chancellor’s statement, “Dr. Tanqueco is having a relation with a staff,” the Regional Prosecutor believed that the statement places the person into public ridicule and contempt. “Simply put, it is as if complainant has been labeled as being immoral enough to destroy one’s virtue or reputation or to hold one up to public ridicule and contempt.”
The Office of the Regional Prosecutor countered the grounds on the dismissal of the case as privileged and private communication. In the said case, malice may not be presumed because statement is claimed to be privileged. However, the Office believes that evidence to prove malice has been evident in the Chancellor’s affidavit dated March 14, 2016.
“In my capacity as Chancellor, I had a first-hand account of complainant Tanqueco’s subordination. This happened when I requested through the Vice-Chancellor for Planning and Development, Dr. Marish Madlangbayan, for materials for the repair of my assigned unit of the UPLB housing facilities about a week before our meeting on 08 December 2015. Complainant Tanqueco denied my request for materials. When I bought the repair materials from my own funds out of exasperation and in order not to delay the repair works to be done, complainant Tanqueco prohibited the PPMSO personnel under his immediate control and supervision, to conduct repairs, to the damage and prejudice of public service,” the complaint affidavit stated.
On private communication, the Office of the Regional Prosecutor believed that the communication which took place in the December 8 meeting was not made in response to some moral, social or civic duty as the communication appears to have not been addressed to someone who has some supervision over Dr. Tanqueco. “It is not clear whether the attendees in the said meeting have some authority to inquire and investigate the alleged charges against the complainant.”
Status of the case
On February 6, 2017, Provincial Prosecutor George Dee of the Municipal Trial Court pushed through with the filing of a “grave oral defamation” case against Dr. Fernando C. Sanchez, Jr. with criminal case no. 14539.
Chancellor Sanchez posted bail at the Los Baños Municipal Trial Court last February 20, Monday, for the said case. Additionally, an administrative complaint lodged against him is under review for an alleged violation of the Omnibus Election Code.
When asked about the status of the case, Dr. Tanqueco says, “Since maraming kaso yan, ang unang kaso na ngayon ay may nakikita kaming liwanag, itong criminal case na finile namin. You are all aware na nasa MTC na, so the arraignment is set on March 8. So kung ano mang magiging susunod na kabanata, eh tignan natin. Doon naman sa administrative case sa civil service, I’m hoping, I’m looking forward na it will be, the decision will come out any day very very soon.”
Dr. Tanqueco added, “[T]he reason why we’re doing this is to prevent incoming officials to commit some kind of abuses. Dapat, kung sinong mabababa, syang dapat protektahan. Less in life, more on rights.”
As of writing time, the Chancellor has yet to comment on the issue. [P]