Returning OFW convicted for cyber libel
Tahanlangit said they sought the advice of an Overseas Workers Welfare Administration representative who told them to wait. When no vehicle from the LGU came, OWWA sent them to a hotel in Tacloban to rest and wait for the vehicle in the morning
ORMOC CITY — A returning overseas Filipino worker was convicted of cyber libel for malicious posts in Facebook criticizing then Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic in a decision dated 17 March 2023.
Regional Trial Court Judge Maria Corazon S. Vergara-Naraja, presiding judge of Branch 47, sentenced returning OFW Julius Bactol Tahanlangit to an indeterminate prison term of six months up to five years and five months for bashing the former Ormoc mayor for his “sluggish response” and lack of “a genuine heart to help” after the city government failed to send a vehicle to pick him as soon as he arrived at the Tacloban airport last 25 May 2020.
In his posts, Tahanlangit said Ormoc was the only local government unit that did not send a vehicle to pick up its returning overseas workers when they arrived at the airport at around 9 to 10 p.m.
During the trial of the case, Tahanlangit said they sought the advice of an Overseas Workers Welfare Administration representative who told them to wait. When no vehicle from the LGU came, OWWA sent them to a hotel in Tacloban to rest and wait for the vehicle in the morning.
Unsure of what will happen to them amid the pandemic, Tahanlangit turned to social media to get Gomez’s attention regarding their plight. His post caught the attention of netizens who went on to give their comments.
In his replies to the comments, Tahanlangit criticized Gomez for “thinking like it was a scene of Palibhasa Lalaki where the director can cut the scene every time he messed up his acting.” Tahanlangit’s replies also questioned Gomez’s capability as a mayor.
In her decision, Naraja said that Tahanlangit’s first two posts “were made in the valid exercise” of his right to freedom of expression but succeeding replies were found sarcastic and imputed on Gomez’s worth and competence as the local chief executive.
“The Court finds that the accused was motivated by actual malice in posting the defamatory statements on Facebook because said statements were no longer relevant to his supposed purpose of seeking the help of LGU-Ormoc City. There is even no evidence showing that he exerted effort to contact said LGU to ascertain the cause of the delay,” the judge wrote in her decision.
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