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Manibela Chairman Faces Libel Charges by DOJ for Defamatory Remarks Against DOTr Chief

MANILA, Philippines — Mar Valbuena, the chairman of the transport group Manibela, has made disparaging remarks against Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista, and the Department of Justice (DOJ) has advised filing libel charges against him.

In a comprehensive 17-page resolution dated February 22, 2024, Valbuena was legally charged with libel under the RPC in addition to offenses under the Cybercrime Prevention Act.

In his remarks, Valbuena primarily addressed claims that Bautista was involved in a Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) corruption scandal.

Jun Tumbado, an executive assistant of the LTFRB, initially leveled claims that prompted these remarks. She stated that regional directors were assigned P2 million monthly quotas to be given to Malacañang and two other legislators.

Later on, Tumbado withdrew his accusations, nevertheless.

Valbuena was indicted by the DOJ on charges of libel because of his claims that Bautista and Malacañang received bribe money for the public utility vehicles modernization program, which implied criminal activity.

Valbuena’s statement was shared on social media, YouTube, and television, which qualified the case for prosecution under the Cybercrime Prevention Act.

The decision also emphasized Valbuena’s other Facebook live video in which he restated the same charges, suggesting that his intention was to damage Bautista’s standing and make him an object of scorn from the public.

Using a Facebook live video in which Valbuena threatened to be ran over by jeepneys, Bautista also filed grave threat charges against Valbuena under the Revised Penal Code.

The DOJ, however, dropped the grave threat accusations against Valbuena, pointing out that his remarks were more of questions than threats.

Valbuena responded to Bautista’s lawsuit by saying that his comments were not malicious and instead qualified as “protected speech” against an official and public person.

However, the DOJ declared that the defense of privilege communication had to be established through a full trial.

“The issues on which the charges are based concern factual matters that cannot be conclusively resolved during the preliminary stage,” the agreement noted.

One of the transportation organizations opposed to the government’s public utility vehicles modernization program (PUVMP) is chaired by Valbuena.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. recently declared that there will be no further extensions for the franchise consolidation deadline, which prompted Piston, another transport group opposed to the scheme and backed by Manibela, to submit a petition for a temporary restraining order against the PUVMP.

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