BAGUIO CITY (Jan. 26) — A regional trial court here acquitted a local civic worker who was accused by a former highly-placed official for libel resulting from a taped interview with a local cable channel in 2004.
Septuagenarian Nelia G. Cid, charged for the crime of libel by then city Mayor Bernardo M. Vergara, was elated upon learning of the decision penned by RTC Judge Fernando Vil Pamintuan on January 25.
“Bahala na ang Diyos sa kanya,” (God will decide his fate) Cid said when media asked if she was filing counter-charges against Vergara, who charged her based on a taped interview in a local cable TV in 2004.
The court found Cid not guilty of libel when it did not find any malice in her pronouncements that the past Panagbenga was marred with corruption. The court quoted a portion of the taped interview with then Viacom’s Laurence Banaue, thus, “… itong Panagbenga, and nangyari dito doon sa mga nakaraang taon, merong tinanggap na P30 milyon, ang pumasok lang sa city, P2.3 milyon at naideposito sa pangalan ni Mayor Vergara at ni Thelma Manaois, iyan ngayon ang kinukuha at ibibigay naman daw sa amin,” which the court translated as “ … Panagbenga earned P30 million but only P2.3 million was deposited in the name of Mayor Vergara and Thelma Manaois…” Manaois is the city treasurer.
Aside from the Panagbenga funds, Cid also said that vendors in the public market went to consult her when the Uniwide contract was being entered between the super mall and the city government. She was quoted as saying that if Vergara remained in city hall, the contract could have pushed through. To these statements, Vergara felt alluded saying the statements tended to establish him as a corrupt official.
The court decision, however, found that malice as the fourth element of libel, is absent as in fact, Cid expressed her good thoughts about Vergara in court.
Pamintuan also injected humanitarian aspects in the libel case against Cid, saying that the 74 year-old businesswoman who should have enjoyed the remaining sunsets in her well-deserved retired years, instead “chose to take up the cause of the poor miners, the small farmers, the unfortunate vendors, and the ordinary men and women in the streets, markets, and farms of Baguio City.”
“Even if this Court would rule to jail Nelia Cid, this Court believes that accused Nelia Cid would continue to do her social and rehabilitation activities for all those prisoners behind bars, with her. After all, this frail woman of 74 age, knowingly or unknowingly, has already given the best years of her life for the upliftment of the poor, and good governance of Baguio City.
Among Cid’s advocacies are the anti-pay parking scheme in the city, where she sacrificed a P400,000 car to dramatize her anti-Jadewell sentiment. She also worked with other Baguio residents against the construction of the BGH Rotonda flyover project and the pedestrian overpass which should have siphoned Session Road promenaders to SM City. # Lyn V. Ramo for NORDIS