Espinosa files 5 libel suits vs jueteng witness
by EA Delgado
MASBATE CITY (17 August) -— Taking what he called the “best step” in clearing his name, former presidential assistant Mario K. Espinosa on Friday filed five separate libel suits against ‘jueteng’ witness Demosthenes Abraham Riva for linking him to the gambling payoffs.
Arriving from Manila last Friday, the scion of the most powerful political clan in Masbate went straight to the Office of Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Jesus Castillo, where he lodged the complaints.
For each complaint, he asked for only P1 in moral damages — to show that he was not in dire need of money. One of the five complaints was accompanied by a photocopy of the news item on Riva’s testimony at Senate’s hearing on jueteng controversy two months ago.
In that Senate hearing, Riva claimed he was a jueteng bagman for Espinosa and that Espinosa had told him he had the blessing of First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo to operate illegal lottery in Bicol.
Each of the other four complaints was accompanied by a photocopy of the articles on Riva’s press conference that appeared in the August 9 issues of Philippine Daily Inquirer, Philippine Star, Manila Standard Today and Bulgar.
In that press conference, Riva recanted a testimony before the Senate hearing on jueteng implicating the First Family in illegal gambling payoffs but at the same time insisted he was not retracting his testimony against Espinosa.
Listed as Espinosa’s witnesses in the cases were Riva’s fellow jueteng whistle-blowers Sandra Cam and Wilfredo ‘Boy’ Mayor.
Rodel Bunabe, Espinosa’s lawyer, said Cam and mayor were ‘hostile witnesses’.
In his complaints, Espinosa said that in the Senate’s hearing and in his press conference, Riva’s accusation were ‘false and malicious’.
These, he said, were made ‘with full publicity at that — clearly showing his malevolent intention to vilify my person before the public.”
Espinosa said Philippine Daily Inquirer, Philippine Star, Manila Standard Today and Bulgar were not made parties to the cases.
Explaining the legal action, Espinosa told reporters: “I took the best step in clearing my name because I have moral ascendancy and I owe this to my family and to the political party Kampi which I was a co-founder.”
The court, he added, was the proper venue to ferret out the truth.
Espinosa filed the case a day after he filed before the Prosecutor’s Office of Pasay City a complaint for perjury against Riva.
Of Riva’s claim that he was used as a bagman, Espinosa said “there is no plausible reason” for him to do so.
“Per his admission, he was not in any way engaged in, or connected to, jueteng,” Espinosa said.
As to Riva’s claim that he used the name of the First Gentleman, Espinosa said as presidential assistant, he was already the highest national government official in the Bicol region.
Asked why he filed the case in Masbate, not in Manila or in Legazpi City where Riva is from, Espinosa said “I feel it is my obligation to clear my name in front of my family and the people of Masbate.” (PIA Masbate) [top]