CA junks columnist’s petition vs. Enrile’s P31-M damage suit

MANILA, March 14 (PNA) — The Court of Appeals (CA) has denied the petition filed by veteran advertising executive and Philippine Star columnist Yolanda Villanueva-Ong against the decision of the Pasay City Regional Trial Court (RTC) on the P31-million damage suit filed against her by Senator Juan Ponce Enrile.

In a 12-page ruling written by Associate Justice Celia Librea-Leagogo, the CA’s 14th Division dismissed the petition for certiorari filed by Ong.

Concurring in the ruling were Associate Justices Franchito Diamante and Zenaida Galapate-Laguiles.

Ong sought to set aside the orders of Pasay City RTC Branch 118 Acting Presiding Judge Rowena Nieves A. Tan in the case filed by Enrile against her, which required the petitioner to pay the appropriate docket fees for her counterclaims, within 15 days from notice, otherwise, the same would be dismissed; set the case for preliminary conference and denied her request for issuance of subpoena ad testificandum; and denied petitioner’s motion for reconsideration, respectively.

Enrile charged Ong before the Pasay City RTC for an alleged libelous article entitled “Like father, like son” on Oct. 16, 2012, claiming that it caused him mental anguish, moral shock and social humiliation, among others.

In the column, Ong characterized Enrile, among others, as liar, fraud and manipulator after he allegedly revised history to support the candidacy of his son, Juan Ponce Enrile Jr., popularly known as Jack Enrile.

The younger Enrile did not make it to the Senate during the May 13, 2013 elections.

The alleged rampant car smuggling in Port Irene in Cagayan province as another misdeed associated with the father-and-son tandem was also exposed by Ong in her column.

This prompted Enrile to charge her before the RTC, which ignited a legal tussle after Ong filed counterclaims for a total of P88 million in damages and P1 million in attorney’s fees, respectively.

Ong claimed that Enrile can afford to pay P88 million as he has a net worth of P117.7 million based on his latest Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN).

Her pleas were both denied by the RTC and instead obliged her to pay appropriate docket fees in her counterclaims.

This prompted Ong to elevate the case to the CA.

Among others, Ong argued that the Pasay City RTC gravely abused its discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in holding that the counterclaims she alleged are not compulsory but permissive in nature.

In the ruling, the CA found no necessity to pass upon the other matters raised in the petition.

“In any event, even assuming arguendo that the counterclaims of the petitioner are compulsory in nature, she is still required to pay the prescribed legal fees,” the CA ruling said.

“Under Section 7, Rule 141 of the Rules of Court…she must pay the appropriate docket fees to the Clerk of the RTC of Pasay City, as said fees are required to be paid for her alleged compulsory counterclaims,” the ruling added. (PNA)