May 24, 2018
The libel lawsuit brought by Oswald Magno against Balita, Balita Editor Tess Cusipag and Romeo Marquez has been resolved in Magno’s favor, bringing an end to a legal action marked by numerous delays.
Justice Jane Ferguson of the Ontario Superior Court, in her decision dated May 23, 2018, found that the defendants have defamed Magno and awarded general, aggravated and punitive damages totaling $410,000, excluding legal costs.
The case did not go to trial; instead Magno moved for summary judgment, which the Court granted.
The judge described the words complained of by Magno, which were contained in 35 articles mostly written by Marquez and published by Balita over 14 months, as personal attacks driven by malice. The attacks were carried both in print and in cyberspace.
Magno’s lawyer, David A. Potts, who is an author of several books on defamation, stated in an email that the damage award demonstrates the baselessness of the charges against Magno.
“I am completely vindicated by this decision,” Magno writes in an email to this reporter. “It has taken almost 4 ½ years; nevertheless, justice has been served,” he added.
Magno was one of the signatories to a petition advocating ethical and socially responsible journalism. Olivia Camacho, also a signatory to the petition, considers the result as a victory not only for Magno but for the community as well.
Magno’s lawsuit is one of at least four libel actions instituted against Balita Media Inc., its Editor Cusipag and its reporter Marquez and is only the second to be adjudicated to-date.
The first, instituted by the late Senator Tobias Enverga Jr. in 2013, was decided in July 2016. In that case, the media defendants were ordered to pay $250,000 in damages plus $90,000 in legal costs. Additional proceedings in the case resulted in aggregate damages, fines and indemnity for legal costs of over $410,000 and also in Cusipag receiving a 21-day jail sentence for criminal contempt.
The damage awards in the Magno and Enverga cases are considered two of the largest ever awarded in defamation cases within an ethnic community, which may provide a benchmark for similar cases in the future.
Reporting by Jose Victor (“Jayvee”) Salamena