In another setback for the beleaguered Balita and its publisher Tess Cusipag, the Ontario Court of Appeals dismissed Cusipag’s motion to reduce the amount of damages awarded to Senator Tobias Enverga, Jr.
The ruling on April 12, 2017 came after a hearing on April 6, 2017 in which Cusipag sought to reduce the $350,000 damages awarded by Justice Sidney N. Lederman against Balita Newspaper, Balita Media Inc., Tess Cusipag, Romeo P. Marquez and Carlos Padilla.
The damage award is one of the largest in Canadian libel history.
The Appeals court stated “on the facts as found by the trial judge, deterrence could only be adequately served by a significant award of punitive damages.”
In rejecting the appeal, the Court said that the case of Senator Enverga was a “personal one” rather than “political” as argued by Cusipag.
The Court also ordered the appellants to pay $16,000 to Senator Enverga for costs, bringing the total to $366,000.
“I am grateful that this matter is now over and that justice has been served. I look forward to continuing to serve our community in the Senate of Canada,” the senator said in a statement.
Senator Enverga was represented by lawyers Howard Winkler and Eryn Pond who issued the following statement:
“It has been clear from the beginning of this proceeding that the words written by Mr. Marquez and published in Balita Newspaper by Tess Cusipag are false and defamatory of Senator Enverga, and which were published with extreme malice and that no defence to the publication ever existed. It is now time for Tess Cusipag and Balita Newspaper to stop their irresponsible and contemptuous campaign against Senator Enverga, accept responsibility for their actions and compensate Senator Enverga for the costs he has incurred in clearing his name and the damage they caused to his reputation”.
The decision of the Court of Appeal may be viewed via this link:
The media defendants were also found guilty of criminal contempt of court on March 13, 2017 for violating the permanent injunction not to continue to discredit Senator Enverga.
Sentencing is scheduled for June 2, 2017.
The case between Cusipag and Senator Enverga started on March 2014 when the senator, the first Filipino-Canadian to be appointed to the Senate, filed a Notice of Libel against defendants Balita Newspaper, Balita Media Inc., Tess Cusipag, Romeo Marquez and Carlos Padilla. Padilla died before the case was decided.
The articles complained of were written by Romeo Marquez and published in Balita, reputedly Toronto’s largest circulation Filipino newspaper. The articles accused Enverga of ‘fraudulent’conduct in not disclosing $6,000 in proceeds of the charity event by the PCCTF.
In addition, Marguez also alleged that the organization was not a registered charity under the Income Taxt Act as claimed by Enverga. The court also found that Cusipag engaged in online libel even calling the senator a ‘pathological liar”.
Justice Lederman, in a ruling in July 134, 2016 wrote:
(46) “…The defendants, and in particular Cusipag, has done virtually everything she could to destroy and discredit Senator Enverga in an unrelenting manner, both in print and online. They continue to advance the defence of justification even on this motion when they knew it was hopeless. They engaged in absolutely no investigation whatsoever as to the truth of what they were publishing. They were recklessly indifferent to the truth of the Article. They gave the plaintiff no opportunity to respond to the allegations in advance of publication and to present his side of the story. They have published innuendo with criminal implications which Cusipag herself admits in her affidavit as being “serious allegations of fraud”. The defendants consistently and constantly repeated and published the Article and the Article remains on the website of Balita today and is available on the internet. At no time has there been any retraction or apology given…”
The case polarized the large Filipino community in Toronto spawning a movement to boycott Balita advertisers in 2013.
According to the group, they remain anonymous “to shield ourselves from the deception and aggravation inflicted upon various members of the community who have spoken out against Balita.”
The boycott remains up to this writing and the site updates readers with the ongoing case against Cusipag.