Archbishop Cruz pleads not guilty to libel charges

Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan Oscar Cruz pleaded not guilty to libel charges during arraignment before the Manila Regional Trial Court yesterday.

Judge Antonio Rosales ordered the arrest of Cruz on May 12 but later granted the motion to post bail filed by former solicitor general Estelito Mendoza, counsel of Cruz.

However, the former Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines president believes the case against him will be dismissed.

“I don’t intend to insult, embarrass or malign the Pagcor female employees, after all I did not name them,” he said. “It was Pagcor who named them.”

The 73-year-old Cruz said the case against him was first dismissed by the Manila Prosecutor’s Office.

However, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) employees appealed to the Department of Justice, which reversed the Manila Prosecutor’s decision and filed the libel case in court, he added.

Twenty marketing assistants of Pagcor filed the criminal case against Cruz in 2004.

It arose from a news article published in several newspapers in which Pagcor was reported to have used women employees to act as “guest relations officers (GROs)” during the birthday party of First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo.

The complaining Pagcor employees did not attend the arraignment of Cruz.

They are: Sharleen Vincent Tecson, Elizabeth Berme, Daylin Cabinian, Cheryll Ann Ilano, Mylynn Manabat, Rizza Panganiban, Michelle Masbate, Ma. Bianca Gonzales, Kristine Joy Morales, Joy Anne Castillo, Agnes de Guzman, Anna Mirabilia Rosales, Lorica Canto, Ritzel Alday, Maylene Mandariaga, Leah Salvador, Cecilia Bermas, Ma. Consuelo Violeta, Mielyn Medalla, and Ma. Daisy Rivera.

The court set the preliminary conference at 1:30 p.m. on Aug. 26, and the pre-trial at 8:30 a.m. on Sept. 16.

Last May 14, Cruz posted P10,000 bail for his temporary liberty. – Sandy Araneta, Evelyn Macairan(PStar)

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