FG asks SC to stop Makati RTC from hearing P12.5-M class suit filed against him by 39 mediamen

April 23, 2009 11:04 am 

MANILA, April 22 — First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo has filed a petition before the Supreme Court (SC) asking the high court to stop the Makati City Regional Trial Court (RTC) from conducting a preliminary hearing on the P12.5-million class suit filed against him by a group of mediamen.

In his petition, Atty. Arroyo said he would like the court hearing to push through, but based only on "the original complaint and not on the amended complaint."

The First Gentleman elevated the case to the SC following the denial of his motion by the Court of Appeals (CA), which ordered the Makati City RTC Branch 143 to proceed with the trial of the case based on an amended complaint.

In their original complaint, the mediamen used the word "each" — denoting that each of the complainants wanted to claim damages on an individual basis.

However, in their amended complaint, the complainants deleted the word "each" but asked for the same damages in the amount of P12.5 million.

Arroyo insisted that holding a preliminary hearing on the amended complaint is a violation of his constitutional rights in the sense that Makati City RTC Judge Zenaida Galapate-Laguilles has not yet acquired jurisdiction over the case due to the mediamen's failure to pay the appropriate docket fees.

He argued that the Rules of Court require the payment of docket fees, which are computed based on the damages sought, before a court takes jurisdiction over a case.

Arroyo noted that the 39 mediamen who filed the class suit against him should have paid docket fees beforehand of at least P9 million, considering that in the original complaint they sought damages in the amount of P487.5 million.

Arroyo had withdrawn the libel charges he filed against the mediamen after surviving a life-threatening heart operation two years ago.

However, the mediamen still decided to pursue their class suit.

The complainants said they filed the class suit "on their own behalf and acting as class suit representatives of fellow members of the Philippine press."

They demanded for "the symbolic amount" of at least P12.5 million in damages for "anxiety, loss of income and other inconveniences" caused by the libel suits filed against them by the First Gentleman. (PNA)



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