The city’s Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 3 dismissed the 14 unjust vexation charges that were filed against lawyer Francis Ray Camtugan II for lack of probable cause to pursue the said cases.
In a 4-page order dated August 1, 2023, Judge Emmanuel Cacho Rasing stated that the paramount question in the prosecution for unjust vexation is whether the offender’s act causes annoyance, irritation, torment, distress, or disturbance to the mind of the person to whom it is directed.
The court added that going over the records of the cases, it readily understands that having one’s name and monetary investments posted on social media, without permission, may indeed cause annoyance to the persons concerned.
“But to the court, irritation does not suffice. Unjust vexation is a felony committed by dolo. Thus, malice is an inherent element of the crime. This is where these cases shall fall. There is no evidence on record, and the resolution accompanying the information neither discussed nor pointed to any evidence, showing that accused committed the act complained of with malice,” Judge Rasing stressed.
The decision explained that with the presumption of good faith in every man’s actions, added to the presumption of innocence of the accused in all criminal prosecutions, malice could not be presumed from the mere fact that the accused, if at all, made the post complained of and that there should be evidence from which a reasonable finding of malice could be made to support the finding of probable cause.
Further, the court claimed that the resolution itself dismissed the charge for cyber libel because the imputations complained of do not in any way refer to the investors of Casa Infini, who are the complainants in the said cases, thus, even if malice is to be baselessly presumed from the mere posting complained of, there could be no finding that the same was directed against the complaining parties.
Camtugan allegedly caused annoyance to the complainants when he posted in his Facebook account their names and the amounts they have respectively invested in a company which he described in the same post as a scam corporation, thus, he was charged in the 14 cases with unjust vexation under Article 287 of the Revised Penal code, in relation to Republic Act (RA) 10175 or the Anti-Cyber Law.
However, Camtugan moved to dismiss the aforesaid charges as the information filed failed to show the court’s territorial jurisdiction as what were earlier alleged were the addresses of the complainants, which happened to be in Baguio city, instead of the place where the vexations complained of took place.
But the court did not agree to such contention since the information clearly stated that on or about the 23rd day of November 2022, in the city of Baguio and within the jurisdiction of the court, the accused committed the offenses complained of.
Nevertheless, the court emphasized that its first duty when it receives an information, aside from determining if it has jurisdiction over the offense charged, is to see for itself, by personally evaluating the resolution of the prosecutor and its supporting evidence, if probable cause exists for the issuance of a warrant of arrest or otherwise hold the accused for trial.
According to the order, the case may be dismissed if the evidence on record clearly fails to establish probable cause.
The decision stipulated that save for the names and addresses of the complainants, the similarly worded information alleged that the accused without any justifiable cause whatsoever, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously vex, annoy, and irritate the complainants through and with the use of information and communication technologies, by posting in his Facebook account gronn drage, their names and the corresponding amount of their investments with Casa Infini Builders and Realty Co. Ltd., which he called a scam corporation, to the annoyance, disgust and damage of the complainants.
While not quoted in any of the information, the court said that the Facebook post complained of, as can be gathered from the evidence, reads “partial listahan ng mga investors ng Casa Infini scam corporations. Hindi po registered investment corporation or real estate investment trust (RIT). Ang Casa infini P300 million po ang minimum paid up capital ng investment corporation at real estate investment trust, P1,100,000.00 ang capital shares ng Casa Infini n-scam po ang mga investors”.
The said post was followed by a listing of the names of the private complainants, among many others, as well as the amount of their purported investments, which allegedly caused them annoyance, disgust and damages.