Fil-Can Senator Tobias wants Balita publisher put behind bars
Senator Tobias Enverga, Jr. (Filipino Journal photo)

CHICAGO – Filipino-Canadian Senator Tobias C. Enverga Jr. has asked the Superior Court in Toronto, Canada to put Tess Cusipag, publisher-editor of fortnightly Balita (news), behind bars for her alleged failure to abide by a court order for her not to publish “prohibited statements of and concerning Senator Enverga.”

Cusipag, widow of the late pre-martial law Philippine journalist Ruben Cusipag, would know her fate on March 8, 2017 when Superior Court of Justice Judge Sidney Lederman rules on Enverga’s motion to cite her in contempt of court.

Enverga, the first Philippine-born immigrant in Canada to be appointed senator, won a libel judgment issued last July by Judge Lederman, who ordered Cusipag to pay Enverga $150,000 in general and aggravated damages, $100,000 in punitive damages and $90,000 in legal costs.

Cusipag lost in the case after two witnesses in the libel case died one after the other before they could testify in her favor.

Consolacion “Mama Ching” Quejas, former president and founding member of Kalayaan Cultural Community Center (KCCC) which is a non-for profit organization incorporated in 1997, and her successor, Carlos Padilla, KCCC president in 2002, were supposed to testify at a jury trial but both died while waiting for their turn to appear in court.

The defendants said Quejas and Padilla had claimed that Enverga had “no intention to pay the $6,000” that he allegedly collected for KCCC.

Quejas died on July 21, 2015, while Padilla died on Dec. 21, 2014.

Enverga filed the defamation suit against Balita Media Inc., Cusipag, Marquez and Padilla on April 25, 2014 based on, among “other things, a false, malicious and defamatory article that was published in the Feb. 1-15, 2014 print edition of Balita.” The article was written by Romy P. Marquez and entitled, “A biological liar?”

Enverga said the words he had complained of “as being false and defamatory include:

“In 2001, Padilla went to Peel Regional Police in Mississauga and filed a complaint alleging some “chicanery against another KCCC Director;

“In October 2013, ‘Padilla got the police officer to corroborate the fact that he had indeed reported to the Fraud Department what he believed to be a fundraising scam;’

“I recall Mr. Padilla accusing a community director of skimming fundraising money for his own purpose;

“Mama Ching (Quejas), current president of KCCC, emailed him saying Tobias Enverga had promised to deliver $6,000 in 2000 to KCCC.;

“Another controversy is the status of his Philippine Canadian Charitable Foundation (PCCF), which is questionable as he said his minions continue to assert what Canada Revenue Agency indicates, i.e. that it is not a registered charity!

“In addition to the aforesaid Article, Cusipag posted on her Facebook page a republication of an email sent from Carlos Padilla to Cusipag.”

Cusipag stated in a July 31, 2016 email message to friends that because Padilla was named in the lawsuit, Padilla suffered stroke and eventually died, adding, “So, Enverga made the move, filed a motion to pin it on Balita and Cusipag without trial.

“I thought he (Enverga) would stop right there because of Carlos death, but we were caught unprepared. We found another credible witness Willie Cantos, another former president of KCCC, but he was not allowed by the court (to testify) because the examination for discovery was over.”

In his motion, Enverga urged the court to order the defendants to comply with the following:

1. Order defendants to be “collectively” cited for contempt of court based on the order of Judge Lederman granted July 13, 2016 and be made a permanent injunction order;

2. Order media defendants to comply with the terms of the Permanent Injunction Order;

3. Balita Media must publish “an order and endorsement of the court on the within motion on the first page of Balita newspaper above fold in 11 points and bolded font in the first print edition of Balita newspaper;”

4. Balita Media must publish “within seven days of the release of the home page of the online edition in 11-point and bolded font and remain there for a period of ninety days;”

5. Order defendants to pay the Crown $25,000;

6. Tess Cusipag be personally and as an officer and director of Balita Media be imprisoned if she fails to comply the term of the order of the court; and

7. Pay costs of the motion on a substantial indemnity basis to be fixed and payable within 30 days of the date of the order.

In asking the court to cite media defendants in contempt, Enverga claimed in his motion that Balita Media defendants “flagrantly, intentionally and repeatedly breached the clear and unequivocal terms of the Permanent Injunction Order…”

Enverga also accused Cusipag of sending “prohibited statements of and concerning Senator Enverga” to media outlets and Enverga’s colleagues in the Canadian Senate — namely, Pakistan-Canadian Sen. Salma Ataullahjan, Vietnamese-Canadian Senator Thanh Hai Ngo and Speaker of the Senate of Canada (George Furey) to inform them on why defendants lost in the libel case to their fellow Senator Enverga.

Cusipag denied having sent emails to the Canadian senators, saying she will have her hacked email account investigated.

The defendants are appealing the judgment in “respect of the quantum of damages awarded only” and leave to appeal the costs judgment. The hearing is set for April 6, 2017.

Enverga, a native of Lucena City, Philippines, was appointed to the Senate by former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2012 at age 53. He can hold on to the position on good behavior until the age of 75 or until 2034. A senator, who attends 69 days of session every year, has an annual salary of $138,700.