FCT execs face libel suit
TORONTO – Officials of the Filipino Centre Toronto will soon be facing libel charges from former FCT officer Dr. Francisco Portugal for alleged “false and defamatory statements” contained in an article published in Filipino community newspaper Balita last September.
Portugal said a Notice of Libel was served recently to FCT naming all 15 board members as addressees. Balita publishers Ruben and Tess Cusipag were also served the Notice of Libel.
The libel suit stemmed from a Balita article titled, “A Report to the Filipino Community by the Filipino Centre Toronto” which, according to Portugal’s lawyer Tony Wong of Toronto-based law firm Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP, will be used as evidence of malice on the part of FCT.
“What Dr. Portugal finds to be particularly troubling and disappointing is that at no time did anyone from the FCT seek comment from him with respect to the statements contained in the article complained of prior to publication,” Wong stated in the Notice of Libel, a copy of which was obtained by this reporter from a source who declined to be identified.
When earlier asked about the source of the questioned article, Tess Cusipag stated the document came from FCT president Rosalinda Javier.
Quoting excerpts from the Balita article, Wong said the statements made by FCT allegedly implied that Portugal has been engaged in a smear campaign against the FCT, misappropriated monies raised from fundraising events, is not concerned about advancing the interest of the Filipino community, and that he is “dishonest and unethical.”
“The statements…are all false and defamatory of our client. Individually, each statement cause serious harm and damage to our client’s reputation. Combined, they are devastating.”
“The statements contained in the article complained of strike at the heart of his reputation and undermine the relationship of trust, confidence and goodwill that Dr. Portugal has built with members of his community and colleagues in the medical profession,” Wong stated.
The lawyer called for a full retraction and apology from the FCT directors. The apology, he said, should state that the article “was not prepared or authorized by the FCT. Rather, it was prepared and submitted for publication by Rosalinda Cerrudo Javier.”
Portugal said the Balita publishers have already offered to issue an apology and retraction. A retraction and apology, however, will not prevent Portugal’s lawyer from pursuing the libel case against the FCT saying, “our client fully reserves the right to commence legal proceedings against (FCT) in respect to the article complained of.”
Portugal said his lawyer is now in the process of preparing a Statement of Claim, which will be filed before the courts. However, he declined to comment on the dollar amount they will claim for damages.