Senator Angara filed libel suit against Architect Palafox

Senator Ed Angara
Senator Edgardo J. Angara has filed a libel suit against high-profile architect Felino Palafox Jr., who Angara said has been waging a "willful, wanton, reckless and malevolent campaign" to damage his reputation as a public servant.

Angara, in his suit filed on Monday (September 19) at the Pasay Regional Trial Court, also said that Palafox's habit and pattern of defaming others who does not do his bidding--and destroying the reputation of people just to serve his personal motives and agenda--should be stopped.

The case asks Palafox to pay at least P61 million in total damages, consisting of P40 million in moral damages, P15 million in exemplary damages, a minimum of P6 million in litigation expenses and the costs of suit.

The libel case attached a document purportedly sent by the Coalition Against Corruption (CAC) to President Aquino on July 7, 2011, marked "Private and Confidential."

The letter alleged that Angara pressured then Department of Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim to make Palafox Associates, the architectural firm of Palafox, a loser in the bidding for the Tourism Master Plan of the Philippines. The letter said Angara threatened Lim's confirmation as DOT secretary should Palafox win the bidding.

Based on a the purported letter, Lim "tweaked the scores" to make Palafox Associates a loser, then awarded the bidding to former DOT Secretary Narzalina Lim. The letter claimed that the two Lims were friends, and the friendship was known to local and international watchdog groups.

That letter, principally attacking Angara for allegedly getting kickbacks for contracts and from investors at the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Authority (APECO), also went on an accusation spree, accusing many mayors and other top government officials of various acts of corruption.

Angara said the letter purportedly from the Coalition came from Palafox himself and it was all "falsehoods and pure fabrications."

"The letter has the stink of Palafox's ruse all over it," said Angara.

Angara said that Palafox has been using his position as president of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) to convince the other members of the CAC--of which MAP is a member--to sign the letter that accused Angara and many others of corruption.

They have refused. Current CAC head David Balangue has asked Palafox not to involve the MAP on matters that concern him personally.

Angara said that personal motive has been driving Palafox's efforts to malign and defame him.

The APECO, which was created by a law authored by Angara and based in his home province of Aurora, earlier fired Palafox Associates as master planner.

The dismissal of Palafox Associates came after the designs it prepared were evaluated then rejected by the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), which found them unusable and flawed.

The designs, if followed, would have posed grave dangers to the operations of the seaport and the airport, said the two agencies.

Subsequently, the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) ruled that Palafox failed to deliver his contractual obligations to APECO and yet improperly collected P32 million for his sloppy services.

APECO dismissed the services of Palafox Associates after the evaluation, then asked for a refund of the fees Palafox had collected for the unusable design.

Since the dismissal of his firm from the APECO work, Palafox "takes every opportunity to defame Angara with actual malice and falsehoods," according to the case.

The case against Palafox cited cases of "similar wrongful and reckless acts of defamation" carried out by Palafox when his s architectural firm failed to win a public bidding.

After failing to win the bid for the preparation of the Subic Bay Freeport Comprehensive Master Plan Project, Palafox accused the bidding and awards committee of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) of trying to extort from Palafox Associates. The SBMA filed a libel charged against him.

Palafox earlier accused former Senator Richard Gordon of protectionism and corruption, for which he was forced to issue a public apology to Gordon.

In May 2011, the APECO asked the Board of Architecture and Board of Environmental Planning both under the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) to suspend the license of Palafox.

APECO has asked the two bodies to fast-track the hearing on the cases against Palafox.