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‘Bishop’ strikes back with cyber libel suit

22 March 2017

By Vir B. Lumicao

A Filipina domestic worker’s dispute with a Filipina church leader over the latter’s $40,000 debt has got complicated, with the elusive borrower filing an internet libel case in the Philippines against the lender for allegedly maligning her on Facebook.

The libel case was filed Jan 12 against Vivien A. Lantano in the Pampanga provincial prosecutor’s office in San Fernando City by Cecila Camaya, who claims to be the bishop of a Christian group called New Living Word Church International Ministries.

Camaya accused Lantano of causing a rift among her followers by posting on Facebook malicious allegations that the complainant had defrauded Lantano and many other church members by borrowing money from them and refusing to pay the debts.

Camaya acknowledged in her sworn statement that Lantano has been a “dedicated worker” of her church, offering financial help as needed.

“Every time she helped/donated financially, respondent would always testify in front of the congregation how God blessed her because of her obedience with the Lord’s instruction,” Camaya said.

The “bishop” added that after being appointed as junior minister of the church, Lantano “changed her attitude and perspective… and was overwhelmed by her title and position.”

Camaya said that the church leaders tried to confront her and point out her flawed attitude, but Lantano allegedly became stubborn and refused to heed their advice. The complainant also said that Lantano claimed a parcel of land that the church bought belonged to her.

“Since she cannot recover the money that she had donated to the church, she started a personal attack against me considering that I am the highest church leader. Respondent went on a smearing campaign in order to humiliate me,” Camaya said.

An exhibit attached to the complaint included a post on FB which read: “Bishop Cecilia Camaya, Pastora Malou dela Cruz, ang mga taong mangagamit sila yung mga taong mahilig kumabit, sumabit at dumikit dun sa taong alam nilang ito ay mapapakinabangan o magagatasan…”

Another exhibit was a post by Lantano warning that Camaya had an account on Facebook under the name of Dolores Canlas who had a church in Hong Kong whose name she was using to convince people to borrow loans and lend to the church without repaying them.

Camaya said that if indeed she had defrauded Lantano, then the OFW should have gone to her house to demand repayment, or files a lawsuit against her.

She apparently was unaware that Lantano had already filed a case against her at the Small Claims Tribunal and that the claim was set to be heard on Feb 16. The tribunal eventually decided in favor of Lantano after Camaya failed to show up.

Deputy provincial prosecutor Arsenio Bumacod has sent a subpoena to Lantano’s address in Santo Tomas, Pangasinan to personally submit her counter-affidavit and supporting documents to the prosecutor’s office on Feb 8.

As the subpoena was sent to her address in the Philippines, Lanzano said it took time for it to reach her in Hong Kong. Then, a statement she submitted to the Consulate was reportedly rejected as it was not in the right format. She managed to submit a new one for notarization only on Mar. 7.

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