MANILA – The Court of Appeals (CA) has dismissed a suit for damages filed by a Makati police officer against broadcast firm GMA Network over a report on his arrest in an entrapment operation for extortion in 2008.

In a decision dated March 4, the appellate court's Special 13th Division denied "for lack of merit" the appeal filed by Maj. Arwen de Silva Nacional and affirmed the decision of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 91.

Also cleared of civil liability were television news anchor and "Imbestigador" host Mike Enriquez and producers Jayson Santos and Junie Castillo III.

In August 2008, drug suspects Jemma Pallo, Ruby Dancel, Lyza Alano, and Mariz Alano went to the GMA Action Center to report the alleged extortion by the group led by Nacional.

The four women said they were invited for questioning by operatives at the Madac office on suspicions that they are having a pot session at a house on A. Bonifacio, 9th Street, Pio Del Pilar in Barangay West Rembo.

They claimed that eight armed men who identified themselves as “narcotics agents”, without any search or arrest warrant, barged inside their home and arrested them for allegedly having a pot session.

They added that Nacional threatened them with subsequent charges if they will not pay the amount of PHP150,000.

As a consequence, Lyza borrowed PHP103,000 from her boyfriend. The remaining amount of PHP47,000 was to be paid on Aug. 29, 2008.

The agents warned them that failure to settle the remaining amount will result in their re-arrest and to the filing of criminal charges for drugs against them.

On Aug. 29, 2008, an entrapment authorized by the National Bureau of Investigation where Nacional was caught receiving PHP2,000 marked money from Lyza.

After the arrest of Nacional, the NBI forwarded its findings to the Makati City Prosecutor's Office.

On Sept. 1, 2008, Nacional was charged with robbery-extortion, direct assault and acts of lasciviousness.

An information for direct assault was filed with the Makati Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 64 and an information for robbery/extortion was then filed with the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 139.

On July 14, 2009, Nacional filed a complaint, claiming that he "suffered social humiliation, besmirched reputation, sleepless nights, loss of appetite, mental anxieties, wounded feelings, and moral shock" from the airing of his case in an episode of "Imbestigador".

He then sought for the damages of PHP5 million from GMA, broken down into PHP3 million in moral damages, PHP2 million in exemplary damages and PHP100,000 as attorney's fees and other costs.

The court ruled that moral damages may be recovered "only if the existence of the factual and legal bases for the claim and their causal connection to the acts complained of are satisfactorily proven".

"(S)ince the airing of the subject Imbestigador episode including the remarks made by defendant-appellee Mike Enriquez were not libelous, plaintiff-appellant is not entitled to moral damages. Exemplary damages, on the other hand, may only be awarded if plaintiff-appellant was able to establish his right to moral, temperate, liquidated or compensatory damages. Not being entitled to moral damages, neither may the plaintiff-appellant (Nacional) claim for exemplary damages." the court said. (PNA)