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Sarah Lahbati Adds P10Mn Libel Case To Lawsuits Against GMA Films President Annette Gozon-Abrogar

Sarah Lahbati on Tuesday added a new case to her growing number of lawsuits against Atty. Annette Gozon-Abrogar with the filing of a P10-million libel lawsuit against the GMA executive.

The 19-year-old actress filed the lawsuit against Gozon-Abrogar, GMA Films president, and Philippine Daily Inquirer writer Marinel Cruz at the Makati Regional Trial Court.

The lawsuit alleges “tremendous damage” done to her by an article published in the said daily newspaper titled “GMA exec wants to teach Sarah Lahbati a lesson”.

Lahbati said in her complaint that the interview with Abrogar happened during the launch of the digital arm for GMA Network’s stable of talents and therefore “had nothing to do” with the actress.

According to Lahbati, Abrogar and Cruz “maliciously associated me therein... making it appear that I am the example of an 'irresponsible internet user' that is why a libel case was filed against me.”

The complaint further reads, “mention of my name in said launch, depicting that I am the sample of the evil they want to avoid as I don't think before I click and therefore an epitome of an irresponsible internet user is extremely libelous, offensive and felonious because the same is derogatory to my name, character and reputation,” according to ABS-CBN News.

The “irresponsible Internet user” comment refers to a libel case filed earlier this year by Abrogar against the actress after she published a series of tweets on social network Twitter alleging Abrogar participated in “under-the-table” deals concerning talents of GMA.

Lahbati earlier on Monday filed two cases against Abrogar.

One case, which was filed at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court, was for alleged grave coercion and named Abrogar along with ICONS talent management executives Albert Muñoz and Andre Dee; former GMA talent development and management head Arsenio Baltazar III; and the former handler of the actress Michael Uycoco. The case will be handled by Assistant City Prosecutor Romancio Ocampo and Lahbati is represented by Atty. Marie Glen Abraham.

The case is in connection to the tweets which Abrogar cited in her libel case against Lahbati. Before flying to Switzerland earlier this year, Lahbati posted on Twitter that she was pressured to sign a co-management contract with ICONS, a deal she alleged was an “under-the-table” deal between GMA Artist Center and the talent marketing firm. GMA Artist Center has previously said that Lahbati is in breach of contract with the entity as she is a contract artist with a deal until January 2015.

Abrogar filed the libel lawsuit against Lahbati on January 10 and Lahbati left for Switzerland three days after. Her departure led people to speculate she may be running from the cases or may be going to another country to give birth to an alleged child of the actress and boyfriend Richard Gutierrez.

Lahbati had an outstanding arrest warrant issued on May 20 but the actress has already posted bail. Meanwhile, Lahbati’s lawyer said on Monday that the actress had consulted with lawyers about her options in the issue even before leaving for another country.

Lahbati also filed a perjury case against Abrogar on Monday afternoon at the Makati Regional Trial Court. A perjury lawsuit alleges an accused to have made, under oath, a willful and deliberate assertion of a false statement in a sworn statement or affidavit made for a legal purpose and filed before a competent officer authorized to receive and administer oath.

According to Lahbati, Abrogar claimed in a sworn statement that she and her mother were the ones who inquired about ICONS when they only inquired about a branding plan and that ICONS was introduced to them by Abrogar.

The lawsuit also claimed that Abrogar cited a certain “Chavez vs. Court of Appeals (G.R. No. 168338, February 18, 2008)” in her complaint when “there is NO such jurisprudence entitled Chavez vs. Court of Appeals tackling the issue of internet libel” and that the statement quoted in the affidavit by Abrogar “is not in Chavez vs. Court of Appeals but in the case of ‘Francisco Chavez vs. Raul M. Gonzales in his capacity as the Secretary of the Department of Justice and National Telecommunications Commission, NTC’, G.R. 168338 decided by the Honorable Supreme Court NOT on February 18, 2008 but on February 15, 2008.”

Furthermore, the perjury complaint by Lahbati said that “As a matter of fact, in said case, contrary to what the Respondent advocated in her Complaint-Affidavit, the Honorable Supreme Court ruled in favor of freedom of the press, expression and speech.”

The complaint cites the foregoing to “humbly but vehemently submit that Respondent is liable for perjury under Article 183 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines…”

In a terse reaction, Abrogar said on Monday, “I haven‘t received anything from her lawyers but if it‘s true, then I welcome it since she‘s now fighting in the proper venue. Now the public will know what the truth is,” the Philippine Entertainment Portal reported.

Meanwhile, TV5’s Interaksyon says that relatives of Lahbati showed up during her filing of the libel case in Makati to show their support for the actress. The actress welcomed the support and said that the occasion is the only opportunity to see her cousins and a sibling who lives in Dubai before she herself flies to Geneva, Switzerland on Sunday where her parents live.

The actress also said that her relatives are concerned about her. “Nag-worry siyempre [sila] dahil bunso ako, so they’re here to show support. Hindi naman ako sanay sa ganito. First time sa ‘kin to,” she said.

She also expressed her gratitude saying, “Nagpapasalamat po ako sa kanila dahil naniniwala pa rin po sila sa ‘kin kahit na sinasabi nila I’m only nineteen at ito na napagdadaanan ko,” InterAksyon reported.

Meanwhile, Lahbati’s lawyer said that the actress has been advised to be careful about her use of social media and the comments she gives in public.

As for Gutierrez, her boyfriend, Lahbati said that he has always been there for her. “Basta hindi niya ako iniiwan sa mga ganitong bagay… Lagi siyang nandiyan,” Lahbati said.

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Sarah Lahbati Adds P10Mn Libel Case To Lawsuits Against GMA Films President Annette Gozon-Abrogar

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