Toronto, Ontario

“This is a victory for the community,” says Senator

Balita will appeal

By Ted Alcuitas

The long simmering dispute between Senator Tobias Enverga, Jr. and Balita’s publisher Tess Cusipag ended July 13 with a judgement against the newspaper and its publisher.

Balita is appealing the decision,according to the following Facebook message received by Philippine Canadian from Tess Cusipag of Balita Media Inc.on July 23, 2016.

“ENVERGA CASE – I lost on a technicality because the guy who wrote the story had a stroke weeks after receiving the Enverga lawsuit and eventually died and his contact, Mama Ching is also dead so Enverga made the move, filed a motion to pin it on me without a trial. I thought he would stop right there because of Carlos death, but we were caught unprepared. We found another credible witness Willie Cantos but was not allowed by the court because it passed the exam for discovery
and then Balita and me were given permanent injunction not to talk about the $6000, KCCC AND THEIR PCCF NOT BEING A CHARITABLE FOUNDATION at all.
Lawyers are working on our appeal.”

Cusipag refused to comment when contacted by the Toronto-based Philippine Reporter.

But while the case has been decided, Balita is still facing another $2.5 million libel case filed against them by KOL Foundation in 2013.

Balita was founded by the late Ruben Cusipag in the early 70s, one of three pioneering Filipino papers in Canada at the time – Atin Ito of Toronto, Silangan of Winnipeg and Filipino Forum of Montreal.Cusipag died on July 9, 2013 after a long-suffering disability from a car-pedestrian accident. His wife, Tess Cusipag, took over the running of the paper after the accident.

Balita is arguably the largest Filipino newspaper among Toronto’s 15 or so publications catering to the large Filipino community.

“ I am relieved by the court’s decision on this matter,” says the senator from Ontario, the first senator of Filipino origin appointed by the last Conservative government of Stephen Harper.

Following the decision, the senator issued a press release through its senate office.

Press Release

TORONTO– On July 13, the Honourable Sidney Lederman, Judge of the Superior Court of Justice, ruled in favour of the Honourable Tobias C. Enverga Jr., Ontario Senator, in his defamation lawsuit against Balita Media Inc. and publisher Tess Cusipag, in a damning verdict over false and defamatory remarks published about the Senator which alleged fraud related to fundraising efforts on behalf of the Kalayaan Cultural Community Centre (KCCC) in 2000.

The judge awarded Senator Enverga general and aggravated damages, in addition to punitive damages and a permanent injunction against the publisher and her company to publish/broadcast, or assist or encourage others to publish/broadcast, any statements about the issues related to the Senator’s role in KCCC fundraising, the charitable status of the Philippine Canadian Charitable Foundation (PCCF) and Senator Enverga being a biological and pathological liar.

In the judgement, Justice Lederman wrote in part: “In the end, the defendants have no reliable evidence to prove the truth of the $6,000 fraud allegation or the PCCF donation/tax credit allegation.  In fact, Cusipag admitted on discovery that it is not true that Senator Enverga committed a fraud in relation to fund raising activities and that the PCCF allegations are false.”

“An award of punitive damages is necessary in this case…The defendants, and in particular Cusipag, has done virtually everything she could to destroy and discredit Senator Enverga in an unrelenting manner … They engaged in absolutely no investigation whatsoever as to the truth of what they were publishing. They were recklessly indifferent to the truth of the Article… At no time has there been any retraction or apology given.

Cusipag vows to continue to make defamatory statements against the plaintiff [Senator Enverga] and has shown no interest in stopping her efforts or refraining from misconduct. In 2010, after Senator Enverga was elected as a Catholic school board trustee, he arrived late to a press event held by Cusipag [Senator Enverga went to a wake for a good friend]. She published a warning to Senator Enverga.  “First off is to respect the press who can wield its power to make or break you.”

In the article and on her Facebook page, she is fulfilling the threat that she made against the plaintiff in 2010 that she would destroy him,” the judge continued.

The judgement is clear on the motivation of the Balita publisher, stating that: “Cusipag was motivated by malice.  She obviously holds a deep seated resentment towards Senator Enverga.  She used his comments to the Philippine press as a springboard to vent her unfounded allegations in the published Article and her Facebook to intentionally besmirch Senator Enverga’s reputation in the Filipino-Canadian community.”

After receiving the decision, Senator Enverga’s counsel, Howard W. Winkler, told the Senator: “The decision is a complete vindication of your reputation.  The decision is a complete indictment of Ms. Cusipag.”

“I am relieved by the court’s decision on this matter,” said Senator Enverga in a statement.   This is a victory for the community,” Senator Enverga ended.


Tess Cusipag, publisher of Balita. (Philippine Reporter photo)

Tess Cusipag, publisher of Balita. (Philippine Reporter photo)

For a background of the controversy, read blogger Joe Rivera’s ‘AnUncomplicated Mind’ of February 7, 2013.