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Posted (edited)

FYI

Someone posted a .pdf copy of their Denuncia against a Boquete consignment shop and it's owners on FB yesterday.

Edited by Keith Woolford
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Be careful.... we have a friend that was a victim of  this shop and we have heard of several others as well.

Go with the Zapadora for your consignment items. Honest folks!

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Yes, that was me that posted the Denuncia, .

 
As this is a matter of public record in Panama, attached is a denuncia against the owners of Casa Decor, John and Patsi Phillips. We've tried everything to resolve this matter privately for a very lengthy time. Please feel free to contact me privately if you are going through the same issue. We will add you to our list.
cherylacg@yahoo.com
 
It is our desire that other people don't go through what we have been through this last year.

denuncia-copy.pdf

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Are you familiar with Panama's slander and libel law?

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Thanks Keith!

I do not read anything in that link that refers to filing a Denuncia as being slander.  Simply a filed, legal, complaint.

Sunshine has done the community a service of posting it!

Good for them, and hope they get what is owed to them.

 

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15 minutes ago, Sunshine said:

There is no slander it is public knowledge and we were advised by our attorney to publish this in every place we could.  Truth is not slander.  

I could be wrong, but it's my understanding that truth or falsity has nothing to do with it. If a person publicly files a formal denuncia, then the matter is public knowledge and can be disseminated. The truth or falsity will be determined during the hearing on the denuncia. Absent a denuncia having been filed, the dissemination of slanderous information, whether true or not, is a crime in Panama. Again, I could be wrong in my understanding.

Keith, can you help out here? We all need a clear understanding of this law.

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1 hour ago, BlueBird said:

Are you familiar with Panama's slander and libel law?

 You are welcome to go to the Prosecuters office at any time and look through the records yourself.

They are open to anyone, they are PUBLIC FOR ALL TO SEE.  

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3 hours ago, Keith Woolford said:

FYI

Someone posted a .pdf copy of their Denuncia against a Boquete consignment shop and it's owners on FB yesterday.

Keith, can you email me please?  thank you.

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1 hour ago, Bonnie said:

I could be wrong, but it's my understanding that truth or falsity has nothing to do with it. If a person publicly files a formal denuncia, then the matter is public knowledge and can be disseminated. The truth or falsity will be determined during the hearing on the denuncia. Absent a denuncia having been filed, the dissemination of slanderous information, whether true or not, is a crime in Panama. Again, I could be wrong in my understanding.

Keith, can you help out here? We all need a clear understanding of this law.

Translation of the first part of the law, defining "injuria" and "calumnia":

Libel: it is the offense, carried out in any way, to the dignity, honour and reputation of a person.
Slander: falsely attributing a person committing a crime.

It appears to me that only calumnia contains a truth test.

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Posted (edited)

To the best of my knowledge, these laws were put in place to discourage politicians from making false or derogatory statements about their opponents, but some unscrupulous business people also threaten to use them when faced with an unhappy client with whom they've had a disagreement.

Edited by Keith Woolford
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Posted (edited)

Back in 2007-2008, a wealthy Canadian (or maybe Australian) expat named Peter Gordon was sued by HSBC bank for criticizing the bank on a public forum. I don't remember the outcome, but I recall that all his assets, held in a private foundation, were frozen while the case was pending and that the case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, which upheld the freezing of the assets. Mr. Gordon's issue, as I recall, was what he considered to be exorbitant bank fees and other instances of less than friendly customer service. This is the case that scared the beegeezus out of expats and forms the basis for the widespread fear of the injuria y  calumnia law today.

Edited by Bonnie
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5 hours ago, Bonnie said:

Back in 2007-2008, a wealthy Canadian (or maybe Australian) expat named Peter Gordon was sued by HSBC bank for criticizing the bank on a public forum. I don't remember the outcome, but I recall that all his assets, held in a private foundation, were frozen while the case was pending and that the case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, which upheld the freezing of the assets. Mr. Gordon's issue, as I recall, was what he considered to be exorbitant bank fees and other instances of less than friendly customer service. This is the case that scared the beegeezus out of expats and forms the basis for the widespread fear of the injuria y  calumnia law today.

From what I remember the case was about the guy making a lot of noise about the Bank on every expat related Yahoo group he could find. He must have made some pretty derogatory statements because they sued him for millions, and got to seize what he had, in a Foundation no less. I'm sure someone will look up the details.

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13 hours ago, Bonnie said:

Back in 2007-2008, a wealthy Canadian (or maybe Australian) expat named Peter Gordon was sued by HSBC bank for criticizing the bank on a public forum. I don't remember the outcome, but I recall that all his assets, held in a private foundation, were frozen while the case was pending and that the case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, which upheld the freezing of the assets. Mr. Gordon's issue, as I recall, was what he considered to be exorbitant bank fees and other instances of less than friendly customer service. This is the case that scared the beegeezus out of expats and forms the basis for the widespread fear of the injuria y  calumnia law today.

"Ten Years After"

The best report was on Global Voices, a collection of postings about the HSBC:

https://globalvoices.org/2007/03/15/panama-hsbc-sues-customer-for-yahoo-postings/#

There were several discussions on the old ning, of course.

jim

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Posted (edited)

The prosecutor, along with attorney Julio Espinosa Brown, both have said that once charges/denuncia have been filed, the matter then becomes "public".  At that point it can be posted on any public forum with no risk of slander. I happen to know this from another matter but it would certainly apply here as well.

 

Edited by Skateworld of Boquete
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10 hours ago, Skateworld of Boquete said:

The prosecutor, along with attorney Julio Espinosa Brown, both have said that once charges/denuncia have been filed, the matter then becomes "public".  At that point it can be posted on any public forum with no risk of slander. I happen to know this from another matter but it would certainly apply here as well.

 

Yes, it is clear that once a denuncia has been filed the issue becomes a matter of public record. What is not so clear about the law is the liability one incurs when complaining about a person or person absent a formal denuncia. As I read the law--and I'm neither a lawyer nor fluent in Spanish--one cannot impugn the honor or dignity of another under any circumstances and cannot falsely accuse another of committing a crime. It's the first part that particularly puzzles me since truth or falsity don't appear to matter in the least. I believe this was the crux of the Peter Gordon v. HSBC case: Gordon impugned the honor and integrity of the bank by repeatedly griping in public forums about poor customer service. Unfortunately, there doesn't appear to have been a judicial decision on the merits of the case, although it was decided that Gordon's assets weren't protected by a private foundation. Speculation is that, following that decision, the parties quietly settled. I haven't come across any other cases or judicial decisions clarifying the law.

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I find this entire topic quite illuminating and disconcerting at the same time.

As an "old timer" here in Boquete I remember the Peter Gordon incident very well. Thanks to Jim for posting some links to that history. I also remember my attorney back in those days telling me to be very careful about not violating the Panamanian libel and slander laws. 

This subject is very important and very relevant to me, given that I am one-half of the owners/administrators of CL. A bit of history here for those who might be interested. Most who read this post will not know any of this, but some of the older timers may.

I owned and administered the Boquete.org website, which was one of two community information channels serving the Chiriqui highlands. Boquete.org was created in 2003. The other community channel is what is known today as News.Boquete that is administered by Penny Barrett. Back in those early days that mailing list was known as Hershel's List, being named after Hershel Stolebarger, who set it up and administered it. Hershel's list had about 300 subscribers, whereas Boquete.org had about 5,000 subscribers. (As an aside News.Boquete currently has just short of 1,900 subscribers.)

I shut down Boquete.org (I seem to recall it was about late 2007 or possibly early 2008?) after being threatened with five different lawsuits by people, specifically businesses, in Boquete and in David based on claimed defamatory content that had been posted on Boquete.org by some of its members. I was the one threatened with the lawsuits because the offending libel was on Boquete.org, which I owned, and not because it was something I wrote or said. I have never forgotten two of the five interactions about the threatened lawsuits because of the knocking on my front door (both of those instances were on a Sunday) by attorneys and business owners. The emotional stress, the financial drain, the vague and much delayed rulings of the courts, etc., are just some of the reasons for me to avoid litigation.

I was told by my then several attorneys that libel and slander are extremely serious matters in Panama, and that truth is not a defense. Now I read here differently. Whether something is true or not does not justify or warrant the damage done by libel or slander to one's reputation. Hmmmm, whom to believe and trust?

As Paul Harvey used to say in his radio broadcasts: "now for the rest of the story." For me, I don't intend to test the murky waters of libel and slander litigation, but rather avoid that environment altogether if at all possible. This piece of history is a reason that CL comes down hard on its two guidelines: treat others with respect, and know and obey the law. [[To read the exact words of CL's guidelines, see http://www.chiriqui.life/topic/4-site-guidelines/.]]

Going further, especially after reading Bonnie's reply:

23 hours ago, Bonnie said:

Yes, it is clear that once a denuncia has been filed the issue becomes a matter of public record. What is not so clear about the law is the liability one incurs when complaining about a person or person absent a formal denuncia. As I read the law--and I'm neither a lawyer nor fluent in Spanish--one cannot impugn the honor or dignity of another under any circumstances and cannot falsely accuse another of committing a crime. It's the first part that particularly puzzles me since truth or falsity don't appear to matter in the least. I believe this was the crux of the Peter Gordon v. HSBC case: Gordon impugned the honor and integrity of the bank by repeatedly griping in public forums about poor customer service. Unfortunately, there doesn't appear to have been a judicial decision on the merits of the case, although it was decided that Gordon's assets weren't protected by a private foundation. Speculation is that, following that decision, the parties quietly settled. I haven't come across any other cases or judicial decisions clarifying the law.

... my experience also is that a denuncia is a public document. However, not many people go to the Personaria and review denuncias. But the main point here is that if one were to use a denuncia as a "weapon" to further libel or slander someone or a business, then my experience (and advice of my counsel) is that said person is committing a crime. The matter of truth is not resolved until a judge makes a final ruling, and said ruling is upheld (or not appealed). This then brings into question two more issues: is the ruling judge impartial, and whether the judge truly understands the entire scenario.

Note further that my counsel has said that Panama courts do not make rulings based on case law, but only based on statutory law as understood by the judge at the time of the ruling.

I will continue to watch this topic; however, I prefer not to change my modus operandi regarding protecting myself from litigation.

Everyone gets to decide for themselves. Your mileage may vary.

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Posted (edited)

Again, in another matter, my attorney told me NOT to put a specific name to a complaint in a public forum without charges or a denuncia filed.  BUT, I did have a couple come to ask about my situation as rumors do get out and BEFORE I said anything I contacted my attorney.  He told me to go ahead and tell them of my experience as it was solely the truth and our charges were going to be filed within the next couple of days.  Its a fine line...without charges or a denuncia..... WHY walk it.

Edited by Skateworld of Boquete

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I don't know how libel law in Panama is adjudicated,  but I can say that if a legal system does not hold that truth is an absolute defense to a charge of slander or libel, it is not a justice system at all.  It would be a system serving only the corrupt and powerful.

If truth is not a defense,  then anyone may successfully sue for being offended.  

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Remember that one of the people who lost thousands in the safety box caper has been threatened with a slander suit on the basis she spoke about her situation to friends before she filed a denuncia. Also, news.boquete has been threatened by the same people with a legal suit because it disseminated an email defaming this business. It remains to be seen if any of these law suits were actually filed. As of today, they haven't been served.

Scary, scary stuff.

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A "substantial amount of money" is often the factor in any court judgement.  It is the Golden Rule: those with the most gold rule.

jim

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A friend who has consignment items at Casa Decor went by to check on them yesterday. She found the place locked up tight and she is believing they have closed their doors for good. Anybody have any information on this?

If it's the case, everybody who has an item in the store will have a difficult time getting it back (or getting paid).

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