Question: Are you liable for spreading gossip about the drinking habits or prior conviction of a private person for no good reason?
Answer: Yes. The laws on libel can hold you accountable.
Under Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines, libel is defined as a public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status or circumstance tending to discredit or cause the dishonor or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead. Thus, the elements of libel are: (a) imputation of a discreditable act or condition to another; (b) publication of the imputation; (c) identity of the person defamed; and, (d) existence of malice. Daez v. Court of Appeals, 31 October 1990, 191 SCRA 61, 67
Question: What are the means by which libel is committed?
Libel is committed by means of writing, printing, lithography, engraving, radio, phonograph, painting, theatrical exhibition, cinematographic exhibition, or any similar means. (Art. 355, RPC).
Question: What is slander?
Answer: Oral defamation is called slander. (Art. 358, RPC).
An allegation is considered defamatory if it ascribes to a person the commission of a crime, the possession of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status or circumstances which tends to dishonor or discredit or put him in contempt, or which tends to blacken the memory of one who is dead.
There is publication if the material is communicated to a third person. It is not required that the person defamed has read or heard about the libelous remark. What is material is that a third person has read or heard the libelous statement, for “a man’s reputation is the estimate in which others hold him in, not the good opinion which he has of himself.” Alonzo v. Court of Appeals, 241 SCRA 51.
Question: Who are the persons liable for the crime of libel?
Any person who shall publish, exhibit, or cause the publication or exhibition of any defamation in writing or by similar means, shall be responsible for the same.
The author or editor of a book or pamphlet, or the editor or business manager of a daily newspaper, magazine or serial publication, shall be responsible for the defamations contained therein to the same extent as if he were the author thereof. (Art. 360, RPC).
Proprietors and editors of periodicals are responsible for the appearance of defamatory matter contained therein, as likewise are all persons who actually participate in the publication of such matter. It is not necessary that the libelous matter should have been seen or read by another. It is sufficient that the accused knowingly parted with the immediate custody thereof under circumstances which exposed it to be read or seen by a person other than himself.
Question: What if the persons being defamed are vague?
Answer: No crime. The victims of libel must be sufficiently identified.
To satisfy the element of identifiability, it must be shown that at least a third person or a stranger was able to identify him as the object of the defamatory statement. In the case of Corpus vs. Cuaderno, Sr. (16 SCRA 807) the Supreme Court ruled that “in order to maintain a libel suit, it is essential that the victim be identifiable (People vs. Monton, L-16772, November 30, 1962), although it is not necessary that he be named(19 A.L.R. 116).
US jurisprudence emphasized the f vital importance of this element, especially where a group or class of persons, as in the case at bar, claim to have been defamed, for it is evident that the larger the collectivity, the more difficult it is for the individual member to prove that the defamatory remarks apply to him. (Cf. 70 ALR 2d. 1384).
Question: What are the penalties for libel?
a. For committed libel: Prision correctional (6 years) in its minimum and medium periods or a fine ranging from 200 to 600 pesos, or both. This is in addition to the civil action which may be brought by the offended party. (Art. 355, RPC)
b. For threatened libel (blackmail): Arresto mayor or a fine of from 200 to 2,000 pesos or both. (Art. 356, RPC)
Question: How does the New Cybercrime Law affect those who post libelous statements online:
Answer: Social media armchair posters will now have to be careful with what they post online. You can go to jail for 12 years for online libel.
The Supreme Court (SC) upheld the constitutionality of a key provision in the controversial Republic Act No. 10175 or Cybercrime Prevention Act that criminalizes online libel.
Justices of the high court voted in session to declare constitutional Section 4 (c) (4) of the law, which penalizes acts of libel as defined in Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) committed through a computer system.
The SC ruled that imposition of cyber libel on the “original author of the post” is constitutional, but clarified the same is unconstitutional insofar as it penalizes those who simply receive the post and react to it.
This means only the source of a malicious e-mail, post on social media like Facebook or any website, tweet on Twitter can be held liable under RA 10175.
It was not, however, clarified whether forwarding, commenting, sharing or retweeting the item could be considered a crime under the law.
Two Libel Cases (Refer to Lawphil.net and BatasNatin.com which is the source of the full document)
CHRISTINA FERMIN,vs. People of the Philippines, respondents
28 March 2008
Whether or not Cristy Fermin had actual knowledge and participation is guilty of libel?
Facts of the Case:
- Cristy Fermin is the publisher and Bogs Tugas is the editor-in-chief of Gossip Tabloid
- The June 14, 1995 headline and lead story of the tabloid says that it is improbable for Annabelle Rama to go to the US should it be true that she is evading her conviction in an estafa case here in the Philippines for she and husband Eddie have more problems/cases to confront there. This was said to be due to their, especially Annabelle’s, using fellow Filipinos’ money, failure to remit proceeds to the manufacturing company of the cookware they were selling and not being on good terms with the latter.
- Annabelle Rama and Eddie Gutierrez filed libel cases against Fermin and Tugas before RTC of QC, Br. 218.
- RTC: Fermin and Tugas found guilty of libel.
- CA: Tugas was acquitted on account of non-participation but Fermin’s conviction was affirmed.
- Fermin’s motion for reconsideration was denied. She argues that she had no knowledge and participation in the publication of the article, that the article is not libelous and is covered by the freedom of the press.
Ruling of the Case:
- Proof of knowledge of and participation in the publication is not required, since Fermin has been specifically identified as “author, editor, or proprietor” or “printer/publisher” of the publication but also the “president” and “chairperson.” Thus, petitioner’s criminal guilt should be affirmed,
- The elements of libel were present. Evident imputation of the crime of malversation
- (converting money for personal use), of vices or defects for being fugitives from the law (evading prosecution in America) and of being a wastrel
- Attribution made publicly.
Gossip Tabloid had a nationwide circulation.
- The victims were identified and identifiable.
- The article reeks of malice, as it tends to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of the complainants.
- Malice in law – the article was malicious in itself; the imputations were false.
- Malice in fact – there was motive to talk ill against complainants during the electoral campaign as Fermin is a close friend of Eddie’s opponent in the Congressional race
- While complainants are considered public figures for being personalities in the entertainment business, journalists do not have the unbridled license to malign their honor and dignity by indiscriminately airing fabricated and malicious comments, whether in broadcast media or in print, about their personal lives.
NORBERTO QUISUMBING vs EUGENIO LOPEZ, ET AL.,
Whether or not The Manila Chronicle’s published article with a malicious headline is liable of libel?
- The respondents Eugenio Lopez, Ernesto del Rosario and Roberto Villanueva are the publisher, editor-in-chief, and general manager respectively of The Manila Chronicle, a daily newspaper published and circulated in English in the City of Manila. On July 15, 1949, the petitioner, Norberto Quisumbing, filed a complaint against said respondents in the Court of First Instance of Manila for the recovery of damages in the sum of P50,000 as a result of the following alleged libelous publication in The Manila Chronicle of November 7, 1947.
“NBI MEN RAID OFFICES OF 3 CITY USURERS”
- After answer and trial the Court of First Instance of Manila rendered a judgment dismissing the complaint from which the petitioner appealed to the Court of Appeals. The latter Court, in its decision promulgated on January 19, 1953, affirmed the judgment of the court of origin; and the case is now before us on petition for review on certiorari filed by the petitioner.
- The Court of Appeals found “that the context of the article in question, is a fair, impartial and true report of official or public proceeding authorized by law. The news item was the result of a press release in connection with an official investigation of the Anti-Usury Division, N.B.I., and was a substantial, if not a faithful reproduction of the said press release which was, in turn, an accurate report of the official proceedings taken by the Anti-Usury Division. The article merely reported a raid on the ‘business offices of three alleged money lenders’; and related the steps actually taken or to be taken by the proper officials relative to the investigation. It did not go beyond the actual report of official actuations.
RULING OF THE CASE:
- The elements of libel are NOT present.
- Headlines which are voluntarily defamatory statements of the publisher are not privileged even though they head a privileged report of a judicial or other public proceedings. It is not necessary to reiterate the rule that the headline of an article might be libelous while the body of the article is privileged. The whole libel might be included in the headlines.
A publication claimed to be defamatory must be read and construed in the sense in which the readers to whom it is addressed would ordinarily understand it. So, the whole item, including display lines, should be read and construed together, and its meaning and signification thus determined.
- The headline of an article or paragraph, being so conspicuous as to attract the attention of persons who look casually over a paper without carefully reading all its contents, may in itself inflict very serious injury upon a person, both because it may be the only part of the article which is read, and because it may cast a graver imputation than all the other words following it. There is no doubt that in publications concerning private persons, as well as in all other publications which are claimed to be libelous, the headlines directing the attention to the publication may be considered as a part of it and may even justify a court in regarding the publication as libelous when the body of the article is not necessarily so.