Libel Suits

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   In my 11-year career in the campus press, and in my three years in blogging, I’ve never been that far from libel.  Back in high school, I came close to being suspended for stopping short of calling the Principal “corrupt” in a series of ironical statements in my columns and editorials back then.  In college, not only did I face libel threats from my schoolmates and some of my teachers, but also from my own colleagues.  Not only was I wrongfully accused of slander in a wall statement, but I was also accused of outright libel in an article I wrote that was never published (never mind that they almost received a libel charge in an article they published to “replace” my “libelous” article.)

   In Original TMX, there are many entries that are, admittedly, treading the line between satire and libel.  Shari Cruz of Misteryosa.com, an avid reader of my blog (and arguably one of the best bloggers in the Philippines today), apparently got in a bit of trouble when she “put herself in my shoes” in “Manny Pacquiao’s Asshole” (dated 19 November 2006).  In PinoyBlogosphere.com, I was supposed to be the first to write about the word “Slut” scrawled on a picture of Cory Aquino in “The Daily Show,” until I pulled out the entry 15 seconds later, wrote a sort of “public apology,” and subsequently wrote “I Can’t Believe I’m Editing” (dated 05 October 2007).

   Libel is now making headlines in national broadsheets: Joey de Venecia III, Lolit Solis versus Piolo Pascual and Sam Milby, and GMA-7 versus ABS-CBN.  Malu Fernandez made headlines in her “defamatory statements” against OFW’s in her Manila Standard column (and in her blog), which subsequently forced her to publicly apologize, and otherwise destroyed her reputation.

   For all that short history lesson is worth, libel is a very dangerous thing.  Now for a law lesson: in Justice Garcia’s opinion in GMA Network, Inc. and Vidal vs. Bustos et. al (GR 146848, 17 October 2006, sourced from http://www.chanrobles.com/cralawgrno146848october172006.html), the Supreme Court of the Philippines defined “libel” as:

…the public and malicious imputation to another of a discreditable act or condition tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or juridical person (Article 353, Revised Penal Code).

   As such, the Supreme Court set four elements for libel, where the following constitute a liability for libel:

  1.  
    1. An allegation or imputation of a discreditable act or condition concerning another;
    2. Publication of the imputation;
    3. Identity of the person defamed, and;
    4. Existence of malice (Daez vs. Court of Appeals, GR 47971, 31 October 1990, 191 SCRA 61).

   I’m not a lawyer: it is not clear to me if electronic publishing falls well within libel laws.  Enlighten me.

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