Libel Laws of the Philippines
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, G.R. No. 47971, 31 October 1990, 191 SCRA 61, 67] In libel cases, the question is not what the writer of an alleged libel means, but what the words used by him mean. Jurisprudence has laid down a test to determine the defamatory character of words used in the following manner, viz: “Words calculated to induce suspicion are sometimes more effective to destroy reputation than false charges directly made. Ironical and metaphorical language is a favored vehicle for slander. A charge is sufficient if the words are calculated to induce the hearers to suppose and understand that the person or persons against whom they were uttered were guilty of certain offenses, or are sufficient to impeach their honesty, virtue, or reputation, or to hold the person or persons up to public ridicule. . . . ” [Lacsa v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 161 SCRA 427 (1988) citing U.S. v. O'Connell, 37 Phil. 767 (1918)] 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 (1995)] On the other hand, 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).” In an earlier case, the high court also declared that” … defamatory matter which does not reveal the identity of the person upon whom the imputation is cast, affords no ground of action unless it be shown that the readers of the libel could have identified the personality of the individual defamed.” (Kunkle vs. Cablenews-American and Lyons 42 Phil. 760). This principle has been recognized to be of vital importance, 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). PRESUMPTION OF MALICE:
The law also presumes that malice is present in every defamatory imputation. Thus, Article 354 of the Revised Penal Code provides that: “Every defamatory imputation is presumed to be malicious, even if it be true, if no good intention and justifiable motive for making it is shown, except in the following cases: 1. A private communication made by any person to another in the performance of any legal, moral or social duty; and 2. A fair and true report, made in good faith, without any comments or...
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