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CRIMES AGAINST HONOR

FRANCISCO vs. COURT OF APPEALS


Criticism

Whether or not the alleged defamatory remarks may be considered libelous: NO.

“Your wife would not have been operated. If I were the doctor, all that I should have done was to do a curretage (raspa)
on her.” And “The operation was unusual” are clearly not libelous per se. The remarks were but a harmless expression
of his of his opinion on what should have been done in treating her, if he were the doctor managing her. His statements
were nothing more than a comment that complainant committed a mistake in the diagnosis and management of the
patient. The remarks do not degrade the competency of the doctor. Clearly, a criticism in a physician’s wrong
management of the case, such as that of Francisco cannot be considered libelous.

SORIANO vs. INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT

Whether or not the libel case should be tried in RTC Leyte: NO.

The error of the trial court lies in its confusing the publication of a press release by Villegas in Tacloban City, Leyte with
the publication by a Metro Manila newspaper of that same press release together with various press releases or
dispatches from other parts of the country.

Multiple Publication Rule – each and every publication of the same libel constitutes a distinct offense. Everytime the
same written matter is communicated, such communication is considered a distinct and separate publication of the
libel. Each communication of a written or printed matter was a distinct and separate publication of a libel contained
therein, giving rise to a separate cause of action.

Petitioner was included as one of the accused in the libel case in his capacity as editor-publisher of the Guardian. Art.
360 of the Revised Penal Code provides that “the editor or business manager of a daily newspaper, magazine. . . Shall
be responsible for the defamations contained therein to the same extent as if he were the author thereof.

SAZON vs. COURT OF APPEALS

Several copies of a leaflet called the "PML Scoop" were received by the homeowners. The leaflet was entitled "Supalpal
si Sazon," obviously referring to the affirmative action taken by the EMO-HFC in connection with the private
respondent's election protest. At about the same time, the phrase "Sazon, nasaan ang pondo ng simbahan?" was seen
boldly written on the walls near the entrance gate of the subdivision. There was no proof, however, as to who was
responsible for these writings. Thinking that only private complainant was capable of these acts, petitioner Sazon
started writing, publishing, and circulating newsletters to his co-homeowners, culminating in the appearance in the
February 10, 1984 issue of the PML-Homemakers.

Whether or not the questioned article written by petitioner is libelous: YES.

Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code defines libel in this wise:
"ART. 353. — Definition of libel. — A libel is 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 cause the dishonor, discredit,
or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead."

For an imputation then to be libelous, the following requisites must concur: "(a) it must be defamatory; (b) it must be
malicious; (c) it must be given publicity; and (d) the victim must be identifiable."

In libel cases, the question is not what the writer of an alleged libel means, but what the words used by him mean.
Here, the defamatory character of the words used by the petitioner are shown by the very recitals thereof in the
questioned article. No evidence aliunde need be adduced to prove it. Petitioner used the following words and phrases
in describing the private complainant: "mandurugas," "mag-ingat sa panlilinlang," "matagal na tayong niloloko," "may
kasamang pagyayabang," "ang ating pobreng super kulit," "patuloy na kabulastugan," "mastermind sa paninirang puri,"
etc.

Jurisprudence has laid down a test to determine the defamatory character of words used in the following manner, viz:
“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”
This test was satisfied in the case at bench. Branding private complainant Reyes "mandurugas," et al. most certainly
exposed him to public contempt and ridicule.

The general rule laid down in Article 354 of the Revised Penal Code provides that:
"Art. 354. Requirement of publicity. — 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 . . . ." Prescinding from this provision, when the
imputation is defamatory, as in this case, the prosecution need not prove malice on the part of the defendant
(malice in fact), for the law already presumes that the defendant's imputation is malicious (malice in law). The
burden is on the side of the defendant to show good intention and justifiable motive in order to overcome the legal
inference of malice. Unfortunately, petitioner miserably failed to discharge this burden in the case before us.

BORJAL vs. COURT OF APPEALS

Between May and July 1989 a series of articles written by petitioner Borjal was published on different dates in his
column Jaywalker. The articles dealt with the alleged anomalous activities of an "organizer of a conference" without
naming or identifying private respondent. Neither did it refer to the FNCLT as the conference therein mentioned.

Private respondent Wenceslao reacted to the articles. He sent a letter to The Philippine Star insisting that he was the
"organizer" alluded to in petitioner Borjal's columns. Private Respondent filed a complaint with the National Press Club
(NPC) against petitioner Borjal for unethical conduct. He accused petitioner Borjal of using his column as a form of
leverage to obtain contracts for his public relations rm, AA Borjal Associates. Apparently not satisfied with his complaint
with the NPC, private respondent filed a criminal case for libel against petitioners Borjal and Soliven, among others.

Whether or not private respondent was sufficiently identified by petitioner in the questioned articles: NO.

In order to maintain a libel suit, it is essential that the victim be identifiable although it is not necessary that he
be named. It is also not sufficient that the offended party recognized himself as the person attacked or defamed, but it
must be shown that at least a third person could identify him as the object of the libelous publication. Regrettably,
these requisites have not been complied with in the case at bar.

The questioned articles written by Borjal do not identify private respondent Wenceslao as the organizer of the
conference. The first of the Jaywalker articles which appeared in the 31 May 1989 issue of The Philippine Star yielded
nothing to indicate that private respondent was the person referred to therein. Surely, as observed by petitioners, there
were millions of "heroes" of the EDSA Revolution and anyone of them could be "self-proclaimed" or an "organizer of
seminars and conferences."

Identification is grossly inadequate when even the alleged offended party is himself unsure that he was the object of
the verbal attack. It is well to note that the revelation of the identity of the person alluded to came not from petitioner
Borjal but from private respondent himself when he supplied the information through his 4 June 1989 letter to the editor.
Had private respondent not revealed that he was the "organizer" of the FNCLT referred to in the Borjal articles, the
public would have remained in blissful ignorance of his identity. It is therefore clear that on the element of identifiability
alone the case falls.

Indisputably, petitioner Borjal's questioned writings are not within the exceptions of Art. 354 of The Revised Penal Code
for, as correctly observed by the appellate court, they are neither private communications nor fair and true report without
any comments or remarks. However this does not necessarily mean that they are not privileged. To be sure, the
enumeration under Art. 354 is not an exclusive list of qualifiedly privileged communications since fair commentaries on
matters of public interest are likewise privileged.

Primarily, private respondent failed to substantiate by preponderant evidence that petitioner was animated by a desire
to inflict unjustifiable harm on his reputation, or that the articles were written and published without good motives or
justifiable ends. On the other hand, we find petitioner Borjal to have acted in good faith. Moved by a sense of civic duty
and prodded by his responsibility as a newspaperman, he proceeded to expose and denounce what he perceived to
be a public deception.

Furthermore, to be considered malicious, the libelous statements must be shown to have been written or published
with the knowledge that they are false or in reckless disregard of whether they are false or not. “Reckless disregard of
what is false or not” means that the defendant entertains serious doubt as to the truth of the publication, or that he
possesses a high degree of awareness of their probable falsity.
VICARIO vs. COURT OF APPEALS

Petitioner was charged with libel by Judge Proceso Sidro of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Mondragon - San Roque,
Northern Samar, as complaining witness. According to the Information, the crime was committed when Vicario allegedly
distributed and circulated in the vicinity of the Northern Samar Provincial Hospital in Catarman photocopies of page 7
of the 20 March 1992 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer which contained the article entitled “Samar judge who
pocketed bond charged with graft.”

Private complainant Sidro alleged that petitioner's act greatly prejudiced his reputation as a member of the bench and
caused him great distress. Petitioner Vicario on the other hand disclaimed responsibility for the distribution of the
alleged libelous article, at the same time asserting that the libel suit against him was ill-motivated for he had filed a
criminal charge for graft and corruption against Judge Sidro before the Ombudsman and an administrative complaint
for dishonesty with the Supreme Court, both due to the latter's unjustified refusal and failure to return petitioner's cash
bond of P1,000.00.

Whether or not the act of merely distributing a photocopy of an article in a newspaper reporting that graft
charges had been filed against a judge named therein constitutes libel: NO.

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.

As found by the trial court, there was no evidence at all to show that petitioner was the source of the statements
contained in the news item published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Indeed, for not only was the news item by itself
bereft of this information, the records also confirmed its absence. The trial court also opined that no suit arising from
the publication was filed against the newspaper because what appears settled is that the item was merely a fair and
true report, with no comments or remarks, of official or judicial proceedings which are not classified as confidential.
Again, a perusal of the subject news item confirms this fact.

Contrary to the perception of the appellate court, there was no evidence at all offered to show that petitioner himself
photocopied the article. Nor was evidence sufficiently adduced to prove that he himself distributed photocopies of the
news item to so many people, prompting the trial court to rule as hearsay the testimony on the matter by Judge Sidro
and his protégé Amador Montes. This puts to doubt whether petitioner himself gave a copy of the publication to Montes.
Notably, Montes was not even named by the judge as one of the original witnesses listed in the complaint he filed for
preliminary investigation.

A person's liability for libel need not, admittedly, stem from the fact that he was the original publisher of the discreditable
act. The maker of a libelous republication or repetition, although not liable for the results of the primary publication, is
liable for the consequence of a subsequent publication which he makes or participates in making. It is no justification
that the defamatory matter is previously published by a third person, provided malice is present.

There was nothing defamatory in the news item. This much was found by the trial court itself, noting that the published
article was merely a factual report about the filing by the Ombudsman of the charge of corruption against the judge with
the Sandiganbayan.

MVRS PUBLICATIONS vs. ISLAMIC DA’WAH COUNCIL OF THE PHILIPPINES

Respondents, the ISLAMIC DA'WAH COUNCIL OF THE PHILIPPINES, INC., a local federation of more than 70 Muslim
religious organizations and individual Muslims, filed a complaint for damages in their own behalf and as a class suit,
against MVRS Publications, Inc. (MVRS) arising from an article published in Bulgar, a daily tabloid, which allegedly
contained libelous statement that alluded to the pig as the God of the Muslims, and this was published with intent to
disparage the Muslims and Islam, as a religion in this country.

Whether or not petitioner is guilty of libel: NO.

The statements published by the petitioners did not specifically identify nor refer to any particular individual
who was purportedly the subject of the alleged libelous publication; and that absent circumstances specifically pointing
to a particular member of a class, no member of such class has a right of action without impairing the equally demanding
right of free speech and expression as well as of the press under the Bill of Rights.
Defamation – which includes libel and slander, means the offense of injuring a person’s character, fame or reputation
through false and malicious statements. It is that which tends to injure reputation or to diminish the esteem, respect,
good will or confidence in the plaintiff or to excite derogatory feelings or opinions about the plaintiff. It is the publication
of anything which is injurious to the good name or reputation of another or tends to bring him to disrepute.

Words which are merely insulting are not actionable as libel or slander per se and mere words of general abuse however
ill-natured, whether written or spoken, do not constitute a basis for an action for defamation in the absence of an
allegation for special damages. The fact that the language is offensive to the plaintiff does not make it actionable by
itself.

No fairly identifiable person who was allegedly injured by the Bulgar article. Since the persons allegedly defamed could
not be identifiable, private respondents have no individual causes of action; hence, they cannot sue for a class allegedly
disparaged.

BRILLANTE vs. COURT OF APPEALS

Brillante, then a candidate for the position of Councilor in Makati, held a press conference at the Makati Sports Club
which was attended by some 50 journalists. In the course of the press conference, Brillante accused Binay of plotting
the assassination of Syjuco. He further accused Binay of terrorism, intimidation and harassment of the Makati
electorate. Brillante also circulated among the journalists copies of an open letter to President Aquino which discussed
in detail his charges against Binay. Several journalists who attended the press conference wrote news articles about
the same. As a result of the publication of the open letter, Binay filed with the Makati Fiscal's office four complaints for
libel.

Whether or not Brillante is guilty for the crime of libel: YES.

In determining when the one-year prescriptive period should be reckoned, reference must be made to Article 91 of
the same code which sets forth the rule on the computation of prescriptive periods of offenses: Computation of
prescription of offenses. — The period of prescription shall commence to run from the day on which the crime is
discovered by the offended party, the authorities, or their agents, and shall be interrupted by the filing of the complaint
or information, and shall commence to run again when such proceedings terminate without the accused being convicted
or acquitted, or are unjustifiably stopped for any reason not imputable to him.

An allegation made by a person against another is considered defamatory if it ascribes to the latter the commission of
a crime; the possession of a vice or defect, whether real or imaginary; or any act, omission, condition, status or
circumstance which tends to dishonor or discredit or put him in contempt, or which tends to blacken the memory of one
who is dead. Brillante's statements during the January 7, 1988 press conference and in the open letter explicitly referred
to reprehensible acts allegedly committed by Binay, Prudente and their associates, such as the use of goons to threaten
Binay's opponents in the election and the plotting of Syjuco's assassination.

The element of publication was likewise established. There is publication if the defamatory material is communicated
to a third person, i.e., a person other than the person to whom the defamatory statement refers. In the cases at bar, it
was proven that Brillante uttered defamatory statements during the press conference attended by some fifty journalists
and caused the open letter to be published in several newspapers, namely, News Today, People's Journal, Balita,
Malaya and Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Whether or not the statement falls under privilege communication: NO.

In order to prove that a statement falls within the purview of a qualifiedly privileged communication under Article 354,
No. 1, the following requisites must concur: (1) the person who made the communication had a legal, moral, or social
duty to make the communication, or at least, had an interest to protect, which interest may either be his own or of the
one to whom it is made; (2) the communication is addressed to an officer or a board, or superior, having some
interest or duty in the matter, and who has the power to furnish the protection sought; and (3) the statements in
the communication are made in good faith and without malice.

It may therefore be argued that Brillante's statements, which according to him were made in order to protect himself
and Syjuco as Binay's rivals in the 1988 elections, as well as to protect the electorate from possible acts of terrorism
by Binay, Prudente and their associates and from casting their votes for undeserving candidates, satisfy the first
requisite.

It is, however, the absence of the second element of a privileged communication that unequivocally negates the
characterization of Brillante's statements as privileged communication. The law requires that for a defamatory
imputation made out of a legal, moral or social duty to be privileged, such statement must be communicated only to the
person or persons who have some interest or duty in the matter alleged, and who have the power to furnish the
protection sought by the author of the statement. In the cases at bar, although the open letter was primarily
addressed to then President Aquino, the communication thereof was not limited to her alone.

FLOR vs. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES

An information for libel was filed against the petitioner and Ramos who were then the managing editor and
correspondent of the Bicol Forum. The banner headline and front page news item read by the public throughout the
Bicol region, the title of which is: “Villafuerte’s Denial Convinces No One”

During the trial, the private complainant himself took the witness stand to refute the statements contained in the subject
news article. According to him, there were previous news reports and broadcasts regarding the cash advances allegedly
made by some provincial government officials of Camarines Sur and that it was also reported that he made a trip to
Japan which was branded as a mere "junket." The private complainant, however, explained that after he clarified over
the radio that he never went to Japan, the issue was never discussed again until the matter was included in the
questioned news item. As for the cash advances, the private complainant stated that the Provincial Auditor and the
Budget Officer had already made a statement "to the effect that he had no pending cash advances." Further, the private
complainant clarified that he made his trip to Israel in his capacity as a cabinet member of former President Corazon
C. Aquino and that he spent his own money for the said official trip thereby debunking Bicol Forum's report that his
travel to Israel was purely a junket.

Whether or not the questioned news item is libelous: NO.

The law recognizes two kinds of privileged matters. First are those which are classified as absolutely privileged
which enjoy immunity from libel suits regardless of the existence of malice in fact. Included herein are statements
made in official proceedings of the legislature by the members thereof. The other kind of privileged matters are the
qualifiedly or conditionally privileged communications which, unlike the first classification, may be susceptible
to a finding of libel provided the prosecution establishes the presence of malice in fact.

Applied to the case at bar, we hold that the prosecution failed to meet the criterion of "reckless disregard." As the
records reveal, the issue of cash advances against the coffers of the provincial government of Camarines Sur was a
major political topic in said locality at that time. Even the private respondent himself admitted during his direct testimony
that he went on radio in order to address the matter. It was clearly a legitimate topic to be discussed not only by the
members of the media but by the public as what was involved was the dispensation of taxpayers' money. A perusal of
the entire news story accompanying the headline in this case readily establishes the fact that the questioned article
dealt with refutations by the private respondent's critics of his explanation over the radio with regard to the issues
mentioned therein. The wording of the headline may have contained an exaggeration but the same nevertheless
represents a fair index of the contents of the news story accompanying it.

GUINGGUING vs. COURT OF APPEALS


Libel against a public figure

Lim caused the publication of records of criminal cases filed against complainant as well as photographs of the latter
being arrested. These were published by means of a one-page advertisement paid for by Lim in the Sunday Post, a
weekly publication edited and published by petitioner. The Sunday Post was circulated in the province of Bohol, as well
as in the Visayas and Mindanao.

Lim, in his defense, claimed that complainant was allegedly making scurrilous attacks against him and his family over
the airwaves. Since Lim had no access to radio time, he opted for paid advertisements via newspaper to answer the
attacks, as a measure of self-defense. Lim also argued that complainant, as a media man and member of the fourth
estate, occupied a position almost similar to a public functionary and should not be onion-skinned and be able to absorb
the thrust of public scrutiny.

Whether or not the publication is libelous: NO.

In order to justify a conviction for criminal libel against a public figure, it must be established beyond reasonable doubt
that the libelous statements were made or published with actual malice, meaning knowledge that the statement
was false or with reckless disregard as to whether or not it was true. As applied to the present petition, there are
two main determinants: whether complainant is a public figure, and assuming that he is, whether the publication of the
subject advertisement was made with actual malice. Sadly, the RTC and the CA failed to duly consider both proposition.
There should be little controversy in holding that complainant is a public figure. He is a broadcast journalist hosting two
radio programs aired over a large portion of the Visayas and Mindanao. Measured against the definition provided in
the case of Ayer, complainant would definitely qualify as a public figure. Complainant even asserted before the trial
court that his broadcast was listened to widely, hence, his notoriety is unquestionable.

To this end, the publication of the subject advertisement by petitioner and Lim cannot be deemed by this Court to have
been done with actual malice. Aside from the fact that the information contained in said publication was true, the
intention to let the public know the character of their radio commentator can at best be subsumed under the mantle of
having been done with good motives and for justifiable ends. The advertisement in question falls squarely within the
bounds of constitutionally protected expression under Section 4, Article III, and thus, acquittal is mandated.

MAGNO vs. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES


Publication

For around twenty (20) years, petitioner Dolores Magno (Dolores) and Cerelito T. Alejandro (Cerelito) have been
neighbors at Pucay Village, Marcos Highway, Baguio City. The land on which the Magnos' house stands abuts the
Marcos Highway. The Alejandros, however, can access the highway only by traversing the Magnos' property. Thru the
years, the Magnos had allowed the Alejandros the use of this passage way until Dolores closed the same sometime in
1991, purportedly in retaliation to certain unsavory allegations made by Cerelito against the Magnos and because of
the deteriorating relationship between the two families. Cerelito, while at the upper portion of his house, saw Dolores
write on the wall at the back of her garage the following words: "Huag Burahin Bawal Dumaan Dito ang Maniac at
Magnanakaw ng Aso katulad ni Cere Lito O. Cedring." Rodelito, Cerelito's 16-year old son, while on his way to buy
bread at a nearby store, saw Dolores writing something on her garage's extension wall with the use of a paint brush
and red paint. In full, the writing reads: "HUAG BURAHIN BAWAL DUMAAN ANG SUSPETSOSA BASTOS AT
MAKAPAL NA MUKHA DITO LALO NA SA MANIAC AT MAGNANAKAW NG ASO KATULAD NI CERELITO." After
reading what was thus written, Rodelito proceeded with his errand and, upon reaching home, related what he saw to
his father.

Whether or not petitioner is guilty of the crime of libel: YES.

Verily, the Court finds no reason to doubt the identification by Rodelito of Dolores as the person who wrote on her
garage's extension wall the libelous writing " . . . Maniac at Magnanakaw ng Aso Katulad ni Cerelito." The fact that
Rodelito, upon witnessing this particular incident, proceeded to buy bread instead of immediately informing his father
of what occurred, does not, without more, vitiate the former's credibility a bit nor diminish the probabilities of the situation
testified upon.

Publication, in the law of libel, means the making of the defamatory matter, after it has been written, known to
someone other than the person to whom it has been written. If the statement is sent straight to a person for whom
it is written there is no publication of it. The reason for this is that "a communication of the defamatory matter to the
person defamed cannot injure his reputation though it may wound his self-esteem. A man's reputation is not the good
opinion he has of himself, but the estimation in which others hold him."

The Court ruled that sending an unsealed libelous letter to the offended party constitutes publication. In the
present case, there is no dispute that the unsealed envelope containing the libelous letter was handed by Dolores to
Evelyn Arcartado. Contextually, there was a reasonable probability that the contents of the unsealed envelope,
particularly the libelous letter, could have been exposed to be read by Evelyn before delivering the same to Cerelito.
However, Evelyn categorically admitted not reading the letter at the first instance, reading it only after securing Cerelito's
permission.

Writing to a person other than the person defamed is sufficient to constitute publication, for the person to whom
the letter is addressed is a third person in relation to its writer and the person defamed therein. Fe, the wife, is, in
context, a third person to whom the publication was made. Finally, the Court cannot give credence to Dolores' allegation
that she is not the author of the unsigned libelous letter. It cannot be overstressed that she herself handed the unsigned
letter to Evelyn Arcartado with specific instructions to give the same to Fe Alejandro. Likewise, the contents of the
letters are basically reiteration/elaborations of Dolores' previous writing on the wall and her letter to the BCP Sub-
Station commander.

ALCANTARA vs. PONCE


Respondent filed a string of criminal complaints against petitioner and his family, including one for estafa. In essence,
respondent Ponce alleged that petitioner had swindled him out of 3,000,000 shares of Floro Cement Corporation. It
was in the course of the preliminary investigation of the complaint for estafa that respondent Ponce, shortly after giving
his sur-rejoinder affidavit, submitted to the investigating prosecutor a newsletter purporting to be a belated annex to the
affidavit. It was prefaced with the quotation "For every extraordinary fortune there is a great crime" The newsletter then
went on to discuss SEC Case No. 2507 which, in the sur-rejoinder affidavit, respondent Ponce described as being the
forefather of all the cases he had filed against the Alcantaras. Ponce accused the Alcantaras of defrauding him of his
shares in Iligan Cement Corporation. Petitioner filed a complaint for libel against respondent Ponce in connection with
the aforesaid newsletter.

Whether or not the controversial newsletter constituted privileged communication, which would exempt it from
libel: YES.

Since the newsletter was presented during the preliminary investigation, it was vested with a privileged character. While
Philippine law is silent on the question of whether the doctrine of absolute privilege extends to statements made in
preliminary investigations or other proceedings preparatory to the actual trial, the U.S. case of Borg v. Boas makes a
categorical declaration of the existence of such protection: It is hornbook learning that the actions and utterances in
judicial proceedings so far as the actual participants therein are concerned and preliminary steps leading to judicial
action of an official nature have been given absolute privilege. Of particular interest are proceedings leading up to
prosecutions or attempted prosecutions for crime . . . [A] written charge or information filed with the prosecutor or the
court is not libelous although proved to be false and unfounded. Furthermore, the information given to a prosecutor by
a private person for the purpose of initiating a prosecution is protected by the same cloak of immunity and cannot be
used as a basis for an action for defamation.

Here, the controversial statements were made in the context of a criminal complaint against petitioner, albeit for other,
separate acts involving greed and deceit, and were disclosed only to the official investigating the complaint. Liberally
applying the privileged communication doctrine, these statements were still relevant to the complaint under
investigation because, like the averments therein, they also involved petitioner's alleged rapacity and deceitfulness.

DIAZ vs. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES

Florinda Bagay, complaining witness, claimed that she was the “Miss S” alluded to in petitioner’s column “Pakurot”
considering that her screen name is “Patricia Santillan.”

Mila Parawan also took the witness stand and corroborated Florinda's testimony. She further testified that after Philip
and Florinda parted ways, her former press relations officer, who used the nom de plume "Isko Peta," wrote an item
entitled "Ibinulgar namin ang babaeng inanakan ni Philip Henson" which appeared in the December 2, 1991 issue of
Artista Magazine. Philip believed that Florinda released their story to the press. He then caused the publication of the
libelous article against her. Mila Parawan stated she was certain the "Miss S" referred to in the article is Florinda
because petitioner and Pichel, her good friends, told her that "Miss S" is her "alaga" (ward).
Whether or not the subject article is libelous:

Whether or not petitioner is guilty of libel: NO.

For an imputation to be libelous, the following requisites must be present: (a) it must be defamatory; (b) it must be
malicious; (c) it must be given publicity; and (d) the victim must be identifiable. Absent one of these elements, a case
for libel will not prosper.

The court finds the first element present. In determining whether a statement is defamatory, the words used are to be
construed in their entirety and should be taken in their plain, natural, and ordinary meaning as they would naturally
be understood by the persons reading them, unless it appears that they were used and understood in another sense.
In the instant case, the article in question details the sexual activities of a certain "Miss S" and one "Philip Henson" who
had a romantic liaison. In their ordinary sense, the words used cast aspersion upon the character, integrity, and
reputation of "Miss S." The words convey that "Miss S" is a sexual libertine with unusually wanton proclivities in the
bedroom. In a society such as ours, where modesty is still highly prized among young ladies, the behavior attributed to
"Miss S" by the article in question had besmirched both her character and reputation.

As to the element of malice, we find that since on its face the article is defamatory, there is a presumption that the
offender acted with malice.
On the element of publication, there can be no question that the article appeared in the December 28, 1991 issue of
Bandera, a local tabloid.

The last element of libel is that the victim is identified or identifiable from the contents of the libelous article. In order to
maintain a libel suit, it is essential that the victim be identifiable, although it is not necessary that the person be named.
It is enough if by intrinsic reference the allusion is apparent or if the publication contains matters of description or
reference to facts and circumstances from which others reading the article may know the person alluded to, or if the
latter is pointed out by extraneous circumstances so that those knowing such person could and did understand that he
was the person referred to.

The libelous article, while referring to "Miss S," does not give a sufficient description or other indications which identify
"Miss S." In short, the article fails to show that "Miss S" and Florinda Bagay are one and the same person. Although
the article is libelous, the court finds that Florinda Bagay could not have been the person defamed therein.

LOPEZ vs. PEOPLE

While exercising his official duties as Mayor of Cadiz City, private respondent saw billboards with the printed phrase
"CADIZ FOREVER" with a blank space before the word "NEVER" directly under said phrase. Those billboards were
posted on the corner of Gustilo and Villena streets, in front of Cadiz Hotel and beside the old Coca-Cola warehouse in
Cadiz City. He became intrigued and wondered on what the message conveyed since it was incomplete. Some days
later, private respondent received a phone call relating that the blank space preceding the word "NEVER" was lled up
with the added words "BADING AND SAGAY." The next day, he saw the billboards with the phrase "CADIZ FOREVER
BADING AND SAGAY NEVER" printed in full. Reacting and feeling that he was being maligned and dishonored with
the printed phrase and of being a "tuta" of Sagay, private respondent, after consultation with the City Legal Of cer,
caused the ling of a complaint for libel against petitioner.

Whether or not the words contained the billboards/signboards were libelous: NO.

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 circumstance which tends to dishonor or
discredit or put him in contempt or which tends to blacken the memory of one who is dead. To determine "whether a
statement is defamatory, the words used are to be construed in their entirety and should be taken in their plain, natural
and ordinary meaning as they would naturally be understood by persons reading them, unless it appears that they were
used and understood in another sense." Moreover, "[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 the honesty, virtue or reputation or to hold the person or persons up to public
ridicule."

Tested under these established standards, we cannot subscribe to the appellate court's nding that the phrase "CADIZ
FOREVER, BADING AND SAGAY NEVER" tends to induce suspicion on private respondent's character, integrity and
reputation as mayor of Cadiz City. There are no derogatory imputations of a crime, vice or defect or any act, omission,
condition, status or circumstance tending, directly or indirectly, to cause his dishonor. Neither does the phrase in its
entirety, employ any unpleasant language or somewhat harsh and uncalled for that would re ect on private respondent's
integrity. Obviously, the controversial word "NEVER" used by petitioner was plain and simple. In its ordinary sense, the
word did not cast aspersion upon private respondent's integrity and reputation much less convey the idea that he was
guilty of any offense. Simply worded as it was with nary a notion of corruption and dishonesty in government service, it
is our considered view to appropriately consider it as mere epithet or personal reaction on private respondent's
performance of official duty and not purposely designed to malign and besmirch his reputation and dignity more so to
deprive him of public confidence.

SLANDER

PADER vs. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES

Atty. Benjamin C. Escolango, a candidate for vice mayor of Morong, Bataan, was conversing with his political leaders
at the terrace of his house when petitioner appeared at the gate and shouted, "Putang ina mo Atty. Escolango.
Napakawalanghiya mo!" The latter was dumb founded and embarrassed. He then led a complaint against petitioner for
grave oral defamation with the Municipal Trial Court of Bagac, Bataan.

Whether or not the petitioner is guilty of slight or serious oral defamation: Slight.
The Court ruled that, considering the facts that the parties were neighbors; petitioner was drunk at the time; and
petitioner's anger was instigated by what Atty. Escolango did when petitioner's father died, the oral defamation was
slight as the same was not of an insulting nature. The expression "putang ina mo" is a common enough utterance in
the dialect that is often employed to express anger or displeasure. Obviously, the intention of petitioner was to show
his feelings of resentment and not necessarily to insult Atty. Escolango. Being a political candidate, occasional gestures
and words of disapproval or dislike of his person are not uncommon.

VILLANUEVA vs. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES

Petitioner, in a loud voice and within hearing distance of everyone present, uttered the words “Nagmamalinis ca, ena
ca man malinis, garapal ca” and "Balamu mansanas cang malutu, pero queng quilib ularan ca, tictac carinat" (You are
pretending to be clean and honest yet you are not clean and honest, you are corrupt; you are like a red apple, but inside
you are worm infested and extremely dirty) against complainant Yolanda Castro.

Complainant got the monetized leave and led it in her "in and out" files and while doing this, the paper accidentally fell
on the floor. When she was about to pick it up, the accused allegedly got a yellow pad and swung it at complainant's
face, but she was able to evade it. Accused then said: "Ibuat daka ken, inabu daka keng awang, e baling masukul
naku." (I will lift you from there and I will throw you out of the window and I don't care if I will go to jail). Then the accused
went out of the office and before leaving, he pointed a "dirty fi nger" at complainant, prompting the latter to stand and
get an empty bottle of coke to shield her face. Accused proceeded towards the office of the municipal mayor. Because
accused was still frothing invectives, complainant purportedly "rolled" the empty bottle of coke towards him. The incident
was witnessed by so many people numbering about 20 to 30 who were then at the municipal hall.

Whether or not petitioner is guilty of slight oral defamation: YES

Slander is libel committed by oral (spoken) means, instead of in writing. The term oral defamation or slander as
now understood, has been defined as the speaking of base and defamatory words which tend to prejudice
another in his reputation, office, trade, business or means of livelihood.

There is grave slander when it is of a serious and insulting nature. The gravity of the oral defamation depends not
only (1) upon the expressions used, but also (2) on the personal relations of the accused and the offended party,
and (3) the circumstances surrounding the case. Indeed, it is a doctrine of ancient respectability that defamatory words
will fall under one or the other, depending not only upon their sense, grammatical significance, and accepted ordinary
meaning judging them separately, but also upon the special circumstances of the case, antecedents or relationship
between the offended party and the offender, which might tend to prove the intention of the offender at the time.

In our previous rulings, we held that the social standing and position of the offended party are also taken into account
and thus, it was held that the slander was grave, because the offended party had held previously the Office of
Congressman, Governor, and Senator and was then a candidate for Vice-President, for which no amount of sophistry
would take the statement out of the compass of grave oral defamation. However, we have, likewise, ruled in the past
that uttering defamatory words in the heat of anger, with some provocation on the part of the offended party constitutes
only a light felony.

In the case at bar, as a public official, petitioner, who was holding the position of Councilor at that time, is hidebound to
be an exemplar to society against the use of intemperate language particularly because the offended party was a Vice-
Mayor. However, we cannot keep a blind eye to the fact that such scathing words were uttered by him in the heat of
anger triggered by the fact, as found by the Court of Appeals, that complainant refused, without valid justification to
approve the monetization of accrued leave credits of petitioner. In a manner of speaking, she sowed the wind that
reaped the storm.

Whether or not the petitioner’s act of poking a dirty finger at complainant constitutes grave slander by deed:
NO. Only slight slander by deed.

Slander by deed is a crime against honor, which is committed by performing any act, which casts dishonor,
discredit, or contempt upon another person. The elements are (1) that the offender performs any act not included
in any other crime against honor, (2) that such act is performed in the presence of other person or persons, and
(3) that such act casts dishonor, discredit or contempt upon the offended party. Whether a certain slanderous act
constitutes slander by deed of a serious nature or not, depends on the social standing of the offended party, the
circumstances under which the act was committed, the occasion, etc. It is libel committed by actions rather than words.
The most common examples are slapping someone or spitting on his/her face in front of the public market, in full view
of a crowd, thus casting dishonor, discredit, and contempt upon the person of another.

In another case, the acts of pushing and slapping a woman in order to ridicule and shame her before other people
constitute the felony of slander by deed de ned and penalized under Article 359 of the Revised Penal Code by arresto
mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period.

In the cases as above-cited, there was no provocation on the part of the complainants unlike the present case.
Moreover, the "poking of the finger" in the case at bar was, palpably, of less serious magnitude compared to the banging
of chair, the choking in Mari and the slapping of a face in Teodoro. Thus, we find that the poking of dirty finger in the
case at bar, while it smacks of slander by deed, is of a lesser magnitude than the acts committed in the foregoing cases.
Moreover, pointing a dirty nger ordinarily connotes the phrase " Fuck You," which is similar to the expression "Puta" or
"Putang Ina mo," in local parlance. Such expression was not held to be libelous.

DE LEON vs. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPNES

De Leon and his son filed a complaint for grave misconduct against SPO3 Leonardo before the People’s Law
Enforcement Board (PLEB). While waiting outside the PLEB Office, De Leon uttered these words to SPO3 Leonardo,
"Walanghiya kang mangongotong na pulis ka, ang yabang yabang mo noon. Patay ka sa akin ngayon." The words
uttered by De Leon caused SPO3 Leonardo embarrassment because there were several persons present at the PLEB
premises. He could have arrested De Leon but he did not want to make a scene. Afterwards, De Leon's wife,
Concepcion, emerged from the said office and apologized to Leonardo for her husband's actuations. SPO3 Leonardo
calmly proceeded to the Special Operations Group of the Philippine National Police (PNP) located at the Manila City
Hall to have the incident entered in its blotter. On the same day, SPO3 Leonardo led his complaint at the Of ce of the
City Prosecutor (OCP) together with Principe.

Whether or not petitioner is guilty of grave oral defamation: NO. Slight oral defamation only.

Oral Defamation or Slander is libel committed by oral (spoken) means, instead of in writing. It is de ned as "the speaking
of base and defamatory words which tend to prejudice another in his reputation, of ce, trade, business or means of
livelihood." The elements of oral defamation are: (1) there must be an imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real
or imaginary, or any act, omission, status or circumstances; (2) made orally; (3) publicly; (4) and maliciously; (5) directed
to a natural or juridical person, or one who is dead; (6) which tends to cause dishonour, discredit or contempt of the
person defamed. Oral defamation may either be simple or grave. It becomes grave when it is of a serious and insulting
nature.

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 circumstance which tends to dishonor or discredit or
put him in contempt or which tends to blacken the memory of one who is dead. To determine whether a statement is
defamatory, the words used in the statement must be construed in their entirety and should be taken in their plain,
natural and ordinary meaning as they would naturally be understood by persons reading them, unless it appears that
they were used and understood in another sense. It must be stressed that words which are merely insulting are not
actionable as libel or slander per se, and mere words of general abuse however opprobrious, ill-natured, or vexatious,
whether written or spoken, do not constitute a basis for an action for defamation in the absence of an allegation for
special damages. The fact that the language is offensive to the plaintiff does not make it actionable by itself.
In this case, the Court agrees that the words uttered by De Leon were defamatory in nature. It is, however, of the view
that, the same only constituted simple oral defamation.

Whether the offense committed is serious or slight oral defamation, depends not only upon the sense and grammatical
meaning of the utterances but also upon the special circumstances of the case, like the social standing or the advanced
age of the offended party. "The gravity depends upon: (1) the expressions used; (2) the personal relations of the
accused and the offended party; and (3) the special circumstances of the case, the antecedents or relationship between
the offended party and the offender, which may tend to prove the intention of the offender at the time. In particular, it is
a rule that uttering defamatory words in the heat of anger, with some provocation on the part of the offended party
constitutes only a light felony."

First, as to the relationship of the parties, they were obviously acquainted with each other as they were former jogging
buddies. Prior to the purported gun-pointing incident, there was no reason for De Leon to harbor ill feelings towards
SPO3 Leonardo. DHITCc Second, as to the timing of the utterance, this was made during the rst hearing on the
administrative case, shortly after the alleged gun-pointing incident. The gap between the gun-pointing incident and the
rst hearing was relatively short, a span of time within which the wounded feelings could not have been healed. The
utterance made by De Leon was but a mere product of emotional outburst, kept inside his system and unleashed during
their encounter. Third, such words taken as a whole were not uttered with evident intent to strike deep into the character
of SPO3 Leonardo as the animosity between the parties should have been considered. It was because of the purported
gun-pointing incident that De Leon hurled those words. There was no intention to ridicule or humiliate SPO3 Leonardo
because De Leon's utterance could simply be construed as his expression of dismay towards his actions as his friend
and member of the community.

Finally, the Court finds that even though SPO3 Leonardo was a police of cer by profession, his complaint against De
Leon for oral defamation must still prosper. It has been held that a public of cer should not be too onion-skinned and
should be tolerant of criticism. The doctrine, nevertheless, would only apply if the defamatory statement was uttered in
connection with the public officer's duty.

ADMINISTRATIVE CIRCULAR NO. 08-2008 Guidelines in the Observance of a Rule of Preference in the
Imposition of Penalties in Libel Cases

FERMIN vs. PEOPLE

Spouses Annabelle and Eduardo Gutierrez filed two criminal informations for libel against petitioner and Bogs Tugas.
Petitioner and Tugas printed and circulated the Gossip Tabloid with the material, “MAS MALAKING HALAGA ANG
NADISPALKO NILA SA STATES, MAY MGA NAIWAN DING ASUNTO DOON SI ANNABELLE.” when in truth and in
fact, the accused very well knew that the same are entirely false and untrue but were publicly made for no other purpose
than to expose said ANNABELLE RAMA GUTIERREZ to humiliation and disgrace, as it depicts her to be a fugitive
from justice and a swindler, thereby causing dishonor, discredit and contempt upon the person of the offended party,
to the damage and prejudice of the said ANNABELLE RAMA GUTIERREZ.

Whether or not the subject material is libelous: YES.

It is worthy to note that petitioner was not only the "publisher", as shown by the editorial box of Gossip Tabloid, but also
its "president" and "chairperson" as she herself admitted on the witness stand. She also testified that she handled the
business aspect of the publication, and assigns editors to take charge of everything. Obviously, petitioner had full
control over the publication of articles in the said tabloid. Her excuse of lack of knowledge, consent, or participation in
the release of the libelous article fails to persuade. Following our ruling in Ocampo, petitioner's criminal guilt should be
a rmed, whether or not she had actual knowledge and participation, having furnished the means of carrying on the
publication of the article purportedly prepared by the members of the Gossip Reportorial Team, who were employees
under her control and supervision.

To say that the article, in its entirety, is not libelous disturbs one's sensibilities; it would certainly prick one's conscience.
There is evident imputation of the crime of malversation (that the complainants converted for their personal use the
money paid to them by fellow Filipinos in America in their business of distributing high-end cookware); of vices or
defects for being fugitives from the law (that complainants and their family returned to the Philippines to evade
prosecution in America); and of being a wastrel (that Annabelle Rama Gutierrez lost the earnings from their business
through irresponsible gambling in casinos). The attribution was made publicly, considering that Gossip Tabloid had a
nationwide circulation. The victims were identi ed and identi able. More importantly, the article reeks of malice, as it
tends to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of the complainants.

With respect to the penalty to be imposed for this conviction, we note that on January 25, 2008, the Court issued
Administrative Circular No. 08-2008, entitled Guidelines in the Observance of a Rule of Preference in the Imposition of
Penalties in Libel Cases. The Circular expresses a preference for the imposition of a ne rather than imprisonment,
given the circumstances attendant in the cases. cited therein in which only a ne was imposed by this Court on those
convicted of libel. It also states that, if the penalty imposed is merely a ne but the convict is unable to pay the same,
the Revised Penal Code provisions on subsidiary imprisonment should apply.

However, the Circular likewise allows the court, in the exercise of sound discretion, the option to impose imprisonment
as penalty, whenever the imposition of a ne alone would depreciate the seriousness of the offense, work violence on
the social order, or otherwise be contrary to the imperatives of justice.

CYBERLIBEL

DISINI vs. SECRETARY OF JUSTICE


INCRIMINATORY MACHINATIONS

CAMPANANO vs. DATUIN

An information for violation of BP 22 was filed against respondent. After trial, respondent was convicted of Estafa. Later
claiming that the complaint of Seishin International Corporation against him was "false, unfounded and malicious" in
light of newly discovered (by respondent) evidence, respondent filed a complaint for Incriminating Against Innocent
Persons, punishable under Article 363 of the Revised Penal Code against petitioner and a certain Yasunobu Hirota.