LIBEL IN THE CYBERSPACE

LIBEL IN THE CYBERSPACE

December 30, 2022 @ 12:18 PM 1 month ago


LIBEL is not a constitutionally protected speech and the government has an obligation to protect private individuals from defamation.

Undeniably, libel in the cyberspace can stain a person’s image with just one click of the mouse. Scurrilous statements can spread and travel fast across the globe like bad news. (Disini, Jr. vs. Secretary of Justice, G.R. No. 203335, 716 SCRA 237 [2014]) “[W]ords once spoken can never be recalled.” (Horace’s Art of Poetry Made English, Fourth Earl of Roscommon, 1680)

Cyberlibel (or online libel) is penalized under Section 4 (c) (4) of Republic Act No. 10175 (“Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012”).

The elements of libel are: (1) imputation of a crime, vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status or circumstance; (2) publicity or publication of the charge (committed through a computer or any other similar means); (3) existence of malice; (4) direction of such imputation at a natural or juridical person; and (5) tendency to cause the dishonor, discredit or contempt of the person defamed. (Belen vs. People, 817 SCRA 370 [2017]; Disini, Jr. vs. Secretary of Justice, 716 SCRA 237 [2014]; Brillante vs. CA, October 19, 2004)

In determining whether a statement is defamatory, the words used are to be construed in their entirety and should be taken in their plain 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. (Fermin vs. People, March 28, 2008; Novio vs. Aggabao, December 11, 2003)

In defamatory imputation, malice is presumed and the test is the character of the words used. (Sandoval, Pointers in Criminal Law, 2013 Reprint, p. 190) Malice connotes ill will or spite and speaks not in response to duty but merely to injure the reputation of the person defamed, and implies an intention to do ulterior and unjustifiable harm. Malice is bad faith or bad motive. It is the essence of the crime of libel. (Borjal vs. Court of Appeals, 361 Phil. 1, 24 [1999])

In Sazon vs. Court of Appeals (March 29, 1996), the Supreme Court held that in libel cases, the question is not what the writer of an alleged libel means, but what the words used by him mean.

In the same case, the High Court further elucidated: “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.”