Online libel

Fight Online Libel

Respicio & Co. represents clients who are victims of online defamation. (We also take the defence of the accused or respondent in online defamation cases.)

Internet postings are subject to Philippine jurisdiction. Under Section 21 of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 (Republic Act No. 10175), jurisdiction shall lie if any of the elements of the libel was committed within the Philippines. One of the elements of libel is publication of the charge. If the posts are published and accessible in the country, Philippines has jurisdiction.

Philippine laws punish libel:

Art. 353. Definition of libel. — A libel is 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.

x x x x

Art. 355. Libel means by writings or similar means. — A libel committed by means of writing, printing, lithography, engraving, radio, phonograph, painting, theatrical exhibition, cinematographic exhibition, or any similar means, shall be punished...

(Revised Penal Code of the Philippines [Act No. 3815 {1930}])

Sec. 4. Cybercrime Offenses. — The following acts constitute the offense of cybercrime punishable under this Act:

x x x x

(c) Content-related Offenses:

x x x x

(4) Libel. — The unlawful or prohibited acts of libel as defined in Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, committed through a computer system or any other similar means which may be devised in the future.

(Cybercrime Prevention Act)

Jurisprudence simplified the elements of libel: 

  1. Allegation of a discreditable act or condition concerning another;

  2. Publication of the charge;

  3. Identity of the person defamed; and

  4. Existence of malice. (Vasquez v. Court of Appeals, 373 Phil. 238 [1999])

There is publication if the material is communicated to a third person (M.H. Newell, The Law on Slander and Libel in Civil And Criminal Cases 175 [1924]). What is material is that a third person has read or heard the libellous statement (Alonzo v. Court of Appeals, 241 SCRA 51 [1995]).

To satisfy the element of identifiability, it must be shown that at least a third person or a stranger was able to identify the subject as the object of the defamatory statement (Kunkle v. Cablenews-American, 42 Phil 757 [1922]).

The law provides for a presumption of malice from the defamatory character of a statement (L. Boado, Compact Reviewer in Criminal Law 403-404 [2d ed. 2007]), even if the statement is true. The law says:

Art. 354. Requirement for publicity. — Every defamatory imputation is presumed to be malicious, even if it be true...

(Revised Penal Code)

Philippine libel laws are stricter than those of the US. Under US laws, truth of the allegations is an absolute defence to defamation. Also, statements made to warn others about a harm or danger is a qualified privilege.