First, the disclaimer. This is not intended as lawyerly advice. Neither does it refer a specific case or circumstance. Much less can this be considered as an offer to provide legal services or to advocate anything. It’s just one personâ€™s opinion on a matter of increasing interest to bloggers and other denizens of cyberspace: what constitutes internet libel in the context of Philippine laws.
How is libel defined under Philippine laws ? Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code defines libel as â€œa 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.
If you call someone a scum-sucking, slimeball, swindling pimp, even if this is fairly accurate, and post it online, you may be sued for making libelous statements.
Defamatory words are those calculated to induce the hearers or readers to suppose and understand that 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. Philippine law also presumes every defamatory imputation to be malicious, even if true, if no good intention and justifiable motive for making it is shown (Article 254 of the Revised Penal Code). Malice exists when there is an intentional doing of a wrongful act without just cause.
The libel must be given publicity, circulated or publicized. Postings in a forum, message board or blog can certainly be considered as publication. Lastly, the victim or offended party must be identifiable.