Libel on the Internet under Philippine Law

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 person’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 “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.

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.

Continue Libel on the Internet Under Philippine Law Part 2

32 thoughts on “Libel on the Internet under Philippine Law”

  1. questions: what happens if you let say write your opinions on line especially the negative ones against the government for example and start calling these politicians, specific or general, “scum sucking, slimeball, etc.”? will that be libelous? mostly, people share opinions about their government leaders or about any prominent local or international figures based on information which they think are true. In fact, blogs online can be as passionate in their expression of their opinions vis-a-vis the information, obviously limited, they know about their government or even about their school principals, etc. When can one draw the line between freedom to one’s opinions and libelous remarks?

  2. I’m no lawyer, and definitely not an expert on law, but I think you should be publishing something in good faith, and in the service of public interest. What’s a little ambiguous for me though is the definition of “public interest.”

  3. @anonymous – It could be libelous as there is the element of publication. But how to enforce it is another matter. For example, bloggers outside of the Philippines are beyond the jurisdiction of Philippine libel laws. Hence, my suggestion that the blogging community be self-regulating and adopt a common set of values and ethical standards as guidelines.

  4. @Rico – I agree. Good faith and the public interest should guide and motivate bloggers.
    There are many definitions of public interest. A simple one would refer to the “common welfare” of all the members of the community or whether it is for the good of the majority. Again, this begs the question. How do we define “community” and the “rule of the majority” in an amorphous concept such as the blogosphere ?

  5. Hmmm… I’ve been contemplating about the same matter for a long time already. I’m not aware of any laws on the use of the Internet in the Philippines. It would really be high-time that we have one.

    Anyway, my perspective regarding libel through a blog. Well, it is possible given the wide possible audience that the blog can attract. Besides, the terminology used in leading blog sites/programs every time an author posts is “publish.” Such a word need not be construed in any other way.

    Regarding balancing freedom of speech and libelous remarks, every first year law student knows that the right to free speech is not absolute. It can be regulated in the interest of the public, such as when speeches are made to incite others to sedition.

    This brings me to Rico’s point. What is “public interest”? I too have some reservations when I encounter such words in legal materials along with the words public morals, public policy, etc. Crudely put, such words presupposes a common belief shared by people on what for them is acceptable as a norm, and what can be considered as a danger or threat. The State has every right to preserve itself, hence, it can exercise prior restraint or punish someone in the interest of everyone (well, maybe the majority).

    I do agree with Rico that what is best is to observe good faith. Nothing beats than having good intentions to avoid trouble. But, it does not necessarily means that one is hindered from expressing his sentiments freely. It only means that one needs to be “creative” in making it appoint that his message is heard.

    To the-warrior-lawyer, nice blog. I agree that jurisdictional issue will arise for Filipinos abroad. But, think about it, if one is known to have committed libel and a case is filed against him, then he surely won’t be coming into the Philippines until the crime has prescribed. That is one deterrent, ain’t it?

    Of course, there are many wise-cracks who opt to write blogs anonymously. Right? =)

  6. Bloggers outside of the Philippines are beyond the jurisdiction of Philippine laws.

    What if the person being defamed is a Filipino? How will that affect matters?

    For example, can the Filipino require the non-resident alien blogger to be subject to Philippine courts?

  7. Kalowkohan: You are right. If someone residing abroad will be facing a libel charge before Philippine courts, then he surely will not be coming to the Philippines.

    To answer your question, Anonymous, a non-resident alien blogger cannot be subject to Philippine courts as our courts only have jurisdiction over persons within the country. The jurisdiction of Philippine courts do not extend abroad. As pointed out by Kalowkohan, he will avoid prosecution by not coming to the Philippines.

    Thanks for reading my blog.

  8. the organization where i am connected with has decided to legally pursuit the author/owner of a HATE campaign blog (affecting our organization and some individuals working in the organization). Would you have an idea how to work on this?

  9. Hi! I just want to ask for your opinion about this situation I am going through. You see, someone is posting blogs all over the internet that says I am a scammer. She claims that I was really the one who took her money etc etc. In turn, I found out that somebody is using my name to scam other people. She even said that she already alerted my name in NBI and the police. She also added that she won’t stop until I will be put in jail and have my future destroyed coz you see, I’m only 17 and still a college student. No matter how I tell her that I am not the one who took her money, she won’t believe me. All I wanted is that this will be settled and for all her blogs about about me to be deleted but she’s not cooperating. She’s very persistent to put me down. Please help me. I’ve been in this dilemma for almost five months. No matter how hard I try not to think about it, it still haunts me. I just wanted to clear my name. Please do help me.

  10. @ Leah, I suggest you consult a lawyer on the best options available to you, a suit for libel and civil damages being possibly one course of action.

    @ Rose, just like Leah it might be a good thing to consult an attorney who will go over with you all possible legal remedies available to clear your name. You can approach your barangay or local government office for possible free legal assistance programs. Also the Public Attorneys Office of the Department of Justice will likely have an office at the city hall of the place where you reside. The same goes for the various chapters of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. The PAO and IBP provide legal help for free to the disadvantaged.

  11. good day po!

    i’ve read on someone’s blog that even to “qoute” anyone’s work without the owner’s permission is a copyright infringement. is that legally right?

  12. I am a broadcast communication student from the Uviversity of the East and currently taking up the subject LAW OF MASS MEDIA. Libel, as long as the one being publicly defamed(including internet) is identifiable and he did file a petition for libel, then the case may proceed.

    Yes, justifiable motives made in good faith is the only defense against it.

    But when you hit the public officials on their public conduct(which some bloggers usually do) then that’s another matter.

    Truth plus good motives would be the best defense against that although this time the burden of proof is not in the hands of the court but to the accused himself.


  13. what if a person write a defamatory message sent to all your contacts using your own account for example YM? can this be libel also?

  14. @ Moana, I believe that so long as you properly attribute authorship of online material you won’t run afoul of copyright laws.

    @ Georgia, right you are.

    @ Simone, the aggrieved party can cry libel. The owner of the account must now prove it was not he/she who actually sent out the libelous messages but someone else.

  15. to whom may concern,
    hi, more power to ur blog? well,i would like to ask if u dont mind? recently i was fight and argueing with my brother? i said on my anger wishing u die and your whole family? after that, he call police to complain that i was said bad just like that but he recorded what i said.we both go to baragay hall ? he blotter me and i blotter him ? in this case do i break the laws . thank u , i hope you could tell me if its libel case too.

  16. I really need immediate help on a matter that has been bugging me for about six months now. I have a hacker and she had repeatedly defamed me–she emailed my former classmates and teachers and told them bad things about me. All the elements of libel are present in this case, and I want justice. The only problem here is that she didn’t use her real name in all the email addresses she used, and I’m quite sure that she used different IP’s in committing the crime. I know who she is, though. I really want to sue her. What should I do to finally have justice?
    I wish that you answer this question on this very page, because if you email me, it is very likely that my hacker would delete your email. Thanks for your time.

  17. Hi,

    Under Libel Law, if someone says “He is an idiot”, it can be Libel.

    If someone says “I believe he is an idiot”, is that Libel?


  18. I have a problem regarding this… hope you can help. I always blog my feelings and thoughts… freedom of speech, right?

    One time, I was really mad and blogged about someone. I just shared my feelings why I was mad that and what I think of him… now he’s going to sue me because of my blog…

    I am really, really confused. First they say we have freedom of speech but when we use such rights, we get sued for libel or slander…

  19. I have a question;

    If someone puts in writing something occured, it could be Libel.

    If they write “They Believe it occured”

    Is that Libel???

  20. hi! i would like to ask something about an ongoing issue on me about e-libel. a friend of mine posted a video blog on facebook in which the complainant was there walking on an event. I commented that i hate her and that she ruined the whole event.. such an insecure BEE-YOTCH i said. would that be considered as libel? i really need your knowledge about it.. thank you

  21. i have a question about libel and how can i pursue them?someone is attacking my name in the internet and is spreading malicious word in friendster and blogspot.about my products and services..i dont know how to file to them charges..coz they are ruining my reputation?
    heres one link:

    then the other one is from a blogger site
    they are posting rude comments about me..and they are destroying my internet business,but cant contact them bec.their profile is restricted..who do i go to?

  22. Hi all, saw this site by accident. Great read. I’m no lawyer or even a law student, however, after reading some comments, I do have some replies.

    @ Dusty: The person you blogged about, did you identify him/her? If not, then you’re off the hook based on the piece written. One of the pre-requisites for a libel case is that the person being defamed should be identifiable.

    Regarding freedom of speech, as to quote of the replies in this discussion, “is not absolute”. It has its limits. Everyone should also have the right to be free from malicious, defamatory statements.

    @Private: Those two statements mean one and the same. It has the same effect. They are both malicious and defamatory. Although, to say it libelous under our laws is entirely a different matter. Subject is unidentifiable on those two mentioned statements. Likewise, was it published in some form of online or offline medium?

  23. I am living here in US and been harassed by someone in the Philippines. She’s using my photos in Friendster and Myspace account. She even went through my personal yahoo account and was able to recover my password and got a copy of my personal photos. She said that she will ruin my life. She is also sending my friends inappropiate messages. She even mentioned my name in her Friendster account. I really don’t like the fact that she’s ruining my reputation. If only she’s here in US, definitely punishable by law, but not sure about the law in the Philippines. I am willing to go to the Philippines to file a case if its possible. Please help!

  24. scenario: seller A selling items online e.g Facebook, buyer A sees item on seller A and reserves it…days pass, buyer A cancels his/her reservation.Seller A gets very upset because according to his/her shopping policies if you will cancel any reserved item you will be posted as a bogus buyer…Seller A posted defamatory words and photos of Buyer A..

    in my opinion, it is very unfair for buyers..because there are some inevitable circumstances that led to cancellation of the orders..well it is just so alarming to see a lot of comments ang photos it’s like they are fugitives..think this is unfair..

    is it possible if buyer A will sue for libel seller A?

  25. scenario:I had a realtionship before with someone who has a family.Right now, On the facebook account somebody is attacking me.My house address, telephone and celphone number was posted.There are some words that are really offensive.And There were times that someone came into my house telling that I was the one who wants to go to my house which I didnt do.Can I file a libel case for the person who did this to me?I was still in the process of investigation for this matters.What should I do now?

  26. Hi,

    need someones advice.
    recently my friend sued someone for internet libel. but now the person left philippines how can my friend continue with the case ?
    the case is about to start with the litigation.
    the person sued is a filipino citizen.

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