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”.

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The Pangandaman Libel Suit Against Bambee

Over the past few days, I have been queried by bloggers about the possibility of facing a criminal case for libel for something they post online. It seems their anxiety, in part, has been fueled by the reported filing of a libel suit by Mayor Nasser Pangandaman, Jr. against Bambee De la Paz before the Lanao del Sur Prosecutor’s Office in Marawi City. It was Bambee’s blog which brought public attention to the mauling incident at the Valley Golf Club, for which Mayor Pangandaman and his companions, including his father DAR Secretary Nasser Pangandaman, Sr., are allegedly responsible.

I have previously written about the legal ramifications of libel on the internet, which can be read here and here.

The Unlawyer has also written a lucid overview on the nature of libel as it relates to the Pangandaman-De la Paz feud. Likewise, the Cebu Daily News previously carried a comprehensive two-part article on libel, it nature, remedies and venue by Judge Gabriel T. Ingles, which can be accessed here and here.

The legal aspects of libel having been covered extensively elsewhere, I need not repeat them here. But to address the question posed by some bloggers on whether there is possibility that they can be sued for libel for something posted online, the answer is yes. There is always the chance that they might publish something (blogging is a form of electronic publication) which will offend some person or institution for which they will be hailed to court. Continue reading “The Pangandaman Libel Suit Against Bambee”

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Blogging Comes of Age

No less than a dean of Philippine journalism and incisive political analyst Amado Doronila has acknowledged that bloggers have become a potent force for disseminating information and shaping public opinion. Writing in his regular Inquirer column, Doronila tackles “Blog Power” and what this “new” element has done to influence the direction of public discourse. He uses the example of the De La Paz – Pangandaman feud to point out the advent of a new era of citizen journalism which he considers an aspect of ” a new people power movement, lodged in the Internet, (which) has emerged and has intervened forcefully to seize the public opinion initiative“.

The encounter marked for the first time the clash between the denizens of blogdom inhabited by users of Cyberspace and the official holders of power in the formal structures of government. The golf club encounter unveiled the constituency of this new and powerful force in public opinion which was mobilized to join the fray by a blog report written by De la Paz’s daughter, Bambee, 18, who narrated the details of the assault. The report became the basis of the criminal complaint lodged by the De la Paz family ahead of the counter-complaints also alleging physical injuries and child abuse on the part of the family victimized by the Pangandamans. The counter-suit lodged by the Pangandamans, which came within hours of the complaint filed by the De la Paz family, was reduced to copycat versions after Bambee jumped the gun on the use of new technology and stole the initiative from the Pangandamans, whose experience in counter-suits has been defined by the nomenclature of old politics which favors people holding power. Continue reading “Blogging Comes of Age”

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