On libel

In 1964, as part of what Nick Joaquin called “the battle of the books,” the campaign of Ferdinand Marcos released his campaign biography, For Every Tear a Victory, written by Hartzell Spence. My father’s sister was furious, on the basis of a reference in the book, to her elder sister being the “inamorata” of Marcos (he had, indeed, courted my father’s sister, then their elder sister, then my aunt again after her elder sister was killed and she herself became a widow). As my aunt understood it, “inamorata” carried with it an aspersion on her elder sister’s morals and so she wanted to sue. It was on the basis of Marcos causing the distribution of the book domestically, that she felt he ought to be the one sued.

In some (though not all) ways more of a pragmatist than his sister, my father didn’t think that suing was worth it. I don’t know whether this was from believing that you cannot libel the dead, or from his own scholarly bent (Agoncillo once made a complimentary comment on his objectivity concerning his father), or an appreciation that libel is only of limited political use (Quezon had wanted to sue the American journalist John Gunther for remarking, in a profile, that his “expense accounts are wonderful to behold,” until his close friend the American newspaper publisher Roy Howard advised him it wasn’t worth it as a public figure has to roll with the punches, so to speak).

But she felt so strongly about it that he felt obliged to support her as a matter of family solidarity although in most other things they had their own minds (she supported Manglapus in that election; he supported Macapagal: ironically, while both knew Marcos, my aunt had been on quite friendly terms with him most of their adult lives, so she was turning her back on a long-standing friendship). The case was filed and became something of a cause celebre at the time; but the case couldn’t prosper because Marcos was elected in November, 1964 and thereafter, as president, Marcos was immune from suit.

Still, Marcos wrote a public letter of explanation, with expressions of regret that hurt he never intended had been caused by the book, and this was delivered personally by Imelda to my aunt (“Your godson, Bong-Bong, wants to say goodbye on his way to going abroad to study,” was apparently the pretext that made delivery of the letter to my aunt possible, if I recall the stories correctly).

It seems this letter of apology, in the President’s own handwriting, and which was carried in the papers, was satisfactory as during Marcos’s 2nd term, my father accepted an appointment as ambassador to Brazil, and it was on the way to his posting that my father heard of the imposition of martial law and telephoned his declining the appointment to Manuel Collantes (not strictly a resignation, since he hadn’t presented his credentials to the Brazilian government). I don’t know, however, if the case was ever formally withdrawn by the family, although I vaguely recall hearing, after Edsa, that the case files had been purged during martial law. I do recall that the book was really a non-issue for my father, who never ran out of reasons to fulminate against Marcos, but that for him, the point of no return was martial law and nothing else.

Now all of this is by way of a necessary introduction to help explain what informs my own opinion when it comes to libel. The citizen has a right to sue; the official, while sharing in the citizenry’s rights, seems to me to have less of a valid reason to sue, as a public figure. At the heart of an accusation of libel is that great harm has been dealt to the reputation of someone, so grave as to require adjudication by the courts. But that if the harm has been done to a reputation, then an apology or a denunciation by the offending party of the cause of that harm, should suffice. If an untruth, a slander, is what’s objected to, then rectification of that untruth, the slander, is the ultimate good to be achieved.

I do not recall my aunt or even my father ever expressing an interest securing damages or even having Marcos imprisoned: they simply wanted the record to be set straight concerning their dead sister. Neither of them being lawyers though as familiar enough with its provisions, the distinction they made -the ultimate objective they hoped to achieve- affected how they thought the law ought to be applied. As they saw it, justice would have been served by a conviction -not the punishment it might have entailed- and at least on my father’s part, I assume Marcos’ letter was fully in keeping with achieving the ultimate aim of the suit.

Libel suits, as a recourse for aggrieved parties, as a means to rectify a wrong, would probably be meaningless if no other penalty other than apology was attached to a libel conviction. For this reason, a fine makes sense, if not to actually drive the offending party to penury, then at least to reimburse the costs for those who filed the suit. For this reason, as most other countries have it, so should be: libel as something that calls for a civil case. Considering libel a crime that justifies imprisonment, is, however, a throwback to older conceptions of justice that should be obsolete: a relict of the age of public executions, of public humiliation, and generally using the law to suppress, and not to actually achieve justice.

In general I strongly believe the Revised Penal Code has many provisions that are obsolete, that represent attitudes towards justice and punishment that reflect attitudes of the era in which it was passed that are no longer in keeping with the way our country and society has evolved. Among the provisions that should be revisited is the law on libel. The Penal Code was passed for the particular purpose of maintaining foreign rule, and for establishing penalties for defying that rule outside the narrow confines of what the alien power was comfortable with. That our own governments have found it convenient to retain those limitations doesn’t validate the Penal Code, it only shows how we have to apply pressure on officialdom to discard those attitudes and assumptions.

Did The Firm have a right to sue Ninez Cacho Olivarez? Yes. Ought it to have demanded an apology? By all means. Olivarez had the right to decide if she should apologize or not: it was not in her nature to consider apologizing, not least because she felt she was telling the truth. There’s the rub: the law, as it stands, does not consider truth to be a defense. Is this right, or wrong? It just is: this is the harshness of the law, what sets it apart from justice -and what makes all laws an effort to approximate justice, at best.

The law is subtle enough to distinguish between opinions -for which no one should have to go to jail or pay fines- and assertions that claim certain opinions are facts, assertions that the legal system can be called upon, basically, to debunk and impose a penalty if proven that this was undertaken not out of honest belief, but malicious intent. My objection is the start and end result of this process, which is detention and jail time.

What then of the Firm’s pious pronouncement that having secured a conviction, it isn’t interested in damages? A just attitude, perhaps: underscoring what The Firm claims is its interest in the truth, and nothing more, as determined by the court (according to the built-in assumptions of the law!). But that leaves The Firm with a claim to a moral victory by virtue of the court’s convicting Olivarez, but also, the delight of seeing her in jail.

Does her going to jail promote justice, or the truth, or does it serve as a deterrent to future libel? No, no, and no. It proves The Firm is, what everyone knows it is, anyway –malakas.

It proves that the law, ultimately, is blind to the very cause that’s supposed to be at the heart of any libel case: that there is truth, there are lies, that to lie carries with it consequences, among them that the courts can help arrive at the truth and expose a lie. As the law stands, it says that if you are energetic enough, with enough resources, to relentlessly pursue a case, then the law will work on your side: since the law assumes that if you’re pissed enough never to let go of a case, then it will ultimately take your side, regardless of whether what was written was true, or not: at least if you aren’t an official, because the law concedes that for public officials, you simply have to roll with the punches.

For a discussion on the law and the assumptions it makes, see Notes of Marichu C. Lambino:

The general rule in libel law is that “Every defamatory imputation is presumed malicious; truth is not a defense”. That is, the moment a person is maligned (or defamed), the “maligner” is presumed to have been motivated by ill will. This is the only criminal law provision; that is (of the 300 or so provisions in the Revised Penal Code) and hundreds of special criminal laws, the libel law is the only criminal law provision that presumes malice. In ALL criminal cases, there is a presumption of innocence; in libel however, the only overt act required to establish malice is simply the defamatory imputation; once that is shown, malice is presumed; it’s called MALICE-IN-LAW. BUT, but, BUT: if the accused in a libel case can show that the report is based on “good motives or justifiable ends”, that is:

1) The report or statement is a matter of public interest and concern (for example, it involves public officials or public figures and their public activities) AND

2) The report or statement is true; OR

3) If false, it is based on credible sources and the reporter verified, but (for example when the events unfolded) the report turned out to be false, it was an honest mistake and not a “reckless disregard etc.”

If the accused in a libel case is able to show these three (well, not the three but number one and number two together; or number one and number three together), then he/ she is home; the burden shifts back to the prosecution. The prosecution now has to show that: The report or statement was absolutely false and not only was it absolutely false, there was “reckless disregard,”, i.e., there were no sources at all or the sources were all bogus. This is called MALICE-IN-FACT. (for example, intelligence reports; in Brillante vs. CA and Jejomar Binay where the accused relied on intel reports, the accused was convicted of libel).

Other examples of bogus sources are text messages from people you don’t know. (That’s why i’m surprised when, during live reports, the news anchor or reporters says “Text messages are going around that he is the financier, etc…” and they don’t know who are sending those text messages!; and those news anchors and reporters get away with it; they’re still broadcasting today.)…

Or maybe the report doesn’t have any sources at all. If it can be shown to be absolutely false and not just the result of an honest mistake but that, the report had no sources at all or was based on fabricated sources or bogus sources, the accused would be found liable.

But this is a tall order. I said here, absolutely false. Is there anything that is absolutely false? (oh… my philosophical side is coming out, i have to suppress it, hahaha) In New York Times vs. Sullivan, the Supreme Court in effect said that if there was some truth to the report or if the report is substantially true, the Court will rule in favour of protecting the ability to report freely (the Court said it better rhetorically).

And not only do i ask the question, is there anything that is absolutely false; in Hustler Magazine vs. Falwell, the Supreme Court said “and there is no such thing as a false opinion”.

A defense of libel involving imprisonment, is over at smoke:

Imagine what would happen if some journalist decides he’s tired of seeing his neighbor John Doe. Out of spite, he cooks up a story – complete with shadowy witnesses who all maintain that they will reveal their identities at the right time – and starts demolishing John Doe’s rep by calling him a drug user. If libel were decriminalized, what would John Doe’s recourse be?

And that’s just assuming John Doe is a private individual. He’d be in deeper shit if he also happened to be a government official. According to the Supreme Court, government officials have to exercise a greater degree of acceptance of even the harshest criticism – they have to be like Caesar’s wife, the Court said; more virtuous that Caesar himself. And that injunction applies even when the subject of criticism is not work-related. So poor John Doe, who doesn’t even know what crack looks like suddenly has to just grin and bear it while his good name gets tore down. And all because journalists have to be free to criticize.

That’s a load of bull.

The irony is that these journalists who loudly and frequently assert that no one should be above the law and accountability are now angling for precisely that kind of impunity for themselves. How twisted is that.

Newton’s law states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The law on libel is that equal and opposite force; it is the individual’s guarantee that he can push back and that he can’t be pushed around, even by someone who claims to be a journalist.

But the assumption is that libel primarily exists and should exist as a cudgel for the citizenry to beat over the heads of abusive journalists. The libel laws apply to anyone who writes, who takes pen to paper whether in a newspaper, or who publishes a book or a pamphlet; and assumes the law operates blindly and without being susceptible to the nudges, winks, blandishments and bamboozling of the powers-that-be, at whose beck and call policemen and judges are more more likely to be than they are solicitous of the citizenry.

And a further point -this wasn’t justice, this was “sampling”- see The Daily Tribune editorial for June 6:

[D]espite a Supreme Court circular making a libel conviction’s penalty a fine of P6 thousand instead of a jail term, the court meted out the punishment of a six months to close to three years jail term, plus P33 thousand for actual damages and even P5 million for “moral damages,” considering, as the ruling said that the latter’s (The Firm’s) professional standing in society, they being highly reputed lawyers.” Such fulsome praise in a ruling.

To top it all, there went the Firm’s lawyers, announcing that the Firm would be donating the P5 million to the Philippine Press Institute to assist the journalists in their libel suits.

What? They who ensure that a journalist is convicted and jailed and made to pay P5 million for this one count of libel and even argue in court that Olivares should be denied bail after the conviction, even when it is not final and executory and will definitely be appealed, now say they will be assisting journalists in their libel suits?

Funny, but other newspapers wrote just about the same things about the firm, and yet only the Daily Tribune was singled out by Villaraza, as it was he, and not his law firm that alleged the crime of libel.

The case stemmed from one of 48 stories that appeared in The Tribune where The Firm was linked to irregularities over the controversial decision of President Arroyo to abort a $450 million contract to build the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) Terminal 3, which up to this day remains mothballed.

The decision is a landmark for stifling the freedom of the press…

A P5 million fine would be enough to have dire consequences for a growing newspaper such as The Tribune…

The libel conviction of Olivares is but a continuation of the constant pressure applied on The Tribune under Gloria’s administration.

The moves against Olivares and The Tribune then and now, however, were directed not exactly at the critical newspaper and its publisher, who they know cannot be cowed, but on the whole media sector.

Addendum: Neal Cruz, who’s been around long enough to know how everything works, advocates the retention of libel as a criminal act. He points out the judge proved Olivarez failed to wriggle out of the charges. Since he’s read the decision and I haven’t, his thoughts have added weight:

Failure to check on the truth of an allegation is interpreted by the courts as malice. And this is a common mistake of journalists in a hurry. Malice is present when it is shown that the author of the libelous item made such remarks with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not. Failure to check on the veracity of an allegation is reckless disregard and is interpreted as malice.

Another common error is that public officials and public figures are fair game; the public has the right to know what they are doing. Public officials are those who are elected or appointed to public positions; public figures are those who voluntarily thrust themselves into the public eye, such as movie stars, entertainers, society matrons, prominent businessmen, artists, athletes, etc. But it does not mean that anybody who attracts public attention is a public figure if he did not voluntarily thrust himself into the limelight. He is a private individual who has private rights and it is very risky to defame him.

Still another error is “fair comment.” Many believe that any column is fair comment.

But the Supreme Court laid down the guidelines for a fair comment on matters of public interest:

“Comment which is true or which, if false, expresses the real opinion of the author, such opinion having been formed with a reasonable degree of care and on reasonable grounds.” An opinion must be based on fact. A columnist cannot make a false accusation and say “that is my opinion.”

This is where the judge condemned Ninez. Dumayas said the evidence shows that the allegations in Ninez’s article are not true and that she “did not exercise reasonable degree of care or good faith efforts to arrive at the truth before writing and publishing the article.” Also “the accused did not present evidence showing that she verified the truth of the contents of the article.” She “even admitted that she did not make any effort to ask private complainants to verify her information.”

Another of her defenses is that F. Arthur L. Villaraza of the CVC law office is a “public figure” and therefore cannot sue. He is not, the judge said. “The fact that private individuals are involved in events that attract media attention is not proof that they are public figures since they may have been dragged unwillingly into the controversy.”

Which brings up a point we ought to consider: that there are, of course, writers who invite libel charges, who relish them, in fact, seek them.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

49 thoughts on “On libel

  1. Libel laws in this country were meant to protect reputations, i.e. important reputations. What do you expect? Daming tsismoso at intrigerong di naman nakukulong. Iba media pa. Dahil, yung biktima nila, walang pera. If it is criminalized, then why does a plaintiff need an expensive lawyer, why can’t the police or the DOJ process the libeler or slanderer?

  2. The law of defamation protects a person’s reputation from defamatory falsehoods. A publication is Considered defamatory if it has the tendency to lower one’s actual reputation in the estimation of reasonable persons in the community. The defamatory publication may be published orally or in writing or in some other permanent or transitory form. The permanent form is considered to be libel. A statement made in a more transitory form is slander. In most provinces, however, the distinction between libel and slander has been removed. Slander is then treated the same as libel. (R.A.Brown, The Law of Defamation in Canada, 2ed., 1994)

    And the Charter (or Bill of Rights in the Case of Philippines Constitutions) guarantees among the fundamental rights:

    freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication.

    Following the above definition and the guarantee of the charter or the bill of rights, the Law of Defamation should be a non-criminal act, but should be under the civil law. Under the criminal code it could be abused by the Government in Power in suppressing dissents as it can use the resources of the government for prosecuting its enemies, mostly the critiques in the Media and silence them by imprisonment. It had been done in other countries mostly in Africa and can be done in countries where it is still a criminal offense.

    A monetary damages, (Media entity and broadcasters should carry insurance for the purpose) is one big deterrent for committing libel and slander…and insurance firms would not just sit down and let the other guy file false charges against its clients..would they??

  3. Among the things that people can be deprived of by criminal wrong doing are life, liberty and property. I don’t suppose you are for the decriminalization of theft of property (even by poor people against rich people), nor of murder or slavery.

    I think that the malicious destruction of a person’s reputation potentially results in a far more grievous loss than the loss of mere property, which after all can be replaced through a commensurate fine. The irreplaceability of reputation is more akin to the loss of one’s very life, also irremediable.

    Perhaps you think deterrence an old-fashioned idea, but if you accept the above I cannot see how any of the arguments you have presented for decriminalization can possibly hold water.

    The only effect would be to encourage the blackmailers and extortionists (like the Tulfo brothers, who are allegedly into these things) who happen to work for Deep Pocketed Media Outfits that can afford to hire the fanciest defense themselves.

    The other old-fashioned idea that decriminalization does not respect is the very idea of Justice as Fairness. Libel is despicable whether it is a public or a private person that is deprived of a good reputation.

    The Press has enough protections, and all that talk of a “Chilling Effect” has not deterred the worst of the species, nor the best. That is because the former cannot be deterred while the latter have no need to be deterred.

    Besides, how many journalists to do you know of that have actually gone to jail for libel?

  4. The value of libel as a deterrent applies to the vast majority in the middle of those extremes, where freedom of expression suffices to expose the truths, but guards against the excesses of people, especially in hubris-besotted Mass Media, who think journalists have a right to invent stuff about “public persons” or the government so they can get at some truth. But if the “worst” are not punished or threatened with jail, this vast mediocre bunch would tend to go bad too.

  5. Senator Vicente Yap Sotto was the main author of the Press Freedom Law (now known as the Sotto Law, Republic Act No. 53) enacted in 1946.

    The Sotto Law protects journalists from being compelled to name their news sources.

    “The Sotto Law, also known as the Press Freedom Law, is aimed precisely to protect press freedom and keep irate politicians from intimidating journalists and their sources if they do not like what they read,” the NUJP pointed out.

    “Protection of confidential sources of information is also an obligation for journalists and key to getting informants to come forward,” it added. “This is particularly important in uncovering, among others, corruption in government.”

  6. “It proves that the law, ultimately, is blind to the very cause that’s supposed to be at the heart of any libel case: that there is truth, there are lies, that to lie carries with it consequences, among them that the courts can help arrive at the truth and expose a lie.”

    mlq3, didn’t the RTC expose that Olivares lied in the article that she wrote?

  7. That’s the problem with media persons with their own hidden agendas. Their actions cloud their own judgement and they make their own stupid mistakes

  8. Online Publishing Risks Create Need for Libel Insurance
    “Whether you’re a blogger, an independent magazine or a media giant — if you’re publishing online you should at least consider having coverage. Two media advisors offer this guide to libel insurance for online publishers large and small”

    Can we sue the government for poor policymaking resulting to hunger, masspopulation sufferings, poor road quality causing accidents? Public Officials have higher liabilit ies. It is clearly a mismanagement. Inflation rate is now up to 9.5% in May and corruption has increased. Who is responsible when someone dies of hunger?

    South Korea sue IMF for its policies

  9. Can we sue the government for poor policymaking resulting to hunger, masspopulation sufferings, poor road quality causing accidents? Public Officials have higher liabilit ies. It is clearly a mismanagement. Inflation rate is now up to 9.5% in May and corruption has increased. Who is responsible when someone dies of hunger?

    incompetence, a typical flaw of govts running third world countries.

    but let’s shift the question back to your turf (1st world country). did the americans sue the US govt when the 2001 bombing attacks happened that killed thousands of people due to its incompetence on security and the result of its foreign policies?

    or we talk about you present economic situation which is almost in recession now. are you going to sue your govt for fucking-up the economy and for causing your foreign debts and budget deficit to soar? talk about mismanagement.

    my last question, can we sue the US govt for causing the price of oil to soar up to it’s present price level now (US$138 a barrel from less than US$30 before invading Iraq) causing a lot of hardships/sufferings around the world?

  10. wow grd, of course not. in our country, the obvious mismanagement has been there for years. Implementation of solutions was not a priority.Too many intellectually bankrupt officials are tired and becoming more incompetent. It’s a fact. It’s always been that way. it’s actually getting worst. you are comparing apples to bananas. Prolong economic crisis is an obvious liability to the well being ofour Philippine society. It’s unsustainable. US has its own way of getting out of it. It’s system will repair by itself in the long run. In our country, it’s getting worst and worst. I don’t blame bloggers and commenters nowadays. I totally understand where they coming from. anyway, pls don’t take the question seriously unless a healthy discussion will result. I think we’re good ,right.

  11. i don’t know if anybody else noticed it but in the philippines, more than in any other place i know, politicians, professional “opinion makers”, journalists, commentators from the academe, business or the clergy, bloggers and commenters, ngo “leaders” and people from other walks of life, including jeepney drivers, barbers, market vendors, etc. have a distinct proclivity of making an unqualified, unsupported, sweeping, and conclusory assertion of fact when all they probably want to do is state an opinion. evidently, the distinction between a statement of fact and an expression of a point of view is always lost in the passion of the argument.

    thus we see statements like “bdd is a thief, cheat, and liar”, or “lozada was kidnapped and almost killed”‘ or “cdd stole 100 million in fertilizer fund”, without proof or substantiation. columnists and so-called opinion writers as well as free- wheeling bloggers do it with such confidence and sense of impunity as though everyone is supposed to treat what they write as “opinion” by the mere fact that they call themselves opinion writers.

    i think everyone, including journalists, in a democratic society must live by the rule of law. otherwise, it will be the rule of the gun. take away the libel law, or make it a toothless edict, and an aggrieved victim who have no other recourse, would mete out justice the only way he knows how. sad, but it has happened, time and again.

  12. “Briliant blog by a pundit who is living in outer space.

    that is why I said it was nonesensical.


    mr rolando hiro vaswani:

    i never called you a wordy marxist, I know of one namesake who called you maoist once.

    akala mo ikaw lang ang magaling
    not saying that i could match your iq 200
    pero you treat everyone out of your league.

    nagbibiro lang ako,sineryoso mo na .

    I will continue to follow your lectures and blog within a blog dahil kahit ano pa sabihin sa yo,many people will benefit.


  13. kg, it’s no use. i think the guy just doesn’t engage in a 2-way argumentation. evidently he loves doing a monologue, showing off his “iq200” particularly in economics (a most amorphous subject, i.e., anything goes). i don’t know about you but as for me, if i can’t get a rise out of him, i ignore him.

  14. back to calling hvrds. ang haba eh

    On the other hand buti na lang kinorect mo
    mukhang di ako naintindihan ng kausap at that time

  15. Bencard,
    I know what you mean,buti nga ngayon nagrerespond na sya pag me challenge like Jude and magdiwang dati kahit na anong itanong mo parang bato kausap mo.

  16. djb, my own views are that fines may prove more a deterrent than actual punishment and that punishment should be restricted to really high crimes. our jails are clogged with cases of people whose crimes have been compounded by their rotting in jail waiting for hearings and who then, if judged guilty, have to endure bestial conditions -literally a dickensian situation for most prisoners whose ultimate crime is that they can’t afford attorneys.

    the more i read of our ancient cultures the more i’m convinced that you have an inherent, even subconcious but strongly ingrained understanding among people of a fine-based system of justice, and that extends to paying off crimes through what the west would call community service. our jails should be reserved for truly henious crimes: murder, rape, primarily. we are regressing to the spanish era of penology as it is.

    with regards to ninez, one basic point i was trying to make is that the law is crafted, precisely, to set aside truth as any sort of defense. my assertion is that this makes the law by its very nature, unjust. it makes whatever the courts decided a skewed decision -just as, the ultimate facts of the case aside, the accompanying penalty of imprisonment both during charging and then upon conviction makes the deterrent effect of present libel laws very weak, and i’m not even considering the selectivity of the whole thing.

    it does seem odd to me that even with the same laws, there seemed more sensible-ness on the part of public figures in government who were less inclined to sue for libel than they do now, considering there isn’t much being written these days that wasn’t written, often more ferociously, in the past. in some ways our politics and our media are far less freewheeling than say, in the 30s to the 50s.

  17. KG,

    if you don’t mind me asking. what are those links all about. am i missing the big piece of the pie? or someone push the button. am sorry, i can’t go back and forth to read.

  18. Leytenian,

    it is unfair kung di kita sagutin.
    First time ko lang mapikon kay hvrds after years of coexistence. You are indirectly involved din kaya sinagot kita,remeber the us dollar,exchange rates.

    nagkataon lang sa conversation natin yung ginawa kong example ay comment ko sa isang comment nya. so he reacted but alam ko naman na all knowing sya pag dating sa topic na yon,kaya I was supposed to anticipate his rection.

    pero no matter how I anticipated it, iba pa din ang dating.

    On the topic in hand.

    Good thing about the blogosphere, lumilipas ang disagreements without having to resort to suing for damages. Kung nangyari yan wala ng blog.

    IF anyone knows how HVRDS comments ako yon, I invited him to this blog from ricky carandang’s blog.Noon pa lang nakita ko na di nagdedelete si Mlq3 at nagdedelete yung iba .so his monologues would be preserved,and para mabalikan ko(self serving)I rather have him comment here.
    in fairness, nakakausap mo sya nuo nong masinteractive pa sya at me patience pa sya makipag usap.

  19. Oh ‘reputation’.

    Methinks if you have a good reputation in the first place, no amount of defamation will tarnish it.

    OUR Libel laws are IDIOTIC.

    Change it instead of defending it

    In the UK, I think you can only be charged for libel if what you wrote turned out to be FALSE (and I mean regarding people doing illegal things). You can’t be charged for a merely insulting someone. (I maybe wrong but as an avid reader of British Tabloids, under philippine laws, all their articles are libelous)

    Jeffrey Archer successfully won a libel case against a tabloid…it turns out siya pala ang nagsisinungaling…siya tuloy ang nakulong…

  20. Is actual malice really necessary to find the dependant guilty of libel? The question was resolved by the SC of Canada in the Hill vs. Manning case, which argue that the Common Law in defamation in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, which among other things should prove actual malice is not applicable in this case with the following decision :

    In refusing to change Canadian law and bringing it more into line with “actual malice” standard applied in the US law (following the New York Times Co. v. Sullivan case) Cory J., writing for the majority, stated (at ¶ 138):

    Freedom of speech, like any other freedom, is subject to the law and must be balanced against the essential need of the individuals to protect their reputation.
    Freedom of speech, like the other fundamental freedoms, is freedom under the law, and over the years the law has maintained a balance between, on the one hand, the right of the individual . . . whether he is in public life or not, to his unsullied reputation if he deserves it, and on the other hand . . . the right of the public . . . to express their views honestly and fearlessly on matters of public interest, even though that involves strong criticism of the conduct of public people.

    In concurring analysis another justice made these two notes as to how the Charter applies to common Law:

    1. 1 The Charter does not directly apply to the common law unless it is the basis of some governmental action.

    1. 2 Even though the Charter does not directly apply to the common law absent government action, the common law must nonetheless be developed in accordance with Charter values.

    In other words, the basic rule is that absent government action, the Charter applies only indirectly to the common law.

    And this case is precedent setting and it makes it easier to prove Libel and Slander, yet balance it with the fundamental Freedom of Speech, which I always believe is alive and well in our society.

    The jury award that was upheld in this appeal was the largest libel award in Canadian history. Barrister Manning and the Church of Scientology were found jointly liable for general damages of $300,000. Scientology alone was liable for aggravated damages of $500,000 CAD and punitive damages of $800,000 CAD, making Scientology’s total liability $1,600,000 CAD

    Chech this entry in wiki:

  21. Counter point: statements in news articles in many Philippine broadsheets are in quotes. Makes for bland reading. Either the reporter was too lazy to research or the editor is too scared to be sued. Or, maybe because people have this penchant to deny what they said or say they were taken out of context.

    I agree: revise the law.

  22. mlq3, fyi, fines are punishment. i believe the philippines is not ready for a liberalized libel law that decriminalizes malicious defamation of another. verbal assault with malice is no different, if not worse, than willful infliction of physical harm. the operative word is “malice”. fines alone, with payment of monetary damages to the victim, may not be a sufficient deterrent to irresponsible conduct (at least, in the philippines).

    it’s true that the philippine press of the 30’s to 80’s
    loved to boast of being perceived “the freest in the world”, with journalists basking in a sense of power and self-importance, and in a few instances, being “above” the law that applies to “ordinary” mortals. so, why do you think some of marcos’ first acts as a dictator were to shatter the “abusive” media, threw most journalists in jail, and subjected the flow of information to rigid controls.

    i guess we don’t want to go that road again. a licentious press must be resisted at all cost in ways mandated by law.

  23. ‘but let’s shift the question back to your turf (1st world country). did the americans sue the US govt when the 2001 bombing attacks happened that killed thousands of people due to its incompetence on security and the result of its foreign policies? ‘
    from informationclearinghouse.com

    ‘PHILADELPHIA — January 6, 2003 (TomFlocco.com) — On Friday, Philip J. Berg, attorney for 9-11 widow Ellen Mariani in her Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) suit seeking to hold President Bush and various government officials accountable for the September 11 attacks, served Bush and top officials in his Administration with a personal summons, the original complaint and the first amended complaint via a federal process server, as required by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

    Among those served besides the President, were Vice-President Richard Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Attorney General John Ashcroft, Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet, National Security Advisor Dr. Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta, 9-11 Congressional Victim Compensation Fund Special Master Kenneth Feinberg, former Iraqi Dictator Saddam Hussein, Zacarias Moussaoui, and former President George H. W. Bush.

    The legal documents were also filed at the Philadelphia office of United States Attorney Patrick Meehan, former Republican District Attorney from Delaware County, Pennsylvania.’

  24. No need to sue Bush over the economy or price of oil. It’s election year. There might be more Democrats in Congress. Some Republican governors might lose too. Too bad Obama can’t beat McCain.

  25. supremo, a situation where the president belonged to one party and the legislature to another is not unheard of in u.s. politics. bill clinton, for one, had to struggle with a republican congress led by gingrich and trent lott. a president mccain with a democratic-dominated legislature is not such a bad, nor scary, idea.

  26. Bencard,

    That will be the more likely scenario for the coming elections in November Bencard. Obama for President is just too scary for a lot of Americans I know.

  27. Supremo, Actually it is better to have an opposition Congress than an administration ally as it can be a good check on the excesses of the Executive. Americans, history will show will unite no matter what the set up of the Government might be when it comes to their National Interest.

    On libel, The PM had just sued the Leader of the Liberal and the Party for Libel on the Cadman affairs, after the Liberal refused to retract their allegations in their Website that the PM (as a leader of the opposition) during the Liberal Government was trying to “Bribe” one of the MPs to bring down the Govt. in a no confidence vote. Each can sue each other, for anything said and done outside the House of Commons, the only place of immunity.

    And the Charter of Rights and Freedom is mostly applicable on the Action of the Government, meaning the member of the Public can sue the Government or its agencies for violating the rights and freedoms of its subject. All others are covered by common law, statutes and criminal codes, and unwritten conventions and customs.

    That was how the same sex marriage was legalized in Canada, an activist suing Canada Pension for Widow benefits on the death of his long time partner.

  28. Legal experts, lawmakers and non-governmental organizations could take the government to court for negligence and failure to protect its citizens, resulting in death..

    Government can be sued for faulty buildings, roads, inability to maintain the forest causing landslide such as the Guinsawgon and ormoc landslide in leyte
    I’m basing my claim to this link. It makes sense.

    Survivors of Bosnians killed in Srebrenica are suing the Dutch government and the United Nations for damages, on the grounds that UN peacekeepers failed to adequately protect the population

    is our government immune to this kind of lawsuit?

  29. “But the Supreme Court laid down the guidelines for a fair comment on matters of public interest:”

    we treat guidelines like road signs.
    one road sign comes to mind: proceed with caution

  30. Just checking on some examples on the nashman’s take on uk libel laws:


    LONDON — Hollywood celebrities who are fed up with tabloid gossip are fighting back — in British courtrooms.
    Teri Hatcher, Kate Hudson, Britney Spears and Lance Armstrong are among the U.S. celebrities who have resolved libel suits in Britain this year. Since Jan. 1, 27 libel cases involving both American and British celebrities have been filed in Britain compared with just nine in the previous 12 months, according to data compiled this week by Sweet & Maxwell, a London-based legal information publisher.

    The reason? British libel law favors the celebrity’s side.

    In the USA, celebrity plaintiffs must prove that a story is wrong and that a publication acted with malice by printing the article. In Britain, the burden is on the publication to prove that its story was accurate — a sometimes difficult task, says Korieh Duodu, an attorney with David Price Solicitors and Advocates, a London firm that specializes in media law.

    Among the cases:

    • Spears, who was represented by attorney Paul Tweed of Johnsons Solicitors in Belfast, Northern Ireland, received an apology in July from The National Enquirer’s British edition for reporting that she was on the verge of divorcing her husband, Kevin Federline. “These allegations are untrue and we now accept Britney’s position that the statements are without foundation. We apologize for any distress caused,” the tabloid’s published apology read.

    • Hudson received undisclosed damages and a printed apology a few days after Spears’ appeared, also from the British edition of National Enquirer, for claiming she was dangerously thin. “The allegations that I sued over were blatantly false, and I felt I had no choice but to set the record straight by challenging them in court,” Hudson said in a statement.

    • Seven-time Tour de France champion Armstrong settled a lawsuit with The Sunday Times in June over an article that suggested he used performance-enhancing drugs. The newspaper apologized.

    •Desperate Housewives star Hatcher received undisclosed damages, reimbursement for court costs and an apology from Britain’s Sun in April after the tabloid ran an article claiming she had sex with men in a van outside her house.

    “As Hollywood stars see others successfully taking this approach to protect their reputations, more are following suit,” says Gideon Benaim, a partner with Schillings, which represented Hudson.

    The lawsuits are rarely about the money, Duodu says, because in most libel cases the maximum reward is about $180,000. “(Celebrities) are more concerned about righting a wrong,” he says.

    In August 2005, pop star Justin Timberlake sued the British tabloid News of the World for claiming he cheated on girlfriend Cameron Diaz with model Lucy Clarkson. The tabloid and Clarkson later admitted the story was fabricated. Timberlake settled for an apology and undisclosed financial damages, which he donated to a charity.

    Timberlake publicist Ken Sunshine says U.S. celebrities are more willing to sue in British courts to defend their international reputations from tabloid gossip.

    “Celebrities care about their public image and how they are covered,” Sunshine says by phone from New York. “The legal recourse situation with Justin is an example that you can be vindicated.”

    The number of U.S. celebrities suing for libel damages in British courts will only grow as the media and celebrities continue to branch out internationally, Duodu says.

    Says Sunshine: “These well-reported vindications are a warning to tabloids: If you lie, some people will go after you.”

  31. Bencard: i don’t know if anybody else noticed it but in the philippines, more than in any other place i know…

    A variant of ‘onli in da pilipins’. But he did say ‘more than any other place I know…’ and ‘jeepney drivers’. Legal minds are sharp.

  32. Here is another case of Government being sued for introducing regulations that resulted in the Mad Cow disease.

    Canadian farmers sue federal government over BSE

    TORONTO (AP)–Canadian farmers hard hit by a ban on cattle exports to the United States April 11 sued Canada’s federal government, accusing it of negligently allowing bovine spongiform encephalopathy to devastate the cattle industry.

    The coordinated class-action lawsuits, filed in the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec, seek at least $5.7 billion, the industry’s estimated losses to date, and another $81 million in punitive damages.

    They claim the federal government introduced a regulation in 1990 that specifically allowed the feeding of cattle parts to other cattle, the method through which mad cow disease is transmitted.


  33. “Legal experts, lawmakers and non-governmental organizations could take the government to court for negligence and failure to protect its citizens, resulting in death.”.
    “Government can be sued for faulty buildings, roads, inability to maintain the forest causing landslide such as the Guinsawgon and ormoc landslide in leyte”
    “is our government immune to this kind of lawsuit?” -Leytenian

    Ito lang ang magagamit ng non lawyers, resolutions of past cases:

    Hindi ito tungkol sa calamities and poor construction:


    The petition that reached the Supreme Court started from the suit of the heirs of the deceased, as well as those who were injured, for damages against the Republic of the Philippines. The SC affirmed the dismissal of the case on the ground that the State cannot be sued without its consent. The State cannot be held civilly liable for the deaths arising from the incident. Any liability falls on the public officials who have been found to have acted beyond the scope of their authority.


    Baka kasi sabihin sirang plaka ako ,but for your benefit.I know of a case were the respondents are cabinet secretaries:.malapit ito sa concern mo on roads,kahit na procurement ang case,malaki ang kinalaman ng procurement sa finished product,in this case roads and bridges.You can file a petition on the SC.It can be dismissed,but you are allowed to do that.


    G.R. No. 167919 February 14, 2007
    PLARIDEL M. ABAYA, COMMODORE PLARIDEL C. GARCIA (retired) and PMA �59 FOUNDATION, INC., rep. by its President, COMMODORE CARLOS L. AGUSTIN (retired), Petitioners,
    HON. SECRETARY HERMOGENES E. EBDANE, JR., in his capacity as Secretary of the DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS and HIGHWAYS, HON. SECRETARY EMILIA T. BONCODIN, in her capacity as Secretary of the DEPARTMENT OF BUDGET and MANAGEMENT, HON. SECRETARY CESAR V. PURISIMA, in his capacity as Secretary of the DEPARTMENT OF FINANCE, HON. TREASURER NORMA L. LASALA, in her capacity as Treasurer of the Bureau of Treasury, and CHINA ROAD and BRIDGE CORPORATION, Respondents.

  34. Hi KG,
    “Any liability falls on the public officials who have been found to have acted beyond the scope of their authority”
    oic… a good lawyer can always find ” beyond the scope”.
    if public officials have assets and owns businesses, then there you go… LOL… a penalty is enough.. fine or something.
    this is more like a civil case then hopefully SC… dragging the case against any public official with media coverage may help educate the corrupt. LOL.
    baka kasi akala nila , they are always above the law… it’s about time to irritate these people.
    it’s not really a good strategy but reverse psychology may also work with these so called powerful corrupt.we do need good lawyers for the people.
    KG, do we have law firms that advertise, For the people and By the people… billboard type of advertising?
    Is there law firms that will guarantee a case for free and get paid if they win?

  35. KG,
    one more thing… do we have professional liability insurance? employer group liability insurance? for example : is manolo covered by liability insurance by his employer to protect the employing company from getting sued for libel? who are the insuring companies?
    might be a good business for you to look into. self employed professionals, private practice, small, medium size businesses will be your niche market.

  36. Leytenian, information overload.

    You have seen the effects of info overdose (by one commenter for the past few years)by my rants above.
    As I said, it would be unfair kung di ako sumagot pag tinanong.(pwera lang kung matagal ako offline)
    I will try:


    but it covers injury or illness during work.
    as to libel your research is as good as mine.

    gusto mo uwi ka dito at ipaglaban mo.lol(heard of that local tv series?)

    there are pro bono lawyers,I am sure me natitira pa nyan sa pinas. some lawyers use radio and tv programs to give legal advise as to what happens next di ko na alam.

    and since we are in a blog,some lawyers blog, so to access their site people must have internet connections,which costs money(no free lunch).

    I gave it a shot. May pag asa pa pinas,the so called damgage done by no economic development and so called cultural flaws can still be remedied.Huwag lang daw magtulug tulugan para madaling gisisngin.

  37. Hats off to those who are giving comments on libvel laws in the country.
    Very enlightening. But, as always. “Politika lang naman yan eh.”
    Who is Ninez, by the way? One of the most vocal critics of this regime. Well, one can argue that she was convicted based on rule of law.
    Precisely the reason why I am saying that it is only politics.
    Rule of law?
    How many laws have been reduced to piece of paper in this country? Beginning from the top occupiers of power?
    Fine, rule of law.
    But before anyone can shout to his lungs to respect the rule of law, let us pause and ask if there is really rule of law in this country.

  38. KG,
    “gusto mo uwi ka dito at ipaglaban mo.lol(heard of that local tv series?)

    if another landslide will happen. you bet. I will invest my money and ask for help from my network here. I can’t stand this BS anymore.. LOL.. been thinking about ormoc and guinsawgon… how could they let this happen twice? it’s not a coincidence, it’s an obvious consequence of negligence. anyway… i have to relax, this type of issue raises my blood pressure.. LOL

  39. frombelow, olivares was convicted for defaming a private individual who is not a part of this “regime” other than as counsel. what has politics got to do with it? assuming your theory is valid, olivares is not without political clout (from the opposition or the oust-gloria crowd) is she?

    btw, the rule of law is not weakened or nullified by its transgression. criminals can, and sometimes, beat the system. but that doesn’t mean the law is non-existent.

  40. anthony, i think the culprits are corporations who export furnitures overseas, sell furnitures in the home country, home builders and contractors. these corporations maybe naive, stupid or don’t know the consequences of their actions. i’m sure a forensic study and analysis will result to a new policy of implementation and programs for prevention. For now, programs to prevent risk are not seriously addressed nor properly implemented by the department of natural resources. This department must also coordinate with land reform. Records are almost similar. It’s easy to see who owns the land or which area is owned by the government. Educational materials and seminars to all barangay captains, mayors and all government employees are highly recommended. This is another policy ( rules and regulations) that this department must look into. They will be liable and at high risk to be sued if another calamity will happen.
    Anyway, we do have alumni forums,an unofficial city forums, and local blogs that will hopefully educate our people. Audience are very limited due to lack of high speed capabilities and internet access. But it’s there.

  41. Liabilities can be prevented if programs of risk management, prevention and education are implemented.

    in terms of libel, journalists must make sure they are covered with a professional liability insurance. Just like any practicing doctors, nurses , or any businesses. Professionals or any public officials are expected to have extensive technical knowledge or training in their particular area of expertise. They are also expected to perform the services for which they were hired, according to the standards of conduct in their profession. If they fail to use the degree of skill expected of them, they can be held responsible in a court of law for any harm they cause to another person or business.

    from below: “let us pause and ask if there is really rule of law in this country”

    bencard said:” the rule of law is not weakened or nullified by its transgression. criminals can, and sometimes, beat the system. but that doesn’t mean the law is non-existent.”

    i wonder who beats the system?

  42. @ mlq3

    I found a 38 page essay on libel/slander and freedom of expression/the press, as viewed through an analysis of the First Amendment, that might add to that debate on libel from your previous post:


    Maybe I’ll blog about it when I find the time to finish the essay and digest the info ^_^ But the fascinating premise the essay makes is that, alone among the liberal democracies (who also treasure free speech), it is only the Americans who defend the right of free speech and expression to a very high limit.

    I remember that little discussion we had on libel back then, and that recent libel ruling vs. Ma’am Ninez has resurrected the debate, it seems.

  43. Whoops, I meant this post. The “previous” part was because I was supposed to put this on my response to the preceding thread on Ces Drilon’s kidnapping ^_^

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