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What is Libel?

LIBEL
ELEMENTS:
1.
That there must be an imputation of a crime, or of a
vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission,
condition, status, or circumstances.
2.

That the imputation must be made publicly.

3.

That it must be malicious.

4.
That the imputation must be directed at a natural or
juridical person, or one who is dead.
5.
That the imputation must tend to cause the dishonor,
discredit or contempt of the person defamed.
Notes:
LIBEL is a public and malicious imputation of a crime, or a vice
or defect, real or imaginary or any act, commission, condition,
status or circumstances tending to cause the dishonor,
discredit or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to
blacken the memory of one who is dead
Character of the words used to make it defamatory.
Words calculated to induce suspicion are more effective in
destroying reputation than false charges directly made. Ironical
and metaphorical language is a favored vehicle for slander. A
charge is sufficient if the words are calculated to induce the
hearer to suppose and understand that the person against
whom they are uttered is guilty of certain offenses, or are
sufficient to impeach his honesty, virtue or reputation, or to hold
him up to public ridicule. (U.S. vs. OConnell, 37 Phil. 767)
Malice has been defined as a term used to indicate the fact
that the defamer is prompted by personal ill or spite and
speaks not in response to duty but merely to injure the
reputation of the person defamed.
Kinds of Malice.
Malice in law This is assumed and is inferred from the
defamatory character of an imputation. The presumption of
malice attaches to the defamatory statement especially if it
appears to be insulting per se. The law presumes that the
defamer made the imputation without good intention or
justifiable motive.
Malice in fact This refers to malice as a fact. The presence
and existence of personal ill-will or spite may still appear even if

the statement is not defamatory. So, where the defamatory acts


may be presumed from the publication of the defamatory acts
imputed refer to the private life of the individual, malice may be
presumed from the publication of the defamatory statement
because no one has a right to invade anothers privacy.
Distinction between malice in fact and malice in law
Malice in fact is the malice which the law presumes from
every statement whose tenor is defamatory. It does not need
proof. The mere fact that the utterance or statement is
defamatory negates a legal presumption of malice.
In the crime of libel, which includes oral defamation, there is no
need for the prosecution to present evidence of malice. It is
enough that the alleged defamatory or libelous statement be
presented to the court verbatim. It is the court which will prove
whether it is defamatory or not. If the tenor of the utterance or
statement is defamatory, the legal presumption of malice
arises even without proof.
Malice in fact becomes necessary only if the malice in law has
been rebutted. Otherwise, there is no need to adduce
evidence of malice in fact. So, while malice in law does not
require evidence, malice in fact requires evidence.
Malice in law can be negated by evidence that, in fact, the
alleged libelous or defamatory utterance was made with good
motives and justifiable ends or by the fact that the utterance
was privileged in character.
In law, however, the privileged character of a defamatory
statement may be absolute or qualified.
When the privileged character is said to be absolute, the
statement will not be actionable whether criminal or civil
because that means the law does not allow prosecution on an
action based thereon.
Illustration:
As regards the statements made by Congressmen while they
are deliberating or discussing in Congress, when the privileged
character is qualified, proof of malice in fact will be admitted to
take the place of malice in law. When the defamatory
statement or utterance is qualifiedly privileged, the malice in
law is negated. The utterance or statement would not be
actionable because malice in law does not exist. Therefore, for
the complainant to prosecute the accused for libel, oral
defamation or slander, he has to prove that the accused was
actuated with malice (malice in fact) in making the statement.
* Malice is presumed to exist in injurious publications
* Where the imputation is based upon matters of public
interest, the presumption of malice does not arise from the

mere publication of the defamatory statement. A matter of


public interest is common property. Malice in fact comes into
play when the statement made is not defamatory per se, as
when the offender resorts to underserved praises or satirical
method of impeaching the virtue, honesty and reputation of the
offended party. It can also appear in the form of innuendos.
* This discussion leads to the conclusion that the determination
of libelous meaning is left to the good judgment of the court
after considering all the circumstances which lead to the
utterance or publication of the defamatory statement. The
question is not what the writer of an alleged libel means but
what the words used by him mean. The meaning given by the
writer or the words used by him is immaterial. The question is
not what the writer meant but what he conveyed to those who
heard or read him (People vs. Encarnacion, 204 SCRA 1)
How to overcome the presumption of malice.
The presumption of malice is rebutted by showing :
1. that the accused published the defamatory imputation with
good intention;
2. that there is justifiable motive for making it;
3. that the communication made is privileged; and
4. accused must prove the truth of the defamatory imputation
in those cases wherein truth is a defense.

be one count of libel.


* If the offended parties in the libel were distinctly identified,
even though the libel was committed at one and the same time,
there will be as many libels as there are persons dishonored.
Illustration:
If a person uttered that All the Marcoses are thieves," there will
only be one libel because these particular Marcoses regarded
as thieves are not specifically identified.
If the offender said, All the Marcoses the father, mother and
daughter are thieves. There will be three counts of libel
because each person libeled is distinctly dishonored.
* If you do not know the particular persons libeled, you cannot
consider one libel as giving rise to several counts of libel. In
order that one defamatory utterance or imputation may be
considered as having dishonored more than one person, those
persons dishonored must be identified. Otherwise, there will
only be one count of libel.
* Note that in libel, the person defamed need not be expressly
identified. It is enough that he could possibly be identified
because innuendos may also be a basis for prosecution for
libel. As a matter of fact, even a compliment which is
undeserved, has been held to be libelous.
* To presume publication there must be a reasonable
probability that the alleged a libelous matter was thereby
exposed to be read or seen by 3rd persons.

PUBLICATION is the communication of the defamatory matter


to some third person/s

Republication of defamatory article is punishable.

Publication is the communication of the defamatory matter to


a third person or persons. So, the delivery of a defamatory
writing to a typesetter is sufficient publication. Writing a letter to
another person other than the person defamed is sufficient
publication. (See Sazon vs. Court of Appeals, 255 SCRA
692)

One is liable for publication of defamatory words against


another although he is only repeating what he heard and
names the source of his information. A person who repeats a
slander or libelous publication heard or read from another is
presumed to indorse it. (People vs. Salumbides and
Reanzares, C.A., 55 O.G. 2638)

> The crime is libel if the defamation is in writing or printed


media.

Criterion to determine whether statements are defamatory

> The crime is slander or oral defamation if it is not printed.


* Person libeled must be identified. But the publication need not
refer by name to the libeled party. If not named it must be
shown that the description of the person referred to in the
defamatory publication was sufficiently clear so that at least a
3rd person would have identified the plaintiff.
* When a libel is addressed to several persons, unless they are
identified in the same libel, even if there are several persons
offended by the libelous utterance or statement, there will only

1) words are calculated to induce the hearers to suppose and


understand that the person against who they are uttered were
guilty of certain offenses, or are sufficient to impeach their
honesty, virtue or reputation, or to hold the person up to public
ridicule(US v OConnel)
2 )construed not only as to the expression used but also with
respect to the whole scope and apparent object of the writer.(P
v Encarnacion)
* The test of libelous meanings is not the analysis of a
sentence into component phrases with the meticulous care of

the grammarian or stylist, but the import conveyed by the


entirety of the language to the ordinary reader. (Lacsa vs.

* In libel cases, the question is not what the offender means but
what the words used by him mean. ( Sazon vs. CA, 255 SCRA
692)

Newsweek v IAC
Newsweek portrayed the island province of Negros Occidental
as a place dominated by big landowners. Plaintiffs are
associations of sugarcane planters. HELD: Dismissed. To
maintain a libel suit, the specific victim must be identifiable.
Defamatory remarks directed at a group of persons are not
actionable unless the statements are all-embracing or
sufficiently specific for victim to be identifiable. An action for
libel allegedly directed against a group of sugar planters cannot
be done by resort to filing a class suit as each victim has his
specific reputation to protect. In this case, each of the plaintiffs
has a separate and distinct reputation in the community.

Praises undeserved are slander in disguise.

Rule regarding Public Officers:

Where the comments are worded in praise of the plaintiff, like


describing him with qualities which plaintiff does not deserve
because of his social, political and economic status in the
community which is too well known to all concerned, are which
intended are intended to ridicule rather than praise him, the
publication is deemed libelous (Jimenez vs. Reyes, 27 SCRA
52)

Defamatory remarks and comments on the conduct or acts of


public officers which are related to the discharge of their official
duties will not constitute libel if the accused proves the truth of
the imputation. But any attack upon the private character of the
public officers on matters which are not related to the discharge
of their official functions may constitute Libel.

Libel

Perjury

-false accusation
need not be made
under oath

-false accusation is made under


oath

FAC, et al., 161 SCRA 427).

* Even if what was imputed is true, the crime of libel is


committed unless one acted with good motives or justifiable
end. Poof of truth of a defamatory imputation is not even
admissible in evidence, unless what was imputed pertains to
an act which constitutes a crime and when the person to whom
the imputation was made is a public officer and the imputation
pertains to the performance of official duty. Other than these,
the imputation is not admissible.
When proof of truth is admissible
1.
When the act or omission imputed constitutes a crime
regardless of whether the offended party is a private individual
or a public officer;
2.
When the offended party is a government employee,
even if the act or omission imputed does not constitute a crime,
provided if its related to the discharged of his official duties.
Requisites of defense in defamation
1.

If it appears that the matter charged as libelous is true;

2.

It was published with good motives;

3.

It was for justifiable ends.

If a crime is a private crime, it cannot be prosecuted de officio.


A complaint from the offended party is necessary.

* Where malice cannot be inferred from false defamatory


statements, the ruling appears to be the true only if the
offended party is a government employee, with respect to facts
related to the discharge of his official duties. With his
jurisprudence, it should now be emphasized that actual
malice is now required to be proven. It is enough to rely on
presumed malice in libel cases involving a public official or
public figure.
* Malice is now understood to mean publication with knowledge
of falsehood or reckless disregard of the statements veracity.
The burden of proof has not only been shifted to the plaintiff in
libel, but proof has not only been shifted to the plaintiff in libel,
but proof of malice must now be clear and convincing.
Case Doctrines:
* The fact that a communication is privileged is not a proper
ground for the dismissal of a complaint for libel. In the first
place, it is a matter of defense. Secondly, the fact that a
communication is privileged does not mean that it is not
actionable. The privileged character simply does away with the
presumption of malice which the prosecution has to prove in
such a case. (Lu Chu Sing, et al., vs. Lu Tiong Gui, 76 Phil.
669)
* Libel in answer to another libel is not a defense. (Pellicena
vs. Gonzales, 6 Phil. 50)
* If the defamatory imputation is in the nature of self-defense
under Article 11 of the Revised Penal Code such that the

publication was done in good faith, without malice and just


adequate enough to protect his good name, the statement may
be considered privileged. (People vs. Baja, 40 O.G. 206;
People vs. Mendoza, C.A. 74 O.G. 5607)
* The fair and true report of official proceedings refer to
proceedings in the three branches of government, to wit:
judicial, legislative and executive. The publisher is limited only
to the narration of what had taken place even if the report
contains defamatory and injurious matter affecting another
person, libel is not committed for as long as what is contained
is a fair and true report of the proceedings.
* Under Article 354, the publisher becomes liable when he
makes comments or remarks upon the private character of
person, which are not relevant or related to the judicial,
legislative or executive proceedings.
* Under our libel law, defamatory remarks against government
employees with respect to facts related to the discharge of their
official duties will not constitute libel, if defendant is able to
prove the truth of the imputations. But any attack on the private
character of the officer on matters which are not related to the
discharge of his official functions may constitute libel since
under our laws, the right of the press to criticize public officers
does not authorize defamation. (U.S. vs. Bustos, supra;
Sazon vs. Court of Appeals, supra).

a matter of defense. It is not a ground for a motion to quash


after the arraignment of the accused. (See Mercado vs. CFI of
Rizal, 116 SCRA 93). If after the prosecution has presented its
evidence, it becomes evident that the defamatory statement
was made by the accused because of a legal, moral or social
duty, then the accused can file a demurrer to evidence, as in
the meantime, there is absence of malice in law which is
presumed in all defamatory imputations.
GENERAL RULE: Every defamatory imputation is presumed
malicious even if it be true, if no good intention and justifiable
motive for making it is shown
EXCEPTION:
a.
private communication in performance of legal,
moral or social duty
Requisites
1. that the person who made the communication had a legal,
moral or social duty to make the communication or at least he
had an interest to be upheld
2. that the communication is addressed to an officer or a
board, or superior, having some interest or duty on the matter
3. that the statements in the communication are made in
good faith without malice in fact
b.
fair and true report, made in good faith, without any
comments and remarks

Article354
REQUIREMENT OF PUBLICITY
Kinds of privileged communication
a. ABSOLUTELY PRIVILEGED not actionable even if the
actor has acted in bad faith
b.
QUALIFIEDLY PRIVILEGED those which although
containing defamatory imputations could not be actionable
unless made with malice or bad faith
* When the defamatory imputation comes under the criteria of
an absolute privileged communication, the presumption of
malice under Article 354 has no application.
* The presumption of malice, however, comes into play when
the defamatory statement is a conditional or qualified privileged
communication. To overcome this presumption of malice in law,
the defamer must prove during the proceeding that the
defamatory imputation was committed because of a legal,
moral or social duty.
* Privileged communication as categorized in this discussion is

Requisites
1. that the publication of a report of an official proceeding is a
fair and true report of a judicial, legislative, or other official
proceedings which are not of confidential nature, or of a
statement, report, or speech delivered in said proceedings, or
of any other act performed by a public officer
2.

that it is made in good faith

3.

that it is made without any comments or remarks

Doctrine of fair comment


A fair comment on matters of public interest is included and is
covered by the mantle of privileged communication which
constitutes a valid defense against libel and slander. If the
comment is an expression of opinion based on established
facts, then it is immaterial that the opinion happens to be
mistaken, as long as it might be reasonably inferred from the
facts. Further explaining the right to comment on a public
issue, the Court said, If a matter is a subject of public or
general interest, it cannot become less so merely because a
private individual is involved. The public primary interest is in
the event; the public focus is on the conduct of the participants

and not on their prior anonymity or notoriety. ( Borjal vs. CA,


301 SCRA 1 )
Santos v CA
HELD: No malice, he simply furnished the readers with the info
that a complaint has been filed against the brokerage firm and
reproduced the pleading verbatim with no embellishments.

4.

Engraving;

5.

Radio;

6.

Photograph;

7.

Painting;

8.

Theatrical exhibition;

Article 355
LIBEL BY MEANS OF WRITING OR SIMILAR MEANS

9.

Cinematographic exhibition; or

A libel may be committed by means of

10.

Any similar means.

1.

Writing;

2.

Printing;

3.

Lithography;

* In the enumeration above, television is not included, probably


because at the time the Revised Penal Code was conceived,
television had not yet been invented. However, the law
provides, or any similar means which easily qualifies
television is such species or category. (People vs. Casten,
C.A., G.R. No. 07924-CR promulgated December 13, 1974)