What is Cyber Libel in the Philippines?
Cyber Libel in the Philippines is a libelous act committed through a computer system or a similar means. This may Facebook posts that defame you or make false accusations.
Cyber Libel is legally defined from the following sections:
Section 4 (c) 4 of RA 10175:
The unlawful or prohibited acts of libel as defined in Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, committed through a computer system or any other similar means which may be devised in the future.
Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code discusses libel by written means.
Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code, on the other hand, defines what Libel is:
A libel is 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.
So, a defamatory Facebook post may certainly fall under Online Libel or Cyber Libel.
What are the penalties for Cyber Libel Philippines?
For Cyber Libel Philippines, the penalty is a fine from Php 40,000 to Php 1,200,000, a prison sentence of 4 years 2 months and 1 day to 8 years and other civil actions. [RA 10175 Section 6 and Sec 355 of the Revised Penal Code]
RA 10175 increases the Cyber Libel Penalty by one degree.
The Supreme Court has explained that the higher penalty is due to the fact that the offender often avoids identification and is also able to reach more victims and cause greater harm. GR 203335 2014
Note also –
Additional penalties can be imposed through civil cases so you may also sue for moral or other damages.
How do I make a complaint for Cyber Libel Philippines?
You can file a complaint for Cyber Libel Philippines with one of the government agencies or you can file a case (Link to Bottom Part in this same article).
Pursuing a case takes resources, so only pursue a case if you are committed to it and are willing to put in time and money.
While filing a complaint with the government agencies will also take time and effort, it is less expensive.
You can file a complaint with the following agencies:
- Philippine National Police
- National Bureau of Investigation
- Department of Justice
Each agency has a specific department just for cybercrimes.
Be thorough when filing the complaint. Compile a list of dates, screenshots and explanations organized chronologically in a neatly organized table. Include screenshots of the Online Libel as proof.
You will also need to be determined since you will need to follow up continuously.
(Be persistent. It will take a lot of work.)
How do I file a Court Case for Cyber Libel in the Philippines?
If a complaint is not sufficient, you can file a court case for Cyber Libel in the Philippines at the RTC where you live through a lawyer.
The first step would be to get your evidence together so that your lawyer can assess the case.
The best way to do this is to tabulate all the events pertinent to the Cyber Libel Philippines Case in chronological order. Include all proof that you have such as screenshots and receipts as well as contact numbers and names of your Witnesses.
The more detailed you are in explaining how the Online Libel occurred, the better your lawyer will be able to assess your case and plan the correct legal strategy.
He will need to prove that 5 elements exist (see our Section on How to Prove Cyber Libel in the Philippines).
Thus, the more information you give him, the better.
How do you prove Cyber Libel in the Philippines?
To prove Cyber Libel, the act must be proved to be libelous and it must have been committed through a computer system.
An act is libelous [GR 203335] when:
- the allegation of a discreditable act or condition concerning another
- publication of the charge
- identity of the person defamed existence of malice
Furthermore, it is Cyber Libel when the act was committed through a computer system.
In filing Cyber Libel in the Philippines, you must prove that all these elements exist.
These are actually rather specific, and you would need a lawyer to guide you through this.
In Yuchengco vs Manila Chronicle each of the 4 elements of libel were discussed.
The Court examined whether or not the articles were defamatory.
It cited United States vs Sotto:
“That construction must be adopted which will give to the matter such a meaning as is natural and obvious in the plain and ordinary sense in which the public would naturally understand what was uttered.”
So, it is the plain and commonsense understanding of what is written is what should prevail, despite protestations to the contrary.
The Yuchengco case also discussed what Malice is and how it is determined.
There are 2 types of Malice:
- Malice in law
- Malice in fact
Malice in law is a presumption. It dispenses with the proof of malice when words that raise the presumption are shown to have been uttered.
Malice in law is where there is no showing of a good intention or justifiable motive for making such imputation.
Malice in fact is a positive desire and intention to annoy and injure.
In Yuchengco, the Court deemed that actual malice was present in the articles, as respondents did not show an attempt to verify the allegations.
If this sounds confusing to you, it is completely understandable.
(This is why we hire lawyers. The language can get really, really technical.)
When can you file a case for Cyber Libel in the Philippines?
You can file a Cyber Libel Philippines case up to one year after the act.
However, there are some developments in the law that state that the case can be filed up to 15 years after.
The Courts are still trying to determine which prescriptive period applies.
In the 1930s Revised Penal Code, you can only file for libel on year after the publication of the libelous act.
However, the Department of Justice worked on the basis that a case for libel can be filed 12 years after the publication in the Maria Ressa case.
So, there is still some confusion on whether the 1 year prescription period applies or the 12 year prescription period does.
If you are determined to file a case for Cyber Libel in the Philippines, it may be best to file within the 1 year period, so as to avoid the issue altogether.
Where do I file Cyber Libel in the Philippines?
Cyber libel should be filed in the Regional Trial Court (RTC) where any of the offended parties lives GR 184800 2010.
This is different from a non-Cyber Libel Case.
A Non-Cyber Libel Case in the Philippines can be filed also where the article was first printed and published.
Cyber Libel in the Philippines removes this possible venue because of an online article can be accessed from anywhere. Consequently, this would imply potentially filing anywhere in the Philippines, which would be chaotic.
So, a Cyber Libel Philippine case can only be filed where one of the offended parties’ lives.
What is the Cyber Libel Court Proceeding like?
Cyber Libel Court Proceeding follows the rules for a criminal case with a preliminary investigation prior to the court hearing itself. Either the Complainant or the Accused may hire private counsel.
The first step is to file a complaint at the Prosecutor’s Office complete with the evidence. This evidence should include witness statements and screenshots of the Online Libel.
The evidence should be as complete as possible because it must hurdle probable cause.
If it hurdles probable cause, the Prosecutor’s Office will forward the case to the Court through a document called An Information.
The Court handling the case will also then make its own determination of Probable Cause. If it finds that there is Probable Cause, it will issue a Warrant of Arrest for the accused.
The accused may post bail. If he does not post bail, he spends the duration of the trail period in bail.
The Court Trial will then begin.
In combative cases where both sides are determined and well-funded, expect it to take several years due to the fact that each side will try to fight it out.
Think deeply or consider whether or not you must file a Cyber Libel case and do at least a consultation with a lawyer to understand the legal options so that your expectations are correctly set.