Defamation Laws In Philippines

Under Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code, libel is defined “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 dishonor, discredit or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead.” In libel, publication is a requirement, which must be in writing or similar means. On the other hand, slander constitutes oral defamation under Article 358 of the Revised Penal Code. Libel and slander are punishable by imprisonment (prision correccional)

In a criminal offense of libel, truth may be given in evidence if it appears that the matter charged as libelous is true and that it was published with good motives and with justifiable ends (Please see 361 of the Revised Penal Code). Under Article 354 of the Penal Code, a fair and true report made in good faith without remarks or comments of any official proceedings which are not confidential in nature. If remarks and comments, under Article 354 are made with malice, such comments and remarks will not exempt the author, publisher, editor or managing editor of a newspaper from criminal liability.

In the Philippines, criminal and civil action for damages may be filed simultaneously or separately in the Court where the libelous article is printed and first published, or where any of the offended parties actually resides at the time of the commission of the offense. (See Article 360 of the Revised Penal Code).

Although there are blog comments of Philippine lawyers stating that a crime of internet libel law may prosper by virtue of the enactment of the Philippine E-Commerce Act and the Supreme Court Rules on Electronic Evidence, a criminal case involving libelous/defamatory statements on Facebook still remains to be a questionable issue that remains to be debatable in the Philippines.

That is why Senator Manny Villar filed a bill that aims to penalize those who defame others through Facebook, Twitter and other forms of electronic media.

Freedom of expression is respected under Article III of the 1987 Philippine Constitution. But what is certain though is that in the Philippines, its courts cannot file a criminal action for libel against non-resident defendant. If the defendant is a corporation, no criminal action can lie against it (See Time Inc. vs. Hon. Andres Reyes, G.R. No. L-28882 May 31, 1971,.) Moreover, in order for an action for libel to prosper, the complainant must prove that the libel was committed only against individual reputation; and that in cases where libel is claimed to have been directed at a group, such libel can be said to reach beyond the mere collectivity to do damage to a specific, individual group member’s reputation. (See Newsweek Inc. vs. IAC et al., G.R. No. L-63559 May 30, 1986,)
Under Article 90 of the Revised Penal Code, the crime of libel shall prescribe in one year and offenses of oral defamation shall prescribe in six months.