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Commissioner of Public Affairs, and the duties are supervision of the Police Department, Fire

Libel/Tort Department, Department of Cemetery and Department of Scales.


New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (No. 39)
Argued: January 6, 1964 He brought this civil libel action against the four individual petitioners, who are Negroes and Alabama
Decided: March 9, 1964 clergymen, and against petitioner the New York Times Company, a New York corporation which
273 Ala. 656, 144 So.2d 25, reversed and remanded. publishes the New York Times, a daily newspaper. A jury in the Circuit Court of Montgomery County
awarded him damages of $500,000, the full amount claimed, against all the petitioners, and the Supreme
Syllabus Court of Alabama affirmed. 273 Ala. 656, 144 So.2d 25.
Opinion, Brennan
Concurrence, Black Respondent's complaint alleged that he had been libeled by statements in a full-page advertisement that
Concurrence, Goldberg was carried in the New York Times on March 29, 1960. [n1] Entitled "Heed Their Rising Voices," the
Syllabus advertisement began by stating that,
Respondent, an elected official in Montgomery, Alabama, brought suit in a state court alleging that he
had been libeled by an advertisement in corporate petitioner's newspaper, the text of which appeared As the whole world knows by now, thousands of Southern Negro students are engaged in widespread
over the names of the four individual petitioners and many others. The advertisement included nonviolent demonstrations in positive affirmation of the right to live in human dignity as guaranteed by
statements, some of which were false, about police action allegedly directed against students who the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
participated in a civil rights demonstration and against a leader of the civil rights movement; respondent
claimed the statements referred to him because his duties included supervision of the police It went on to charge that, in their efforts to uphold these guarantees, they are being met by an
department. The trial judge instructed the jury that such statements were "libelous per se," legal injury unprecedented wave of terror by those who would deny and negate that document which the whole
being implied without proof of actual damages, and that, for the purpose of compensatory damages, world looks upon as setting the pattern for modern freedom. . . .
malice was presumed, so that such damages could be awarded against petitioners if the statements
were found to have been published by them and to have related to respondent. As to punitive damages, Succeeding [p257] paragraphs purported to illustrate the "wave of terror" by describing certain alleged
the judge instructed that mere negligence was not evidence of actual malice, and would not justify an events. The text concluded with an appeal for funds for three purposes: support of the student
award of punitive damages; he refused to instruct that actual intent to harm or recklessness had to be movement, "the struggle for the right to vote," and the legal defense of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,
found before punitive damages could be awarded, or that a verdict for respondent should differentiate leader of the movement, against a perjury indictment then pending in Montgomery.
between compensatory and punitive damages. The jury found for respondent, and the State Supreme
Court affirmed. The text appeared over the names of 64 persons, many widely known for their activities in public affairs,
Held: A State cannot, under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, award damages to a public official religion, trade unions, and the performing arts. Below these names, and under a line reading "We in the
for defamatory falsehood relating to his official conduct unless he proves "actual malice" -- that the south who are struggling daily for dignity and freedom warmly endorse this appeal," appeared the
statement was made with knowledge of its falsity or with reckless disregard of whether it was true or names of the four individual petitioners and of 16 other persons, all but two of whom were identified as
false. Pp. 265-292. clergymen in various Southern cities. The advertisement was signed at the bottom of the page by the
(a) Application by state courts of a rule of law, whether statutory or not, to award a judgment in a civil "Committee to Defend Martin Luther King and the Struggle for Freedom in the South," and the officers of
action, is "state action" under the Fourteenth Amendment. P. 265. the Committee were listed.
(b) Expression does not lose constitutional protection to which it would otherwise be entitled because it
appears in the form of a paid advertisement. Pp. 265-266. [p255] Of the 10 paragraphs of text in the advertisement, the third and a portion of the sixth were the basis of
(c) Factual error, content defamatory of official reputation, or both, are insufficient to warrant an award respondent's claim of libel. They read as follows:
of damages for false statements unless "actual malice" -- knowledge that statements are false or in
reckless disregard of the truth -- is alleged and proved. Pp. 279-283. Third paragraph:
(d) State court judgment entered upon a general verdict which does not differentiate between punitive In Montgomery, Alabama, after students sang "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" on the State Capitol steps, their
damages, as to which, under state law, actual malice must be proved, and general damages, as to which leaders were expelled from school, and truckloads of police armed with shotguns and tear-gas ringed the
it is "presumed," precludes any determination as to the basis of the verdict, and requires reversal, where Alabama State College Campus. When the entire student body protested to state authorities by refusing
presumption of malice is inconsistent with federal constitutional requirements. P. 284. to reregister, their dining hall was padlocked in an attempt to starve them into submission.
(e) The evidence was constitutionally insufficient to support the judgment for respondent, since it failed
to support a finding that the statements were made with actual malice or that they related to Sixth paragraph:
respondent. Pp. 285-292. Again and again, the Southern violators have answered Dr. King's peaceful protests with intimidation and
Opinion violence. They have bombed his home, almost killing his wife and child. They have [p258] assaulted his
BRENNAN, J., Opinion of the Court person. They have arrested him seven times -- for "speeding," "loitering" and similar "offenses." And
MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court. now they have charged him with "perjury" -- a felony under which they could imprison him for ten years.
We are required in this case to determine for the first time the extent to which the constitutional ...
protections for speech and press limit a State's power to award damages in a libel action brought by a Although neither of these statements mentions respondent by name, he contended that the word
public official against critics of his official conduct. "police" in the third paragraph referred to him as the Montgomery Commissioner who supervised the
Police Department, so that he was being accused of "ringing" the campus with police. He further claimed
Respondent L. B. Sullivan is one of the three elected Commissioners of the City of Montgomery, that the paragraph would be read as imputing to the police, and hence to him, the padlocking of the
Alabama. He testified that he was dining hall in order to starve the students into submission. [n2] As to the sixth paragraph, he contended
that, since arrests are ordinarily made by the police, the statement "They have arrested [Dr. King] seven made an effort to confirm the accuracy of the advertisement, either by checking it against recent Times
times" would be read as referring to him; he further contended that the "They" who did the arresting news stories relating to some of the described events or by any other means.
would be equated with the "They" who committed the other described acts and with the "Southern
violators." Thus, he argued, the paragraph would be read as accusing the Montgomery police, and hence Alabama law denies a public officer recovery of punitive damages in a libel action brought on account of
him, of answering Dr. King's protests with "intimidation and violence," bombing his home, assaulting his a publication concerning his official conduct unless he first makes a written demand for a public
person, and charging him with perjury. Respondent and six other Montgomery residents testified that retraction and the defendant fails or refuses to comply. Alabama Code, Tit. 7, 914. Respondent served
they read some or all of the statements as referring to him in his capacity as Commissioner. such a demand upon each of the petitioners. None of the individual petitioners responded to the
demand, primarily because each took the position that he had not authorized the use of his name on the
It is uncontroverted that some of the statements contained in the two paragraphs were not accurate advertisement, and therefore had not published the statements that respondent alleged had libeled him.
descriptions of events which occurred in Montgomery. Although Negro students staged a demonstration The Times did not publish a retraction in response to the demand, but wrote respondent a letter stating,
on the State Capitol steps, they sang the National Anthem and not "My [p259] Country, 'Tis of Thee." among other things, that "we . . . are somewhat puzzled as to how you think the statements in any way
Although nine students were expelled by the State Board of Education, this was not for leading the reflect on you," and "you might, if you desire, let us know in what respect you claim that the statements
demonstration at the Capitol, but for demanding service at a lunch counter in the Montgomery County in the advertisement reflect on you." Respondent filed this suit a few days later without answering the
Courthouse on another day. Not the entire student body, but most of it, had protested the expulsion, letter. The Times did, however, subsequently publish a retraction of the advertisement upon the demand
not by refusing to register, but by boycotting classes on a single day; virtually all the students did register of Governor John Patterson of Alabama, who asserted that the publication charged him with grave
for the ensuing semester. The campus dining hall was not padlocked on any occasion, and the only misconduct and . . . improper actions and omissions as Governor of Alabama and Ex-Officio Chairman of
students who may have been barred from eating there were the few who had neither signed a the State Board of Education of Alabama.
preregistration application nor requested temporary meal tickets. Although the police were deployed
near the campus in large numbers on three occasions, they did not at any time "ring" the campus, and When asked to explain why there had been a retraction for the Governor but not for respondent, the
they were not called to the campus in connection with the demonstration on the State Capitol steps, as [p262] Secretary of the Times testified:
the third paragraph implied. Dr. King had not been arrested seven times, but only four, and although he We did that because we didn't want anything that was published by The Times to be a reflection on the
claimed to have been assaulted some years earlier in connection with his arrest for loitering outside a State of Alabama, and the Governor was, as far as we could see, the embodiment of the State of
courtroom, one of the officers who made the arrest denied that there was such an assault. Alabama and the proper representative of the State, and, furthermore, we had by that time learned
more of the actual facts which the and purported to recite and, finally, the ad did refer to the action of
On the premise that the charges in the sixth paragraph could be read as referring to him, respondent the State authorities and the Board of Education, presumably of which the Governor is the ex-officio
was allowed to prove that he had not participated in the events described. Although Dr. King's home chairman. . . .
had, in fact, been bombed twice when his wife and child were there, both of these occasions antedated On the other hand, he testified that he did not think that "any of the language in there referred to Mr.
respondent's tenure as Commissioner, and the police were not only not implicated in the bombings, but Sullivan."
had made every effort to apprehend those who were. Three of Dr. King's four arrests took place before
respondent became Commissioner. Although Dr. King had, in fact, been indicted (he was subsequently The trial judge submitted the case to the jury under instructions that the statements in the
acquitted) on two counts of perjury, each of which carried a possible five-year sentence, respondent had advertisement were "libelous per se," and were not privileged, so that petitioners might be held liable if
nothing to do with procuring the indictment. [p260] the jury found that they had published the advertisement and that the statements were made "of and
concerning" respondent. The jury was instructed that, because the statements were libelous per se, "the
Respondent made no effort to prove that he suffered actual pecuniary loss as a result of the alleged libel. law . . . implies legal injury from the bare fact of publication itself," "falsity and malice are presumed,"
[n3] One of his witnesses, a former employer, testified that, if he had believed the statements, he "general damages need not be alleged or proved, but are presumed," and "punitive damages may be
doubted whether he "would want to be associated with anybody who would be a party to such things awarded by the jury even though the amount of actual damages is neither found nor shown." An award
that are stated in that ad," and that he would not reemploy respondent if he believed "that he allowed of punitive damages -- as distinguished from "general" damages, which are compensatory in nature --
the Police Department to do the things that the paper say he did." But neither this witness nor any of the apparently requires proof of actual malice under Alabama law, and the judge charged that mere
others testified that he had actually believed the statements in their supposed reference to respondent. negligence or carelessness is not evidence of actual malice or malice in fact, and does not justify an
The cost of the advertisement was approximately $4800, and it was published by the Times upon an award of exemplary or punitive damages.
order from a New York advertising agency acting for the signatory Committee. The agency submitted the
advertisement with a letter from A. Philip Randolph, Chairman of the Committee, certifying that the He refused to charge, however, that the jury must be "convinced" of malice, in the sense of "actual
persons whose names appeared on the advertisement had given their permission. Mr. Randolph was intent" to harm or "gross negligence and recklessness," to make such an award, and he also refused to
known to the Times' Advertising Acceptability Department as a responsible person, and, in accepting the require that a verdict for respondent differentiate between compensatory and punitive damages. The
letter as sufficient proof of authorization, it followed its established practice. There was testimony that judge rejected petitioners' contention [p263] that his rulings abridged the freedoms of speech and of the
the copy of the advertisement which accompanied the letter listed only the 64 names appearing under press that are guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
the text, and that the statement, "We in the south . . . warmly endorse this appeal," and the list of names
thereunder, which included those of the individual petitioners, were subsequently added when the first In affirming the judgment, the Supreme Court of Alabama sustained the trial judge's rulings and
proof of the advertisement was received. Each of the individual petitioners testified that he had not instructions in all respects. 273 Ala. 656, 144 So.2d 25. It held that, where the words published tend to
authorized the use of his name, and that he had been unaware of its use until receipt of respondent's injure a person libeled by them in his reputation, profession, trade or business, or charge him with an
demand for a retraction. The manager of the Advertising Acceptability [p261] Department testified that indictable offense, or tend to bring the individual into public contempt, they are "libelous per se"; that
he had approved the advertisement for publication because he knew nothing to cause him to believe "the matter complained of is, under the above doctrine, libelous per se, if it was published of and
that anything in it was false, and because it bore the endorsement of "a number of people who are well concerning the plaintiff", and that it was actionable without "proof of pecuniary injury . . . . such injury
known and whose reputation" he "had no reason to question." Neither he nor anyone else at the Times being implied." Id. at 673, 676, 144 So.2d at 37, 41. It approved the trial court's ruling that the jury could
find the statements to have been made "of and concerning" respondent, stating:
We think it common knowledge that the average person knows that municipal agents, such as police and matters of the highest public interest and concern. See NAACP v. Button, 371 U.S. 415, 435. That the
firemen, and others, are under the control and direction of the city governing body, and, more Times was paid for publishing the advertisement is as immaterial in this connection as is the fact that
particularly, under the direction and control of a single commissioner. In measuring the performance or newspapers and books are sold. Smith v. California, 361 U.S. 147, 150; cf. Bantam Books, Inc., v. Sullivan,
deficiencies of such groups, praise or criticism is usually attached to the official in complete control of 372 U.S. 58, 64, n. 6. Any other conclusion would discourage newspapers from carrying "editorial
the body. advertisements" of this type, and so might shut off an important outlet for the promulgation of
information and ideas by persons who do not themselves have access to publishing facilities -- who wish
Id. at 674-675, 144 So.2d at 39. In sustaining the trial court's determination that the verdict was not to exercise their freedom of speech even though they are not members of the press. Cf. Lovell v. Griffin,
excessive, the court said that malice could be inferred from the Times' "irresponsibility" in printing the 303 U.S. 444, 452; Schneider v. State, 308 U.S. 147, 164. The effect would be to shackle the First
advertisement while the Times, in its own files, had articles already published which would have Amendment in its attempt to secure "the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and
demonstrated the falsity of the allegations in the advertisement; antagonistic sources." Associated Press v. United States, 326 U.S. 1, 20. To avoid placing such a handicap
upon the freedoms of expression, we hold that, if the allegedly libelous statements would otherwise be
from the Times' failure to retract for respondent while retracting for the Governor, whereas the falsity of constitutionally protected from the present judgment, they do not forfeit that protection because they
some of the allegations was then known to the Times and "the matter contained in the advertisement were published in the form of a paid advertisement. [n5] [p267]
was equally false as to both parties", and from the testimony of the Times' Secretary that, [p264] apart
from the statement that the dining hall was padlocked, he thought the two paragraphs were II
"substantially correct." Id. at 686-687, 144 So.2d at 50-51. The court reaffirmed a statement in an earlier
opinion that "There is no legal measure of damages in cases of this character." Id. at 686, 144 So.2d at Under Alabama law, as applied in this case, a publication is "libelous per se" if the words "tend to injure a
50. It rejected petitioners' constitutional contentions with the brief statements that "The First person . . . in his reputation" or to "bring [him] into public contempt"; the trial court stated that the
Amendment of the U.S. Constitution does not protect libelous publications," and "The Fourteenth standard was met if the words are such as to "injure him in his public office, or impute misconduct to
Amendment is directed against State action, and not private action." Id. at 676, 144 So.2d at 40. him in his office, or want of official integrity, or want of fidelity to a public trust. . . ." The jury must find
that the words were published "of and concerning" the plaintiff, but, where the plaintiff is a public
Because of the importance of the constitutional issues involved, we granted the separate petitions for official, his place in the governmental hierarchy is sufficient evidence to support a finding that his
certiorari of the individual petitioners and of the Times. 371 U.S. 946. We reverse the judgment. We hold reputation has been affected by statements that reflect upon the agency of which he is in charge. Once
that the rule of law applied by the Alabama courts is constitutionally deficient for failure to provide the "libel per se" has been established, the defendant has no defense as to stated facts unless he can
safeguards for freedom of speech and of the press that are required by the First and Fourteenth persuade the jury that they were true in all their particulars. Alabama Ride Co. v. Vance, 235 Ala. 263,
Amendments in a libel action brought by a public official against critics of his official conduct. [n4] We 178 So. 438 (1938); Johnson Publishing Co. v. Davis, 271 Ala. 474, 494 495, 124 So.2d 441, 457-458
[p265] further hold that, under the proper safeguards, the evidence presented in this case is (1960). His privilege of "fair comment" for expressions of opinion depends on the truth of the facts upon
constitutionally insufficient to support the judgment for respondent. which the comment is based. Parsons v. Age-Herald Publishing Co., 181 Ala. 439, 450, 61 So. 345, 350
(1913). Unless he can discharge the burden of proving truth, general damages are presumed, and may be
I. awarded without proof of pecuniary injury. A showing of actual malice is apparently a prerequisite to
We may dispose at the outset of two grounds asserted to insulate the judgment of the Alabama courts recovery of punitive damages, and the defendant may, in any event, forestall a punitive award by a
from constitutional scrutiny. The first is the proposition relied on by the State Supreme Court -- that "The retraction meeting the statutory requirements. Good motives and belief in truth do not negate an
Fourteenth Amendment is directed against State action, and not private action." That proposition has no inference of malice, but are relevant only in mitigation of punitive damages if the jury chooses to accord
application to this case. Although this is a civil lawsuit between private parties, the Alabama courts have them weight. Johnson Publishing Co. v. Davis, supra, 271 Ala., at 495, 124 So.2d at 458. [p268]
applied a state rule of law which petitioners claim to impose invalid restrictions on their constitutional
freedoms of speech and press. It matters not that that law has been applied in a civil action and that it is The question before us is whether this rule of liability, as applied to an action brought by a public official
common law only, though supplemented by statute. See, e.g., Alabama Code, Tit. 7, 908-917. The test against critics of his official conduct, abridges the freedom of speech and of the press that is guaranteed
is not the form in which state power has been applied but, whatever the form, whether such power has, by the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
in fact, been exercised. See Ex parte Virginia, 100 U.S. 339, 346-347; American Federation of Labor v.
Swing. 312 U.S. 321. Respondent relies heavily, as did the Alabama courts, on statements of this Court to the effect that the
Constitution does not protect libelous publications. [n6] Those statements do not foreclose our inquiry
The second contention is that the constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and of the press are here. None of the cases sustained the use of libel laws to impose sanctions upon expression critical of
inapplicable here, at least so far as the Times is concerned, because the allegedly libelous statements the official conduct of public officials. The dictum in Pennekamp v. Florida, 328 U.S. 331, 348-349, that
were published as part of a paid, "commercial" advertisement. The argument relies on Valentine v. "when the statements amount to defamation, a judge has such remedy in damages for libel as do other
Chrestensen, 316 U.S. 52, where the Court held that a city ordinance forbidding street distribution of public servants," implied no view as to what remedy might constitutionally be afforded to public officials.
commercial and business advertising matter did not abridge the First Amendment freedoms, even as In Beauharnais v. Illinois, 343 U.S. 250, the Court sustained an Illinois criminal libel statute as applied to a
applied to a handbill having a commercial message on one side but a protest against certain official publication held to be both defamatory of a racial group and "liable to cause violence and disorder." But
action, on the other. The reliance is wholly misplaced. The Court in Chrestensen reaffirmed the the Court was careful to note that it "retains and exercises authority to nullify action which encroaches
constitutional protection for "the freedom of communicating [p266] information and disseminating on freedom of utterance under the guise of punishing libel"; for "public men are, as it were, public
opinion"; its holding was based upon the factual conclusions that the handbill was "purely commercial property," and "discussion cannot be denied, and the right, as well as the duty, of criticism must not be
advertising" and that the protest against official action had been added only to evade the ordinance. stifled." Id. at 263-264, and n. 18. In the only previous case that did present the question of
constitutional limitations upon the power to award damages for libel of a public official, the Court was
The publication here was not a "commercial" advertisement in the sense in which the word was used in equally divided and the question was not decided. Schenectady Union Pub. Co. v. Sweeney, 316 U.S. 642.
Chrestensen. It communicated information, expressed opinion, recited grievances, protested claimed [p269] In deciding the question now, we are compelled by neither precedent nor policy to give any more
abuses, and sought financial support on behalf of a movement whose existence and objectives are weight to the epithet "libel" than we have to other "mere labels" of state law. NAACP v. Button, 371 U.S.
415, 429. Like insurrection, [n7] contempt, [n8] advocacy of unlawful acts, [n9] breach of the peace, In the realm of religious faith, and in that of political belief, sharp differences arise. In both fields, the
[n10] obscenity, [n11] solicitation of legal business, [n12] and the various other formulae for the tenets of one man may seem the rankest error to his neighbor. To persuade others to his own point of
repression of expression that have been challenged in this Court, libel can claim no talismanic immunity view, the pleader, as we know, at times resorts to exaggeration, to vilification of men who have been, or
from constitutional limitations. It must be measured by standards that satisfy the First Amendment. are, prominent in church or state, and even to false statement. But the people of this nation have
ordained, in the light of history, that, in spite of the probability of excesses and abuses, these liberties
The general proposition that freedom of expression upon public questions is secured by the First are, in the long view, essential to enlightened opinion and right conduct on the part of the citizens of a
Amendment has long been settled by our decisions. The constitutional safeguard, we have said, "was democracy.
fashioned to assure unfettered interchange of ideas for the bringing about of political and social changes
desired by the people." Roth v. United States, 354 U.S. 476, 484. That erroneous statement is inevitable in free debate, and that it must be protected if the freedoms of
expression [p272] are to have the "breathing space" that they "need . . . to survive," NAACP v. Button,
The maintenance of the opportunity for free political discussion to the end that government may be 371 U.S. 415, 433, was also recognized by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in
responsive to the will of the people and that changes may be obtained by lawful means, an opportunity Sweeney v. Patterson, 76 U.S.App.D.C. 23, 24, 128 F.2d 457, 458 (1942), cert. denied, 317 U.S. 678. Judge
essential to the security of the Republic, is a fundamental principle of our constitutional system. Edgerton spoke for a unanimous court which affirmed the dismissal of a Congressman's libel suit based
upon a newspaper article charging him with anti-Semitism in opposing a judicial appointment. He said:
Stromberg v. California, 283 U.S. 359, 369. "[I]t is a prized American privilege to speak one's mind,
although not always with perfect good taste, on all public institutions," Bridges v. California, 314 U.S. Cases which impose liability for erroneous reports of the political conduct of officials reflect the obsolete
252, 270, and this opportunity is to be afforded for "vigorous advocacy" no less than "abstract doctrine that the governed must not criticize their governors. . . . The interest of the public here
discussion." NAACP v. Button, 371 U.S. 415, 429. [p270] The First Amendment, said Judge Learned Hand, outweighs the interest of appellant or any other individual. The protection of the public requires not
presupposes that right conclusions are more likely to be gathered out of a multitude of tongues than merely discussion, but information. Political conduct and views which some respectable people approve,
through any kind of authoritative selection. To many, this is, and always will be, folly, but we have staked and others condemn, are constantly imputed to Congressmen. Errors of fact, particularly in regard to a
upon it our all. man's mental states and processes, are inevitable. . . . Whatever is added to the field of libel is taken
from the field of free debate. [n13]
United States v. Associated Press, 52 F.Supp. 362, 372 (D.C.S.D.N.Y.1943). Mr. Justice Brandeis, in his
concurring opinion in Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357, 375-376, gave the principle its classic Injury to official reputation affords no more warrant for repressing speech that would otherwise be free
formulation: than does factual error. Where judicial officers are involved, this Court has held that concern for the
dignity and [p273] reputation of the courts does not justify the punishment as criminal contempt of
Those who won our independence believed . . . that public discussion is a political duty, and that this criticism of the judge or his decision. Bridges v. California, 314 U.S. 252. This is true even though the
should be a fundamental principle of the American government. They recognized the risks to which all utterance contains "half-truths" and "misinformation." Pennekamp v. Florida, 328 U.S. 331, 342, 343, n.
human institutions are subject. But they knew that order cannot be secured merely through fear of 5, 345. Such repression can be justified, if at all, only by a clear and present danger of the obstruction of
punishment for its infraction; that it is hazardous to discourage thought, hope and imagination; that fear justice. See also Craig v. Harney, 331 U.S. 367; Wood v. Georgia, 370 U.S. 375. If judges are to be treated
breeds repression; that repression breeds hate; that hate menaces stable government; that the path of as "men of fortitude, able to thrive in a hardy climate," Craig v. Harney, supra, 331 U.S. at 376, surely the
safety lies in the opportunity to discuss freely supposed grievances and proposed remedies, and that the same must be true of other government officials, such as elected city commissioners. [n14] Criticism of
fitting remedy for evil counsels is good ones. Believing in the power of reason as applied through public their official conduct does not lose its constitutional protection merely because it is effective criticism,
discussion, they eschewed silence coerced by law -- the argument of force in its worst form. Recognizing and hence diminishes their official reputations.
the occasional tyrannies of governing majorities, they amended the Constitution so that free speech and
assembly should be guaranteed. If neither factual error nor defamatory content suffices to remove the constitutional shield from criticism
of official conduct, the combination of the two elements is no less inadequate. This is the lesson to be
Thus, we consider this case against the background of a profound national commitment to the principle drawn from the great controversy over the Sedition Act of 1798, 1 Stat. 596, which first crystallized a
that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include national awareness of the central meaning of the First Amendment. See Levy, Legacy of Suppression
vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials. See (1960), at 258 et seq.; Smith, Freedom's Fetters (1956), at 426, 431, and passim. That statute made it a
Terminiello v. Chicago, 337 U.S. 1, 4; De Jonge v. Oregon, 299 U.S. 353, [p271] 365. The present crime, punishable by a $5,000 fine and five years in prison,
advertisement, as an expression of grievance and protest on one of the major public issues of our time,
would seem clearly to qualify for the constitutional protection. The question is whether it forfeits that if any person shall write, print, utter or publish . . . any false, scandalous and malicious [p274] writing or
protection by the falsity of some of its factual statements and by its alleged defamation of respondent. writings against the government of the United States, or either house of the Congress . . . or the
President . . . with intent to defame . . . or to bring them, or either of them, into contempt or disrepute;
Authoritative interpretations of the First Amendment guarantees have consistently refused to recognize or to excite against them, or either or any of them, the hatred of the good people of the United States.
an exception for any test of truth -- whether administered by judges, juries, or administrative officials --
and especially one that puts the burden of proving truth on the speaker. Cf. Speiser v. Randall, 357 U.S. The Act allowed the defendant the defense of truth, and provided that the jury were to be judges both
513, 525-526. The constitutional protection does not turn upon "the truth, popularity, or social utility of of the law and the facts. Despite these qualifications, the Act was vigorously condemned as
the ideas and beliefs which are offered." NAACP v. Button, 371 U.S. 415, 445. As Madison said, "Some unconstitutional in an attack joined in by Jefferson and Madison. In the famous Virginia Resolutions of
degree of abuse is inseparable from the proper use of every thing, and in no instance is this more true 1798, the General Assembly of Virginia resolved that it doth particularly protest against the palpable and
than in that of the press." 4 Elliot's Debates on the Federal Constitution (1876), p. 571. In Cantwell v. alarming infractions of the Constitution in the two late cases of the "Alien and Sedition Acts," passed at
Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296, 310, the Court declared: the last session of Congress. . . . [The Sedition Act] exercises . . . a power not delegated by the
Constitution, but, on the contrary, expressly and positively forbidden by one of the amendments thereto
-- a power which, more than any other, ought to produce universal alarm because it is leveled against
the right of freely examining public characters and measures, and of free communication among the statute. See City of Chicago v. Tribune Co., 307 Ill. 595, 607, 139 N.E. 86, 90 (1923). Alabama, for
people thereon, which has ever been justly deemed the only effectual guardian of every other right. example, has a criminal libel law which subjects to prosecution "any person who speaks, writes, or prints
of and concerning another any accusation falsely and maliciously importing the commission by such
4 Elliot's Debates, supra, pp. 553-554. Madison prepared the Report in support of the protest. His person of a felony, or any other indictable offense involving moral turpitude," and which allows as
premise was that the Constitution created a form of government under which "The people, not the punishment upon conviction a fine not exceeding $500 and a prison sentence of six months. Alabama
government, possess the absolute sovereignty." The structure of the government dispersed power in Code, Tit. 14, 350. Presumably, a person charged with violation of this statute enjoys ordinary criminal
reflection of the people's distrust of concentrated power, and of power itself at all levels. This form of law safeguards such as the requirements of an indictment and of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
government was "altogether different" from the British form, under which the Crown was sovereign and These safeguards are not available to the defendant in a civil action. The judgment awarded in this case -
the people were subjects. "Is [p275] it not natural and necessary, under such different circumstances," - without the need for any proof of actual pecuniary loss -- was one thousand times greater than the
he asked, "that a different degree of freedom in the use of the press should be contemplated?" Id., pp. maximum fine provided by the Alabama criminal statute, and one hundred times greater than that
569-570. Earlier, in a debate in the House of Representatives, Madison had said: provided by the Sedition Act. [p278] And since there is no double jeopardy limitation applicable to civil
lawsuits, this is not the only judgment that may be awarded against petitioners for the same publication.
If we advert to the nature of Republican Government, we shall find that the censorial power is in the [n18] Whether or not a newspaper can survive a succession of such judgments, the pall of fear and
people over the Government, and not in the Government over the people. timidity imposed upon those who would give voice to public criticism is an atmosphere in which the First
Amendment freedoms cannot survive. Plainly the Alabama law of civil libel is a form of regulation that
4 Annals of Congress, p. 934 (1794). Of the exercise of that power by the press, his Report said: creates hazards to protected freedoms markedly greater than those that attend reliance upon the
In every state, probably, in the Union, the press has exerted a freedom in canvassing the merits and criminal law. Bantam Books, Inc. v. Sullivan, 372 U.S. 58, 70.
measures of public men, of every description, which has not been confined to the strict limits of the
common law. On this footing, the freedom of the press has stood; on this foundation it yet stands. . . . The state rule of law is not saved by its allowance of the defense of truth. A defense for erroneous
statements honestly made is no less essential here than was the requirement of proof of guilty
4 Elliot's Debates, supra, p. 570. The right of free public discussion of the stewardship of public officials knowledge which, in Smith v. California, 361 U.S. 147, we held indispensable to a valid conviction of a
was thus, in Madison's view, a fundamental principle of the American form of government. [n15] [p276] bookseller for possessing obscene writings for sale. We said:
Although the Sedition Act was never tested in this Court, [n16] the attack upon its validity has carried the
day in the court of history. Fines levied in its prosecution were repaid by Act of Congress on the ground For, if the bookseller is criminally liable without knowledge of the contents, . . . He will tend to restrict
that it was unconstitutional. See, e.g., Act of July 4, 1840, c. 45, 6 Stat. 802, accompanied by H.R.Rep. No. the books he sells to those he has inspected, and thus the State will have imposed a restriction upon the
86, 26th Cong., 1st Sess. (1840). Calhoun, reporting to the Senate on February 4, 1836, assumed that its distribution of constitutionally protected, as well as obscene, literature. . . . And the bookseller's burden
invalidity was a matter "which no one now doubts." Report with Senate bill No. 122, 24th Cong., 1st would become the public's burden, for, by restricting him, the public's access to reading matter would be
Sess., p. 3. Jefferson, as President, pardoned those who had been convicted and sentenced under the Act restricted. . . . [H]is timidity in the face of his absolute criminal liability thus would tend to restrict the
and remitted their fines, stating: public's access to forms of the printed word which the State could not constitutionally [p279] suppress
directly. The bookseller's self-censorship, compelled by the State, would be a censorship affecting the
I discharged every person under punishment or prosecution under the sedition law because I considered, whole public, hardly less virulent for being privately administered. Through it, the distribution of all
and now consider, that law to be a nullity, as absolute and as palpable as if Congress had ordered us to books, both obscene and not obscene, would be impeded.
fall down and worship a golden image.
( 361 U.S. 147, 153-154.) A rule compelling the critic of official conduct to guarantee the truth of all his
Letter to Mrs. Adams, July 22, 1804, 4 Jefferson's Works (Washington ed.), pp. 555, 556. The invalidity of factual assertions -- and to do so on pain of libel judgments virtually unlimited in amount -- leads to a
the Act has also been assumed by Justices of this Court. See Holmes, J., dissenting and joined by comparable "self-censorship." Allowance of the defense of truth, with the burden of proving it on the
Brandeis, J., in Abrams v. United States, 250 U.S. 616, 630; Jackson, J., dissenting in Beauharnais v. defendant, does not mean that only false speech will be deterred. [n19] Even courts accepting this
Illinois, 343 U.S. 250, 288-289; Douglas, The Right of the People (1958), p. 47. See also Cooley, defense as an adequate safeguard have recognized the difficulties of adducing legal proofs that the
Constitutional Limitations (8th ed., Carrington, 1927), pp. 899-900; Chafee, Free Speech in the United alleged libel was true in all its factual particulars. See, e.g., Post Publishing Co. v. Hallam, 59 F. 530, 540
States (1942), pp. 27-28. These views reflect a broad consensus that the Act, because of the restraint it (C.A. 6th Cir. 1893); see also Noel, Defamation of Public Officers and Candidates, 49 Col.L.Rev. 875, 892
imposed upon criticism of government and public officials, was inconsistent with the First Amendment. (1949). Under such a rule, would-be critics of official conduct may be deterred from voicing their
criticism, even though it is believed to be true and even though it is, in fact, true, because of doubt
There is no force in respondent's argument that the constitutional limitations implicit in the history of whether it can be proved in court or fear of the expense of having to do so. They tend to make only
the Sedition Act apply only to Congress, and not to the States. It is true that the First Amendment was statements which "steer far wider of the unlawful zone." Speiser v. Randall, supra, 357 U.S. at 526. The
originally addressed only to action by the Federal Government, and [p277] that Jefferson, for one, while rule thus dampens the vigor and limits the variety of public debate. It is inconsistent with the First and
denying the power of Congress "to controul the freedom of the press," recognized such a power in the Fourteenth Amendments. The constitutional guarantees require, we think, a federal rule that prohibits a
States. See the 1804 Letter to Abigail Adams quoted in Dennis v. United States, 341 U.S. 494, 522, n. 4 public official from recovering damages for a defamatory falsehood relating to his official conduct unless
(concurring opinion). But this distinction was eliminated with the adoption of the Fourteenth he proves that the statement was made [p280] with "actual malice" -- that is, with knowledge that it was
Amendment and the application to the States of the First Amendment's restrictions. See, e.g., Gitlow v. false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not. An oft-cited statement of a like rule, which
New York, 268 U.S. 652, 666; Schneider v. State, 308 U.S. 147, 160; Bridges v. California, 314 U.S. 252, has been adopted by a number of state courts, [n20] is found in the Kansas case of Coleman v.
268; Edwards v. South Carolina, 372 U.S. 229, 235. MacLennan, 78 Kan. 711, 98 P. 281 (1908). The State Attorney General, a candidate for reelection and a
member of the commission charged with the management and control of the state school fund, sued a
What a State may not constitutionally bring about by means of a criminal statute is likewise beyond the newspaper publisher for alleged libel in an article purporting to state facts relating to his official conduct
reach of its civil law of libel. [n17] The fear of damage awards under a rule such as that invoked by the in connection with a school-fund transaction. The defendant pleaded privilege and the trial judge, over
Alabama courts here may be markedly more inhibiting than the fear of prosecution under a criminal the plaintiff's objection, instructed the jury that
the general verdict returned. Because of this uncertainty, the judgment must be reversed and the case
where an article is published and circulated among voters for the sole purpose of giving what the remanded. Stromberg v. California, 283 U.S. 359, 367-368; Williams v. North Carolina, 317 U.S. 287, 291-
defendant [p281] believes to be truthful information concerning a candidate for public office and for the 292; see Yates v. United States, 354 U.S. 298, 311-312; Cramer v. United States, 325 U.S. 1, 36, n. 45.
purpose of enabling such voters to cast their ballot more intelligently, and the whole thing is done in
good faith and without malice, the article is privileged, although the principal matters contained in the Since respondent may seek a new trial, we deem that considerations of effective judicial administration
article may be untrue, in fact, and derogatory to the character of the plaintiff, and in such a case the require us to review the evidence in the present record to determine [p285] whether it could
burden is on the plaintiff to show actual malice in the publication of the article. constitutionally support a judgment for respondent. This Court's duty is not limited to the elaboration of
constitutional principles; we must also in proper cases review the evidence to make certain that those
In answer to a special question, the jury found that the plaintiff had not proved actual malice, and a principles have been constitutionally applied. This is such a case, particularly since the question is one of
general verdict was returned for the defendant. On appeal, the Supreme Court of Kansas, in an opinion alleged trespass across "the line between speech unconditionally guaranteed and speech which may
by Justice Burch, reasoned as follows (78 Kan., at 724, 98 P. at 286): legitimately be regulated." Speiser v. Randall, 357 U.S. 513, 525. In cases where that line must be drawn,
the rule is that we examine for ourselves the statements in issue and the circumstances under which
It is of the utmost consequence that the people should discuss the character and qualifications of they were made to see . . . whether they are of a character which the principles of the First Amendment,
candidates for their suffrages. The importance to the state and to society of such discussions is so vast, as adopted by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, protect.
and the advantages derived are so great, that they more than counterbalance the inconvenience of
private persons whose conduct may be involved, and occasional injury to the reputations of individuals Pennekamp v. Florida, 328 U.S. 331, 335; see also One, Inc., v. Olesen, 355 U.S. 371; Sunshine Book Co. v.
must yield to the public welfare, although at times such injury may be great. The public benefit from Summerfield, 355 U.S. 372. We must "make an independent examination of the whole record," Edwards
publicity is so great, and the chance of injury to private character so small, that such discussion must be v. South Carolina, 372 U.S. 229, 235, so as to assure ourselves that the judgment does not constitute a
privileged. forbidden intrusion on the field of free expression. [n26]

The court thus sustained the trial court's instruction as a correct statement of the law, saying: Applying these standards, we consider that the proof presented to show actual malice lacks the
In such a case the occasion gives rise to a privilege, qualified to this extent: any one claiming to be convincing [p286] clarity which the constitutional standard demands, and hence that it would not
defamed by the communication must show actual malice or go remediless. This privilege extends to a constitutionally sustain the judgment for respondent under the proper rule of law. The case of the
great variety of subjects, and includes matters of [p282] public concern, public men, and candidates for individual petitioners requires little discussion. Even assuming that they could constitutionally be found
office. to have authorized the use of their names on the advertisement, there was no evidence whatever that
they were aware of any erroneous statements or were in any way reckless in that regard. The judgment
Such a privilege for criticism of official conduct [n21] is appropriately analogous to the protection against them is thus without constitutional support.
accorded a public official when he is sued for libel by a private citizen. In Barr v. Matteo, 360 U.S. 564,
575, this Court held the utterance of a federal official to be absolutely privileged if made "within the As to the Times, we similarly conclude that the facts do not support a finding of actual malice. The
outer perimeter" of his duties. The States accord the same immunity to statements of their highest statement by the Times' Secretary that, apart from the padlocking allegation, he thought the
officers, although some differentiate their lesser officials and qualify the privilege they enjoy. [n22] But advertisement was "substantially correct," affords no constitutional warrant for the Alabama Supreme
all hold that all officials are protected unless actual malice can be proved. The reason for the official Court's conclusion that it was a
privilege is said to be that the threat of damage suits would otherwise "inhibit the fearless, vigorous, and
effective administration of policies of government" and "dampen the ardor of all but the most resolute, cavalier ignoring of the falsity of the advertisement [from which] the jury could not have but been
or the most irresponsible, in the unflinching discharge of their duties." Barr v. Matteo, supra, 360 U.S. at impressed with the bad faith of The Times, and its maliciousness inferable therefrom.
571. Analogous considerations support the privilege for the citizen-critic of government. It is as much his
duty to criticize as it is the official's duty to administer. See Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357, 375 The statement does not indicate malice at the time of the publication; even if the advertisement was not
(concurring opinion of Mr. Justice Brandeis), quoted supra, p. 270. As Madison said, see supra p. 275, "substantially correct" -- although respondent's own proofs tend to show that it was -- that opinion was
"the censorial power is in the people over the Government, and not in the Government over the at least a reasonable one, and there was no evidence to impeach the witness' good faith in holding it.
people." It would give public servants an unjustified preference over the public they serve, if critics of The Times' failure to retract upon respondent's demand, although it later retracted upon the demand of
official conduct [p283] did not have a fair equivalent of the immunity granted to the officials themselves. Governor Patterson, is likewise not adequate evidence of malice for constitutional purposes. Whether or
not a failure to retract may ever constitute such evidence, there are two reasons why it does not here.
We conclude that such a privilege is required by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. First, the letter written by the Times reflected a reasonable doubt on its part as to whether the
advertisement could reasonably be taken to refer to respondent at all. Second, it was not a final refusal,
III since it asked for an explanation on this point -- a request that respondent chose to ignore. Nor does the
We hold today that the Constitution delimits a State's power to award damages for libel in actions retraction upon the demand of the Governor supply the [p287] necessary proof. It may be doubted that
brought by public officials against critics of their official conduct. Since this is such an action, [n23] the a failure to retract, which is not itself evidence of malice, can retroactively become such by virtue of a
rule requiring proof of actual malice is applicable. While Alabama law apparently requires proof of actual retraction subsequently made to another party. But, in any event, that did not happen here, since the
malice for an award of punitive damages, [n24] where general damages are concerned malice is explanation given by the Times' Secretary for the distinction drawn between respondent and the
"presumed." Such a presumption is inconsistent [p284] with the federal rule. "The power to create Governor was a reasonable one, the good faith of which was not impeached.
presumptions is not a means of escape from constitutional restrictions," Bailey v. Alabama, 219 U.S. 219,
239, "the showing of malice required for the forfeiture of the privilege is not presumed but is a matter Finally, there is evidence that the Times published the advertisement without checking its accuracy
for proof by the plaintiff. . . ." Lawrence v. Fox, 357 Mich. 134, 146, 97 N.W.2d 719, 725 (1959). [n25] against the news stories in the Times' own files. The mere presence of the stories in the files does not, of
Since the trial judge did not instruct the jury to differentiate between general and punitive damages, it course, establish that the Times "knew" the advertisement was false, since the state of mind required for
may be that the verdict was wholly an award of one or the other. But it is impossible to know, in view of actual malice would have to be brought home to the persons in the Times' organization having
responsibility for the publication of the advertisement. With respect to the failure of those persons to deficiencies of such groups, praise or criticism is usually attached to the official in complete control of
make the check, the record shows that they relied upon their knowledge of the good reputation of many the body.
of those whose names were listed as sponsors of the advertisement, and upon the letter from A. Philip
Randolph, known to them as a responsible individual, certifying that the use of the names was This proposition has disquieting implications for criticism of governmental conduct. For good reason, no
authorized. There was testimony that the persons handling the advertisement saw nothing in it that court of last resort in this country has ever held, or even suggested, that prosecutions for libel on
would render it unacceptable under the Times' policy of rejecting advertisements containing "attacks of government have any place in the American system of jurisprudence.
a personal character"; [n27] their failure to reject it on this ground was not unreasonable. We think
[p288] the evidence against the Times supports, at most, a finding of negligence in failing to discover the City of Chicago v. Tribune Co., 307 Ill. 595, 601, 139 N.E. [p292] 86, 88 (1923). The present proposition
misstatements, and is constitutionally insufficient to show the recklessness that is required for a finding would sidestep this obstacle by transmuting criticism of government, however impersonal it may seem
of actual malice. Cf. Charles Parker Co. v. Silver City Crystal Co., 142 Conn. 605, 618, 116 A.2d 440, 446 on its face, into personal criticism, and hence potential libel, of the officials of whom the government is
(1955); Phoenix Newspapers, Inc., v. Choisser, 82 Ariz. 271, 277-278, 312 P.2d 150, 154-155 (1957). composed. There is no legal alchemy by which a State may thus create the cause of action that would
otherwise be denied for a publication which, as respondent himself said of the advertisement, "reflects
We also think the evidence was constitutionally defective in another respect: it was incapable of not only on me but on the other Commissioners and the community." Raising as it does the possibility
supporting the jury's finding that the allegedly libelous statements were made "of and concerning" that a good faith critic of government will be penalized for his criticism, the proposition relied on by the
respondent. Respondent relies on the words of the advertisement and the testimony of six witnesses to Alabama courts strikes at the very center of the constitutionally protected area of free expression. [n30]
establish a connection between it and himself. Thus, in his brief to this Court, he states: We hold that such a proposition may not constitutionally be utilized to establish that an otherwise
impersonal attack on governmental operations was a libel of an official responsible for those operations.
The reference to respondent as police commissioner is clear from the ad. In addition, the jury heard the Since it was relied on exclusively here, and there was no other evidence to connect the statements with
testimony of a newspaper editor . . . ; a real estate and insurance man . . . ; the sales manager of a men's respondent, the evidence was constitutionally insufficient to support a finding that the statements
clothing store . . . ; a food equipment man . . . ; a service station operator . . . , and the operator of a referred to respondent.
truck line for whom respondent had formerly worked. . . . Each of these witnesses stated that he The judgment of the Supreme Court of Alabama is reversed, and the case is remanded to that court for
associated the statements with respondent. . . . further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion. Reversed and remanded. [p293]
485 U.S. 46
(Citations to record omitted.) There was no reference to respondent in the advertisement, either by Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Falwell (No. 86-1278)
name or official position. A number of the allegedly libelous statements -- the charges that the dining hall Argued: December 2, 1987
was padlocked and that Dr. King's home was bombed, his person assaulted, and a perjury prosecution Decided: February 24, 1988
instituted against him -- did not even concern the police; despite the ingenuity of the arguments which Syllabus
would attach this significance to the word "They," it is plain that these statements could not reasonably Respondent, a nationally known minister and commentator on politics and public affairs, filed a diversity
be read as accusing respondent of personal involvement in the acts [p289] in question. The statements action in Federal District Court against petitioners, a nationally circulated magazine and its publisher, to
upon which respondent principally relies as referring to him are the two allegations that did concern the recover damages for, inter alia, libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress arising from the
police or police functions: that "truckloads of police . . . ringed the Alabama State College Campus" after publication of an advertisement "parody" which, among other things, portrayed respondent as having
the demonstration on the State Capitol steps, and that Dr. King had been "arrested . . . seven times." engaged in a drunken incestuous rendezvous with his mother in an outhouse. The jury found against
These statements were false only in that the police had been "deployed near" the campus, but had not respondent on the libel claim, specifically finding that the parody could not "reasonably be understood
actually "ringed" it, and had not gone there in connection with the State Capitol demonstration, and in as describing actual facts . . . or events," but ruled in his favor on the emotional distress claim, stating
that Dr. King had been arrested only four times. The ruling that these discrepancies between what was that he should be awarded compensatory and punitive damages. The Court of Appeals affirmed,
true and what was asserted were sufficient to injure respondent's reputation may itself raise rejecting petitioners' contention that the "actual malice" standard of New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376
constitutional problems, but we need not consider them here. Although the statements may be taken as U.S. 254, must be met before respondent can recover for emotional distress. Rejecting as irrelevant the
referring to the police, they did not, on their face, make even an oblique reference to respondent as an contention that, because the jury found that the parody did not describe actual facts, the ad was an
individual. Support for the asserted reference must, therefore, be sought in the testimony of opinion protected by the First Amendment to the Federal Constitution, the court ruled that the issue was
respondent's witnesses. But none of them suggested any basis for the belief that respondent himself was whether the ad's publication was sufficiently outrageous to constitute intentional infliction of emotional
attacked in the advertisement beyond the bare fact that he was in overall charge of the Police distress.
Department and thus bore official responsibility for police conduct; to the extent that some of the
witnesses thought respondent to have been charged with ordering or approving the conduct or Held: In order to protect the free flow of ideas and opinions on matters of public interest and concern,
otherwise being personally involved in it, they based this notion not on any statements in the the First and Fourteenth Amendments prohibit public figures and public officials from recovering
advertisement, and not on any evidence that he had, in fact, been so involved, but solely on the damages for the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress by reason of the publication of a
unsupported assumption that, because of his official position, he must have been. [n28] This reliance on caricature such as the ad parody at issue without showing in addition that the publication contains a
the bare [p290] fact of respondent's official position [n29] was made explicit by the Supreme Court of false statement of fact which was made with "actual malice," i.e., with knowledge that the statement
Alabama. That court, in holding that the trial court "did not err in overruling the demurrer [of the Times] was false or with reckless disregard as to whether or not it was true. The State's interest in protecting
in the aspect that the libelous [p291] matter was not of and concerning the [plaintiff,]" based its ruling public figures from emotional distress is not sufficient to deny First Amendment protection to speech
on the proposition that: that is patently offensive and is intended to inflict emotional injury when that speech could not
reasonably have been interpreted as stating actual facts about the public figure involved. Here,
We think it common knowledge that the average person knows that municipal agents, such as police and respondent is clearly a "public figure" for First Amendment purposes, and the lower courts' finding that
firemen, and others, are under the control and direction of the city governing body, and more the ad parody was not reasonably believable must be accepted. "Outrageousness" [p47] in the area of
particularly under the direction and control of a single commissioner. In measuring the performance or political and social discourse has an inherent subjectiveness about it which would allow a jury to impose
liability on the basis of the jurors' tastes or views, or perhaps on the basis of their dislike of a particular
expression, and cannot, consistently with the First Amendment, form a basis for the award of damages but of the heightened level of culpability embodied in the requirement of "knowing . . . or reckless"
for conduct such as that involved here. Pp. 50-57. conduct. Here, the New York [p50] Times standard is satisfied by the state law requirement, and the
797 F.2d 1270, reversed. jury's finding, that the defendants have acted intentionally or recklessly. [n3] The Court of Appeals then
went on to reject the contention that, because the jury found that the ad parody did not describe actual
REHNQUIST, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, facts about respondent, the ad was an opinion that is protected by the First Amendment. As the court
STEVENS, O'CONNOR, and SCALIA, JJ., joined. WHITE, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, put it, this was "irrelevant," as the issue is "whether [the ad's] publication was sufficiently outrageous to
post, p. 57. KENNEDY, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case. constitute intentional infliction of emotional distress." Id. at 1276. [n4] Petitioners then filed a petition
for rehearing en banc, but this was denied by a divided court. Given the importance of the constitutional
REHNQUIST, C.J., Opinion of the Court issues involved, we granted certiorari. 480 U.S. 945 (1987).

CHIEF JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court. This case presents us with a novel question involving First Amendment limitations upon a State's
Petitioner Hustler Magazine, Inc., is a magazine of nationwide circulation. Respondent Jerry Falwell, a authority to protect its citizens from the intentional infliction of emotional distress. We must decide
nationally known minister who has been active as a commentator on politics and public affairs, sued whether a public figure may recover damages for emotional harm caused by the publication of an ad
petitioner and its publisher, petitioner Larry Flynt, to recover damages for invasion of [p48] privacy, libel, parody offensive to him, and doubtless gross and repugnant in the eyes of most. Respondent would have
and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The District Court directed a verdict against respondent us find that a State's interest in protecting public figures from emotional distress is sufficient to deny
on the privacy claim, and submitted the other two claims to a jury. The jury found for petitioners on the First Amendment protection to speech that is patently offensive and is intended to inflict emotional
defamation claim, but found for respondent on the claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress injury, even when that speech could not reasonably have been interpreted as stating actual facts about
and awarded damages. We now consider whether this award is consistent with the First and Fourteenth the public figure involved. This we decline to do.
Amendments of the United States Constitution.
At the heart of the First Amendment is the recognition of the fundamental importance of the free flow of
The inside front cover of the November, 1983, issue of Hustler Magazine featured a "parody" of an ideas and opinions on matters of public interest and concern.
advertisement for Campari Liqueur that contained the name and picture of respondent and was entitled
"Jerry Falwell talks about his first time." This parody was modeled after actual Campari ads that included [T]he [p51] freedom to speak one's mind is not only an aspect of individual liberty -- and thus a good
interviews with various celebrities about their "first times." Although it was apparent by the end of each unto itself -- but also is essential to the common quest for truth and the vitality of society as a whole.
interview that this meant the first time they sampled Campari, the ads clearly played on the sexual
double entendre of the general subject of "first times." Copying the form and layout of these Campari Bose Corp. v. Consumers Union of United States, Inc., 466 U.S. 485, 503-504 (1984). We have therefore
ads, Hustler's editors chose respondent as the featured celebrity and drafted an alleged "interview" with been particularly vigilant to ensure that individual expressions of ideas remain free from governmentally
him in which he states that his "first time" was during a drunken incestuous rendezvous with his mother imposed sanctions. The First Amendment recognizes no such thing as a "false" idea. Gertz v. Robert
in an outhouse. The Hustler parody portrays respondent and his mother as drunk and immoral, and Welch, Inc., 418 U.S. 323, 339 (1974). As Justice Holmes wrote,
suggests that respondent is a hypocrite who preaches only when he is drunk. In small print at the bottom
of the page, the ad contains the disclaimer, "ad parody -- not to be taken seriously." The magazine's when men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more
table of contents also lists the ad as "Fiction; Ad and Personality Parody." than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better
reached by free trade in ideas -- that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself
Soon after the November issue of Hustler became available to the public, respondent brought this accepted in the competition of the market. . . .
diversity action in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia against Hustler
Magazine, Inc., Larry C. Flynt, and Flynt Distributing Co., Inc. Respondent stated in his complaint that Abrams v. United States, 250 U.S. 616, 630 (1919) (dissenting opinion).
publication of the ad parody in Hustler entitled [p49] him to recover damages for libel, invasion of
privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The case proceeded to trial. [n1] At the close of The sort of robust political debate encouraged by the First Amendment is bound to produce speech that
the evidence, the District Court granted a directed verdict for petitioners on the invasion of privacy is critical of those who hold public office or those public figures who are
claim. The jury then found against respondent on the libel claim, specifically finding that the ad parody
could not "reasonably be understood as describing actual facts about [respondent] or actual events in intimately involved in the resolution of important public questions or, by reason of their fame, shape
which [he] participated." App. to Pet. for Cert. C1. The jury ruled for respondent on the intentional events in areas of concern to society at large.
infliction of emotional distress claim, however, and stated that he should be awarded $100,000 in
compensatory damages, as well as $50,000 each in punitive damages from petitioners. [n2] Petitioners' Associated Press v. Walker, decided with Curtis Publishing Co. v. Butts, 388 U.S. 130, 164 (1967) (Warren,
motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict was denied. C.J., concurring in result). Justice Frankfurter put it succinctly in Baumgartner v. United States, 322 U.S.
665, 673-674 (1944), when he said that "[o]ne of the prerogatives of American citizenship is the right to
On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the judgment against criticize public men and measures." Such criticism, inevitably, will not always be reasoned or moderate;
petitioners. Falwell v. Flynt, 797 F.2d 1270 (1986). The court rejected petitioners' argument that the public figures as well as public officials will be subject to "vehement, caustic, and sometimes
"actual malice" standard of New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964), must be met before unpleasantly sharp attacks," New York Times, supra, at 270.
respondent can recover for emotional distress. The court agreed that, because respondent is concededly
a public figure, petitioners are "entitled to the same level of first amendment protection in the claim for [T]he candidate who vaunts his spotless record and sterling integrity cannot convincingly cry "Foul!"
intentional infliction of emotional distress that they received in [respondent's] claim for libel." 797 F.2d when an opponent or an industrious reporter attempts [p52] to demonstrate the contrary.
at 1274. But this does not mean that a literal application of the actual malice rule is appropriate in the
context of an emotional distress claim. In the court's view, the New York Times decision emphasized the Monitor Patriot Co. v. Roy, 401 U.S. 265, 274 (1971).
constitutional importance not of the falsity of the statement or the defendant's disregard for the truth,
Of course, this does not mean that any speech about a public figure is immune from sanction in the form
of damages. Since New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964), we have consistently ruled that a Long, The Political Cartoon: Journalism's Strongest Weapon, The Quill 56, 57 (Nov.1962). Several famous
public figure may hold a speaker liable for the damage to reputation caused by publication of a examples of this type of intentionally injurious speech were drawn by Thomas Nast, probably the
defamatory falsehood, but only if the statement was made "with knowledge that it was false or with greatest American cartoonist to date, who was associated for many years during the post-Civil War era
reckless disregard of whether it was false or not." Id. at 279-280. False statements of fact are particularly with Harper's Weekly. In the pages of that publication Nast conducted a graphic vendetta against William
valueless; they interfere with the truthseeking function of the marketplace of ideas, and they cause M. "Boss" Tweed and his corrupt associates in New York City's "Tweed Ring." It has been described by
damage to an individual's reputation that cannot easily be repaired by counterspeech, however one historian of the subject as "a sustained attack which in its passion and effectiveness stands alone in
persuasive or effective. See Gertz, 418 U.S. at 340, 344, n. 9. But even though falsehoods have little value the history of American graphic art." M. Keller, The Art and Politics of Thomas Nast 177 (1968). Another
in and of themselves, they are "nevertheless inevitable in free debate," id. at 340, and a rule that would writer explains that the success of the Nast cartoon was achieved "because of the emotional impact of
impose strict liability on a publisher for false factual assertions would have an undoubted "chilling" effect its presentation. It continuously goes beyond the bounds of good taste and conventional manners." C.
on speech relating to public figures that does have constitutional value. "Freedoms of expression Press, The Political Cartoon 251 (1981).
require "breathing space."'" Philadelphia Newspapers, Inc. v. Hepps, 475 U.S. 767, 772 (1986) (quoting
New York Times, supra, at 272). This breathing space is provided by a constitutional rule that allows Despite their sometimes caustic nature, from the early cartoon portraying George Washington as an ass
public figures to recover for libel or defamation only when they can prove both that the statement was down to the present day, graphic depictions and satirical cartoons have played a prominent role in public
false and that the statement was made with the requisite level of culpability. and political debate. Nast's castigation of the Tweed Ring, Walt McDougall's characterization of
Presidential candidate James G. Blaine's banquet with the millionaires at Delmonico's as "The Royal [p55]
Respondent argues, however, that a different standard should apply in this case because, here, the State Feast of Belshazzar," and numerous other efforts have undoubtedly had an effect on the course and
seeks to prevent not reputational damage, but the severe emotional distress suffered by the person who outcome of contemporaneous debate. Lincoln's tall, gangling posture, Teddy Roosevelt's glasses and
is the subject of an offensive publication. Cf. Zacchini v. Scripps-Howard Broadcasting Co., 433 U.S. 562 teeth, and Franklin D. Roosevelt's jutting jaw and cigarette holder have been memorialized by political
(1977) (ruling that the "actual malice" standard does not apply to the tort of appropriation of a right of cartoons with an effect that could not have been obtained by the photographer or the portrait artist.
publicity). In respondent's view, and in the view of the [p53] Court of Appeals, so long as the utterance From the viewpoint of history, it is clear that our political discourse would have been considerably
was intended to inflict emotional distress, was outrageous, and did in fact inflict serious emotional poorer without them.
distress, it is of no constitutional import whether the statement was a fact or an opinion, or whether it
was true or false. It is the intent to cause injury that is the gravamen of the tort, and the State's interest Respondent contends, however, that the caricature in question here was so "outrageous" as to
in preventing emotional harm simply outweighs whatever interest a speaker may have in speech of this distinguish it from more traditional political cartoons. There is no doubt that the caricature of
type. respondent and his mother published in Hustler is at best a distant cousin of the political cartoons
described above, and a rather poor relation at that. If it were possible by laying down a principled
Generally speaking, the law does not regard the intent to inflict emotional distress as one which should standard to separate the one from the other, public discourse would probably suffer little or no harm.
receive much solicitude, and it is quite understandable that most, if not all, jurisdictions have chosen to But we doubt that there is any such standard, and we are quite sure that the pejorative description
make it civilly culpable where the conduct in question is sufficiently "outrageous." But in the world of "outrageous" does not supply one. "Outrageousness" in the area of political and social discourse has an
debate about public affairs, many things done with motives that are less than admirable are protected inherent subjectiveness about it which would allow a jury to impose liability on the basis of the jurors'
by the First Amendment. In Garrison v. Louisiana, 379 U.S. 64 (1964), we held that, even when a speaker tastes or views, or perhaps on the basis of their dislike of a particular expression. An "outrageousness"
or writer is motivated by hatred or ill-will, his expression was protected by the First Amendment: standard thus runs afoul of our longstanding refusal to allow damages to be awarded because the
speech in question may have an adverse emotional impact on the audience. See NAACP v. Claiborne
Debate on public issues will not be uninhibited if the speaker must run the risk that it will be proved in Hardware Co., 458 U.S. 886, 910 (1982) ("Speech does not lose its protected character . . . simply
court that he spoke out of hatred; even if he did speak out of hatred, utterances honestly believed because it may embarrass others or coerce them into action"). And, as we stated in FCC v. Pacifica
contribute to the free interchange of ideas and the ascertainment of truth. Foundation, 438 U.S. 726 (1978):

Id. at 73. Thus, while such a bad motive may be deemed controlling for purposes of tort liability in other [T]he fact that society may find speech offensive is not a sufficient reason for suppressing it. Indeed, if it
areas of the law, we think the First Amendment prohibits such a result in the area of public debate about is the speaker's opinion that gives offense, that consequence is a reason for according it constitutional
public figures. protection. [p56] For it is a central tenet of the First Amendment that the government must remain
neutral in the marketplace of ideas.
Were we to hold otherwise, there can be little doubt that political cartoonists and satirists would be
subjected to damages awards without any showing that their work falsely defamed its subject. Webster's Id. at 745-746. See also Street v. New York, 394 U.S. 576, 592 (1969) ("It is firmly settled that . . . the
defines a caricature as "the deliberately distorted picturing or imitating of a person, literary style, etc. by public expression of ideas may not be prohibited merely because the ideas are themselves offensive to
exaggerating features or mannerisms for satirical effect." Webster's New Unabridged Twentieth [p54] some of their hearers").
Century Dictionary of the English Language 275 (2d ed.1979). The appeal of the political cartoon or
caricature is often based on exploitation of unfortunate physical traits or politically embarrassing events Admittedly, these oft-repeated First Amendment principles, like other principles, are subject to
-- an exploitation often calculated to injure the feelings of the subject of the portrayal. The art of the limitations. We recognized in Pacifica Foundation that speech that is "vulgar,' offensive,' and shocking'"
cartoonist is often not reasoned or evenhanded, but slashing and one-sided. One cartoonist expressed is "not entitled to absolute constitutional protection under all circumstances." 438 U.S. at 747. In
the nature of the art in these words: Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568 (1942), we held that a State could lawfully punish an
individual for the use of insulting "fighting' words -- those which by their very utterance inflict injury or
The political cartoon is a weapon of attack, of scorn and ridicule and satire; it is least effective when it tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace." Id. at 571-572. These limitations are but recognition of
tries to pat some politician on the back. It is usually as welcome as a bee sting, and is always the observation in Dun & Bradstreet, Inc. v. Greenmoss Builders, Inc., 472 U.S. 749, 758 (1985), that this
controversial in some quarters. Court has "long recognized that not all speech is of equal First Amendment importance." But the sort of
expression involved in this case does not seem to us to be governed by any exception to the general First Sinabi rin ng mga pamilya na protektado ng dating pinuno ng city hall ng Maynila, MHS Minister Conrado
Amendment principles stated above. Benitez, at ilang pinuno ng pulisya ang barangay chairman kaya nakalusot ang mga ginawa nitong
katiwalian.
We conclude that public figures and public officials may not recover for the tort of intentional infliction Bukod sa pagkamkam ng mga lupaing gobyerno, kasangkot din umano si Olmedo sa mga ilegal na
of emotional distress by reason of publications such as the one here at issue without showing, in pasugalan sa naturang lugar at maging sa mga nakawan ng manok.
addition, that the publication contains a false statement of fact which was made with "actual malice," Sapin-sapin na ang mga kaso na idinulog namin noong nakalipas na mga taon, pero pinawalang saysay
i.e., with knowledge that the statement was false or with reckless disregard as to whether or not it was ang lahat ng iyon, kabilang na ang tangkang pagpatay sa akin kaugnay ng pagrereklamo sa
true. This is not merely a "blind application" of the New York Times standard, see Time, Inc. v. Hill, 385 pangangamkam ng lupa noong 1984, sabi pa ni Vasquez.
U.S. 374, 390 (1967); it reflects our considered judgment that such a standard is necessary to give
adequate "breathing space" to the freedoms protected by the First Amendment. [p57] Based on the newspaper article, Olmedo filed a complaint for libel against petitioner alleging that the
latters statements cast aspersions on him and damaged his reputation. After conducting preliminary
Here it is clear that respondent Falwell is a "public figure" for purposes of First Amendment law. [n5] The investigation, the city prosecutor filed the following information in the Regional Trial Court of Manila,
jury found against respondent on his libel claim when it decided that the Hustler ad parody could not Branch 40:
"reasonably be understood as describing actual facts about [respondent] or actual events in which [he] The undersigned accuses RODOLFO R. VASQUEZ of the crime of libel committed as follows:
participated." App. to Pet. for Cert. C1. The Court of Appeals interpreted the jury's finding to be that the
ad parody "was not reasonably believable," 797 F.2d at 1278, and, in accordance with our custom, we That on or about April 22, 1986, in the city of Manila, Philippines, the said accused, with malicious intent
accept this finding. Respondent is thus relegated to his claim for damages awarded by the jury for the of impeaching the reputation and character of one Jaime Olmedo, chairman of Barangay 66, Zone 6 in
intentional infliction of emotional distress by "outrageous" conduct. But, for reasons heretofore stated, Tondo, Manila, and with evident intent of exposing him to public hatred, contempt, ridicule, did then
this claim cannot, consistently with the First Amendment, form a basis for the award of damages when and there willfully, unlawfully, feloniously and maliciously caused the publication of an article entitled 38
the conduct in question is the publication of a caricature such as the ad parody involved here. The Pamilya Inagawan ng Lupa in Ang Tinig ng Masa, a daily newspaper sold to the public and of general
judgment of the Court of Appeals is accordingly circulation in the Philippines in its April 22, 1986 issue, which portion of the said article reads as follows:
Reversed. JUSTICE KENNEDY took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
[G.R. No. 118971. September 15, 1999] Nananawagan kahapon kay pangulong Corazon Aquino ang 38 mahihirap na pamilya sa Tondo Foreshore
RODOLFO R. VASQUEZ, petitioner, vs. COURT OF APPEALS, THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF MANILA, Area na umanoy inagawan ng lupa ng kanilang barangay chairman sa pakikipagsabwatan sa ilang pinuno
BRANCH 40, and THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents. ng National Housing Authority sapul 1980.
D E C I S I O N: MENDOZA, J.: Sinabi nila na nakipagsabwatan umano si Chairman Jaime Olmedo ng barangay 66, Zone 6, Tondo
The question for determination in this case is the liability for libel of a citizen who denounces a barangay Foreshore Area sa mga project manager ng NHA upang makamkam ang may 14 na lote ng lupa sa
official for misconduct in office. The Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 40, found petitioner guilty naturang lugar.
and fined him P1,000.00 on the ground that petitioner failed to prove the truth of the charges and that x x x Pawang lupa ng gobyerno ang mga lupa at ilegal man na patituluhan, nagawa ito ni Olmedo sa
he was motivated by vengeance in uttering the defamatory statement. On appeal, the Court of Appeals, pakikipagsabwatan sa mga project manager at legal officers ng NHA, sabi ni Vasquez.
in a decision[1] dated February 1, 1995, affirmed. Hence, this petition for review. The decision appealed Sinabi rin ng mga pamilya na protektado ng dating pinuno ng city hall ng Maynila, MHS Minister Conrado
from should be reversed. Benitez, at ilang pinuno ng pulisya ang barangay chairman kaya nakalusot ang mga ginawa nitong
katiwalian.
The facts are not in dispute. Petitioner Rodolfo R. Vasquez is a resident of the Tondo Foreshore Area. Bukod sa pagkamkam ng mga lupaing gobyerno, kasangkot din umano si Olmedo sa mga ilegal na
Sometime in April 1986, he and some 37 families from the area went to see then National Housing pasugalan sa naturang lugar at maging sa mga nakawan ng manok. x x x
Authority (NHA) General Manager Lito Atienza regarding their complaint against their Barangay
Chairman, Jaime Olmedo. After their meeting with Atienza and other NHA officials, petitioner and his with which statements, the said accused meant and intended to convey, as in fact he did mean and
companions were met and interviewed by newspaper reporters at the NHA compound concerning their convey false and malicious imputations that said Jaime Olmedo is engaged in landgrabbing and involved
complaint. The next day, April 22, 1986, the following news article[2] appeared in the newspaper Ang in illegal gambling and stealing of chickens at the Tondo Foreshore Area, Tondo, Manila, which
Tinig ng Masa: statements, as he well knew, were entirely false and malicious, offensive and derogatory to the good
Nananawagan kahapon kay pangulong Corazon Aquino ang 38 mahihirap na pamilya sa Tondo Foreshore name, character and reputation of said Jaime Olmedo, thereby tending to impeach, besmirch and
Area na umanoy inagawan ng lupa ng kanilang barangay chairman sa pakikipagsabwatan sa ilang pinuno destroy the honor, character and reputation of Jaime Olmedo, as in fact, the latter was exposed to
ng National Housing Authority sapul 1980. dishonor, discredit, public hatred, contempt and ridicule.
Sinabi nila na nakipagsabwatan umano si Chairman Jaime Olmedo ng barangay 66, Zone 6, Tondo
Foreshore Area, sa mga project manager ng NHA upang makamkam ang may 14 na lote ng lupa sa Contrary to law.
naturang lugar.
Binanggit ni Rodolfo R. Vasquez, 40, Tagapagsalita ng (mga) pamilyang apektado, na umaabot lang sa Upon being arraigned, petitioner entered a plea of not guilty, whereupon the case was tried. The
487.87 metro kuwadrado ang kabuuan ng mga lupa na kinatitirikan ng mga barung-barung ng 38 prosecution presented Barangay Chairman Olmedo and his neighbor, Florentina Calayag, as witnesses.
pamilya. On the other hand, the defense presented Ciriaco Cabuhat, Nicasio Agustin, Estrelita Felix, Fernando
Naninirahan na kami sa mga lupang nabanggit sapul 1950 at pinatunayan sa mga survey ng NHA noong Rodriguez all residents of the Tondo Foreshore Area and petitioner as its witnesses.
nakalipas na taon na may karapatan kami sa mga lupang ito ng pamahalaan, ani Vasquez.
Pawang lupa ng gobyerno ang mga lupa at ilegal man na patituluhan, nagawa ito ni Olmedo sa On May 28, 1992, the trial court rendered judgment finding petitioner guilty of libel and sentencing him
pakikipagsabwatan sa mga project manager at legal officers ng NHA, sabi ni Vasquez. to pay a fine of P1,000.00. On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed in toto. Hence, this petition for
review. Petitioner contends that
I. THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN AFFIRMING THE DECISION OF THE TRIAL COURT PINPOINTING general rule is that the information must set out the particular defamatory words verbatim and as
PETITIONER AS THE SOURCE OF THE ALLEGED LIBELOUS ARTICLE. published and that a statement of their substance is insufficient,[8] United States v. Eguia, 38 Phil. 857
II. THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN AFFIRMING THE DECISION OF THE TRIAL COURT THAT PETITIONER (1918).8 a defect in this regard may be cured by evidence.[9] In this case, the article was presented in
IMPUTED THE QUESTIONED ACTS TO COMPLAINANT. evidence, but petitioner failed to object to its introduction. Instead, he engaged in the trial of the entire
III. THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN AFFIRMING THE DECISION OF THE TRIAL COURT THAT THE article, not only of the portions quoted in the information, and sought to prove it to be true. In doing so,
ALLEGED IMPUTATIONS WERE MADE MALICIOUSLY. he waived objection based on the defect in the information. Consequently, he cannot raise this issue at
IV. THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN AFFIRMING THE DECISION OF THE TRIAL COURT WHICH FAILED TO this late stage.[10]
APPRECIATE PETITIONERS DEFENSE OF TRUTH.
V. THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN AFFIRMING THE DECISION OF THE TRIAL COURT THAT ALL THE Third. On the main issue whether petitioner is guilty of libel, petitioner contends that what he said was
ELEMENTS OF LIBEL WERE PROVEN. true and was made with good motives and for justifiable ends.

We will deal with these contentions in the order in which they are made. To find a person guilty of libel under Art. 353 of the Revised Penal Code, the following elements must be
proved: (a) the allegation of a discreditable act or condition concerning another; (b) publication of the
First. Petitioner claims he was unfairly singled out as the source of the statements in the article when any charge; (c) identity of the person defamed; and (d) existence of malice.[11]
member of the 38 complainant-families could have been the source of the alleged libelous
statements.[3] The reference is to the following portion of the decision of the Court of Appeals: An allegation is considered defamatory if it ascribes to a person the commission of a crime, the
. . . In his sworn statement, appellant admitted he was the source of the libelous article (Exh. B). He possession of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status or circumstance
affirmed this fact when he testified in open court as follows: That his allegation on the act of which tends to dishonor or discredit or put him in contempt, or which tends to blacken the memory of
landgrabbing by Olmedo was based on the alleged report and pronouncements of the NHA one who is dead.[12]
representatives (p. 5, tsn, Oct. 18, 1989); that said allegations were made by him before the local press
people in the pursuit of fairness and truthfulness and not in bad faith (pp. 8-9, id.); that the only There is publication if the material is communicated to a third person.[13] It is not required that the
inaccurate account in the published article of Ang Tinig ng Masa is the reference to the 487.87 sq.m. lot, person defamed has read or heard about the libelous remark. What is material is that a third person has
on which Olmedos residence now stands, attributed by the reporter as the lot currently occupied by read or heard the libelous statement, for a mans reputation is the estimate in which others hold him, not
appellants and his fellow complainants (pp. 4-5, tsn, Nov. 15, 1989; pp. 4-5, tsn, January 15, 1990); and the good opinion which he has of himself.[14]
that after the interview, he never expected that his statement would be the cause of the much-
publicized libelous article (pp. 4-6, tsn, Nov. 15, 1989).[4] On the other hand, to satisfy the element of identifiability, it must be shown that at least a third person
It is true petitioner did not directly admit that he was the source of the statements in the questioned or a stranger was able to identify him as the object of the defamatory statement.[15]
article. What he said in his sworn statement[5] was that the contents of the article are true in almost all
respects, thus: Finally, malice or ill will must be present. Art. 354 of the Revised Penal Code provides:

9. Tama ang nakalathala sa pahayagang Ang Masa maliban na lang sa tinutukoy na ako at ang mga Every defamatory imputation is presumed to be malicious, even if it be true, if no good intention and
kasamahang maralitang taga-lungsod ay nakatira sa humigit kumulang 487.87 square meters sapagkat justifiable motive for making it is shown, except in the following cases:
ang nabanggit na 487.87 square meters ay siyang kinatitirikan ng bahay ni Barangay Chairman Olmedo
kung saan nakaloob ang anim na lote - isang paglabag sa batas o regulasyon ng NHA; 1. A private communication made by any person to another in the performance of any legal, moral or
10. Ang ginawa kong pahayag na nailathala sa Ang Masa ay sanhi ng aking nais na maging mabuting security duty; and
mamamayan at upang maituwid ang mga katiwaliang nagaganap sa Tondo Foreshore Area kung saan ako 2. A fair and true report, made in good faith, without any comments or remarks, of any judicial,
at sampu ng aking mga kasamang maralitang taga-lungsod ay apektado at naaapi. legislative or other official proceedings which are not of confidential nature, or of any statement, report
or speech delivered in said proceedings, or of any other act performed by public officers in the exercise
This was likewise what he stated in his testimony in court both on direct[6] and on cross-examination.[7] of their functions.
However, by claiming that what he had told the reporter was made by him in the performance of a civic
duty, petitioner in effect admitted authorship of the article and not only of the statements attributed to In this case, there is no doubt that the first three elements are present. The statements that Olmedo,
him therein, to wit: through connivance with NHA officials, was able to obtain title to several lots in the area and that he was
involved in a number of illegal activities (attempted murder, gambling and theft of fighting cocks) were
Pawang lupa ng gobyerno ang mga lupa at ilegal man na patituluhan, nagawa ito ni Olmedo sa clearly defamatory. There is no merit in his contention that landgrabbing, as charged in the information,
pakikipagsabwatan sa mga project manager at legal officers ng NHA, sabi ni Vasquez. has a technical meaning in law.[16] Such act is so alleged and proven in this case in the popular sense in
. . . .Sapin-sapin na ang mga kaso na idinulog namin noong nakalipas na mga taon, pero pinawalang which it is understood by ordinary people. As held in United States v. Sotto:[17]
saysay ang lahat ng iyon, kabilang na ang tangkang pagpatay sa akin kaugnay ng pagrereklamo sa . . . [F]or the purpose of determining the meaning of any publication alleged to be libelous that
pangangamkam ng lupa noong 1984, sabi pa ni Vasquez. 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. The
Petitioner cannot claim to have been the source of only a few statements in the article in question and published matter alleged to be libelous must be construed as a whole. In applying these rules to the
point to the other parties as the source of the rest, when he admits that he was correctly identified as language of an alleged libel, the court will disregard any subtle or ingenious explanation offered by the
the spokesperson of the families during the interview. publisher on being called to account. The whole question being the effect the publication had upon the
minds of the readers, and they not having been assisted by the offered explanation in reading the article,
Second. Petitioner points out that the information did not set out the entire news article as published. In it comes too late to have the effect of removing the sting, if any there be, from the words used in the
fact, the second statement attributed to petitioner was not included in the information. But, while the publication.
(s/t) HERMOGENES C. FERNANDEZ
Nor is there any doubt that the defamatory remarks referred to complainant and were published. Inspector General
Petitioner caused the publication of the defamatory remarks when he made the statements to the Public Assistance & Action Office
reporters who interviewed him.[18]
In addition, petitioner acted on the basis of two memoranda,[21] both dated November 29, 1983, of
The question is whether from the fact that the statements were defamatory, malice can be presumed so then NHA General Manager Gaudencio Tobias recommending the filing of administrative charges against
that it was incumbent upon petitioner to overcome such presumption. Under Art. 361 of the Revised the NHA officials responsible for the alleged irregular consolidation of lots [in Tondo to Jaime and
Penal Code, if the defamatory statement is made against a public official with respect to the discharge of Victoria Olmedo.]
his official duties and functions and the truth of the allegation is shown, the accused will be entitled to
an acquittal even though he does not prove that the imputation was published with good motives and With regard to the other imputations made by petitioner against complainant, it must be noted that
for justifiable ends.[19] what petitioner stated was that various charges (for attempted murder against petitioner, gambling,
theft of fighting cocks) had been filed by the residents against their barangay chairman but these had all
In this case, contrary to the findings of the trial court, on which the Court of Appeals relied, petitioner been dismissed. Petitioner was able to show that Olmedos involvement in the theft of fighting cocks was
was able to prove the truth of his charges against the barangay official. His allegation that, through the subject of an affidavit-complaint,[22] dated October 19, 1983, signed by Fernando Rodriguez and
connivance with NHA officials, complainant was able to obtain title to several lots at the Tondo Ben Lareza, former barangay tanods of Barangay 66, Zone 6, Tondo. Likewise, petitioner presented a
Foreshore Area was based on the letter[20] of NHA Inspector General Hermogenes Fernandez to resolution,[23] dated March 10, 1988, of the Office of the Special Prosecutor in TBP-87-03694, stating
petitioners counsel which reads: that charges of malversation and corrupt practices had been filed against Olmedo and nine (9) other
barangay officials but the same were dismissed. Indeed, the prosecutions own evidence bears out
09 August 1983 petitioners statements. The prosecution presented the resolution[24]in TBP Case No. 84-01854
Atty. Rene V. Sarmiento dismissing the charge of attempted murder filed by petitioner against Jaime Olmedo and his son-in-law,
Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) Jaime Reyes. The allegation concerning this matter is thus true.
55 Third Street
New Manila, Quezon City It was error for the trial court to hold that petitioner only tried to prove that the complainant [barangay
Dear Atty. Sarmiento: chairman] is guilty of the crimes alluded to; accused, however, has not proven that the complainant
In connection with your request that you be furnished with a copy of the results of the investigation committed the crimes. For that is not what petitioner said as reported in the Ang Tinig ng Masa. The fact
regarding the complaints of some Tondo residents against Chairman Jaime Olmedo, we are providing that charges had been filed against the barangay official, not the truth of such charges, was the issue.
you a summary of the findings based on the investigation conducted by our Office which are as follows:
In denouncing the barangay chairman in this case, petitioner and the other residents of the Tondo
1. Based on the subdivision plan of Block 260, SB 8, Area III, Jaime Olmedos present structure is Foreshore Area were not only acting in their self-interest but engaging in the performance of a civic duty
constructed on six lots which were awarded before by the defunct Land Tenure Administration to to see to it that public duty is discharged faithfully and well by those on whom such duty is incumbent.
different persons as follows: The recognition of this right and duty of every citizen in a democracy is inconsistent with any
Lot 4 - Juana Buenaventura - 79.76 sq. m. requirement placing on him the burden of proving that he acted with good motives and for justifiable
Lot 6 - Servando Simbulan - 48.50 sq. m. ends.
Lot 7 - Alfredo Vasquez - 78.07 sq. m.
Lot 8 - Martin Gallardo - 78.13 sq. m. For that matter, even if the defamatory statement is false, no liability can attach if it relates to official
Lot 9 - Daniel Bayan - 70.87 sq. m. conduct, unless the public official concerned proves that the statement was made with actual malice
Lot 1 - Fortunato de Jesus - 85.08 sq. m. (OIT No. 7800) that is, with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not. This is
The above-mentioned lots were not yet titled, except for Lot 1. Fortunato de Jesus sold the said lot to a the gist of the ruling in the landmark case of New York Times v. Sullivan,[25] which this Court has cited
certain Jovita Bercasi, a sister-in-law of Jaime Olmedo. The other remaining lots were either sold to Mr. with approval in several of its own decisions.[26] This is the rule of actual malice. In this case, the
Olmedo and/or to his immediate relatives. prosecution failed to prove not only that the charges made by petitioner were false but also that
Lot 14 is also titled in the name of Mariano Bercasi, father-in-law of Jaime Olmedo, with an area of 47.40 petitioner made them with knowledge of their falsity or with reckless disregard of whether they were
sq. m. false or not.
The lot assigned to Chairman Olmedo has a total area of 487.87 sq. m.
2. Block 261, SB 8, Area III A rule placing on the accused the burden of showing the truth of allegations of official misconduct
Lot No. 7 is titled in the name of Jaime Olmedo, consisting an area of 151.67 sq. m. A four-door and/or good motives and justifiable ends for making such allegations would not only be contrary to Art.
apartment owned by Mr. Olmedo is being rented to uncensused residents. 361 of the Revised Penal Code. It would, above all, infringe on the constitutionally guaranteed freedom
3. Block 262, SB 8, Area III of expression. Such a rule would deter citizens from performing their duties as members of a self-
Lot No. 13 is allocated to Delfin Olmedo, nephew of Jaime Olmedo, but this lot is not yet titled. governing community. Without free speech and assembly, discussions of our most abiding concerns as a
4. Block 256, SB 5, Area III nation would be stifled. As Justice Brandeis has said, public discussion is a political duty and the greatest
Victoria Olmedo, uncensused, is a daughter of Jaime Olmedo. Her structure is erected on a non-titled lot. menace to freedom is an inert people.[27]
The adjacent lot is titled in the name of Victoria. It was issued OCT No. 10217 with an area of 202.23 sq.
m. Inside this compound is another structure owned and occupied by Amelia Dofredo, a censused Complainant contends that petitioner was actuated by vengeful political motive rather than by his firm
houseowner. The titled lot of Victoria now has an area of 338.20 sq. m. conviction that he and his fellow residents had been deprived of a property right because of acts
attributable to their barangay chairman. The Court of Appeals, sustaining complainants contention, held:
For your information.
That the said imputations were malicious may be inferred from the facts that appellant and complainant correspondents/reporters Fred Bruning and Barry Came. The complaint alleged that petitioner and the
are enemies, hence, accused was motivated by vengeance in uttering said defamatory statements and other defendants committed libel against them by the publication of the article "An Island of Fear" in the
that accused is a leader of Ciriaco Cabuhat who was defeated by complainant when they ran for the February 23, 1981 issue of petitioner's weekly news magazine Newsweek. The article supposedly
position of barangay captain. . . .[28] portrayed the island province of Negros Occidental as a place dominated by big landowners or sugarcane
planters who not only exploited the impoverished and underpaid sugarcane workers/laborers, but also
As already stated, however, in accordance with Art. 361, if the defamatory matter either constitutes a brutalized and killed them with imprunity. Complainants therein alleged that said article, taken as a
crime or concerns the performance of official duties, and the accused proves the truth of his charge, he whole, showed a deliberate and malicious use of falsehood, slanted presentation and/or
should be acquitted.[29] misrepresentation of facts intended to put them (sugarcane planters) in bad light, expose them to public
ridicule, discredit and humiliation here in the Philippines and abroad, and make them objects of hatred,
Instead of the claim that petitioner was politically motivated in making the charges against complainant, contempt and hostility of their agricultural workers and of the public in general. They prayed that
it would appear that complainant filed this case to harass petitioner. Art. 360 of the Revised Penal Code defendants be ordered to pay them PlM as actual and compensatory damages, and such amounts for
provides: moral, exemplary and corrective damages as the court may determine, plus expenses of litigation,
attorney's fees and costs of suit. A photo copy of the article was attached to the complaint.
Persons responsible.Any person who shall publish, exhibit, or cause the publication or exhibition of any
defamation in writing or by similar means, shall be responsible for the same. On November 5, 1981, petitioner filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that (1) the printed article
The author or editor of a book or pamphlet, or the editor or business manager of a daily newspaper, sued upon is not actionable in fact and in law; and (2) the complaint is bereft of allegations that state,
magazine or serial publication, shall be responsible for the defamations contained therein to the same much less support a cause of action. It pointed out the non-libelous nature of the article and,
extent as if he were the author thereof. . . . consequently, the failure of the complaint to state a cause of action. Private respondents filed an
Opposition to the motion to dismiss and petitioner filed a reply.
Yet, in this case, neither the reporter, editor, nor the publisher of the newspaper was charged in court.
What was said in an analogous case[30] may be applied mutatis mutandis to the case at bar: On March 17, 1982, the trial court denied the motion to dismiss, stating that the grounds on which the
motion to dismiss are predicated are not indubitable as the complaint on its face states a valid cause of
It is curious that the ones most obviously responsible for the publication of the allegedly offensive news action; and the question as to whether the printed article sued upon its actionable or not is a matter of
report, namely, the editorial staff and the periodical itself, were not at all impleaded. The charge was evidence. Petitioner's motion for reconsideration was denied on May 28, 1982.
leveled against the petitioner and, curiouser still, his clients who have nothing to do with the editorial
policies of the newspaper. There is here a manifest effort to persecute and intimidate the petitioner for On June 18, 1982, petitioner filed a petition for certiorari with respondent Court (CA-G. R. No. 14406)
his temerity in accusing the ASAC agents who apparently enjoyed special privilegesand perhaps also seeking the annulment of the aforecited trial court's Orders for having been issued with such a grave
immunitiesduring those oppressive times. The non-inclusion of the periodicals was a transparent abuse of discretion as amounting to lack of jurisdiction and praying for the dismissal of the complaint for
hypocrisy, an ostensibly pious if not at all convincing pretense of respect for freedom of expression that failure to state a cause of action.
was in fact one of the most desecrated liberties during the past despotism.[31]
As earlier stated, respondent Court affirmed the trial court's Orders in a Decision dated December 17,
WHEREFORE, the decision of the Court of Appeals is REVERSED and the petitioner is ACQUITTED of the 1982 and ordered the case to be tried on the merits on the grounds that -(1) the complaint contains
crime charged. SO ORDERED. allegations of fact which called for the presentation of evidence; and (2) certiorari under Rule 65 cannot
EN BANC: G.R. No. L-63559 May 30, 1986 be made to substitute for an appeal where an appeal would lie at a proper time. Subsequently, on March
NEWSWEEK, INC., petitioner, 10, 1983, the respondent Court denied petitioner's Motion for Reconsideration of the aforesaid decision,
vs. hence this petition.
THE INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT, and NATIONAL FEDERATION OF SUGARCANE PLANTERS INC.,
BINALBAGAN-ISABELA PLANTERS ASSOCIATION, INC., ASOCIACION DE AGRICULTORES DE LA CARLOTA, The proper remedy which petitioner should have taken from the decision of respondent Court is an
LA CASTELLANA y PONTEVEDRA, INC., DONEDCO PLANTERS ASSOCIATION INC., ARMANDO GUSTILO, appeal by certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court and not the special civil action of certiorari and
ENRIQUE ROJAS, ALFREDO MONTELIBANO, JR., PABLO SOLA, JOSE MONTALVO, VICENTE GUSTILO, prohibition under Rule 65 of said Rules. However, since the petition was filed on time within fifteen days
JOSEPH MARANON, ROBERTO CUENCA, JOSE SICANGCO, FLORENCIO ALONSO, MIGUEL GATUSLAO, from notice of the Resolution denying the motion for reconsideration, we shall treat the same as a
PEDRO YULO, MARINO RUBIN and BENJAMIN BAUTISTA, respondents. petition for review on certiorari. The two (2) issues raised in the petition are: (1) whether or not the
San Juan, Africa, Gonzales & San Agustin Law Offices for private respondents. private respondents' complaint failed to state a cause of action; and (2) whether or not the petition for
FERIA, J.: certiorari and prohibition is proper to question the denial of a motion to dismiss for failure to state a
Petitioner, Newsweek, Inc., a foreign corporation licensed to do business in the Philippines, in this special cause of action.
action for certiorari, prohibition with preliminary injunction, seeks to annul the decision of the
Intermediate Appellate Court dated December 17, 1982 sustaining the Order of the then Court of First First, petitioner argues that private respondents' complaint failed to state a cause of action because the
Instance of Bacolod City which denied petitioner's Motion to Dismiss the complaint for libel filed by complaint made no allegation that anything contained in the article complained of regarding sugarcane
private respondents (Civil Case No. 15812), and the Resolution dated March 10, 1983 which denied its planters referred specifically to any one of the private respondents; that libel can be committed only
Motion for Reconsideration. against individual reputation; and that in cases where libel is claimed to have been directed at a group,
there is actionable defamation only if the libel can be said to reach beyond the mere collectivity to do
It appears that on March 5, 1981, private respondents, incorporated associations of sugarcane planters damage to a specific, individual group member's reputation.
in Negros Occidental claiming to have 8,500 members and several individual sugar planters, filed Civil
Case No. 15812 in their own behalf and/or as a class suit in behalf of all sugarcane planters in the We agree with petitioner.
province of Negros Occidental, against petitioner and two of petitioners' non-resident
In the case of Corpus vs. Cuaderno, Sr. (16 SCRA 807) this Court ruled that "in order to maintain a libel followed in such a case is to file an answer, go to trial and if the decision is adverse, reiterate the issue on
suit, it is essential that the victim be identifiable (People vs. Monton, L-16772, November 30, 1962), appeal from the final judgment. The same rule applies to an order denying a motion to quash, except
although it is not necessary that he be named (19 A.L.R. 116)." In an earlier case, this Court declared that instead of filing an answer a plea is entered and no appeal lies from a judgment of acquittal.
that" ... defamatory matter which does not reveal the Identity of the person upon whom the imputation
is cast, affords no ground of action unless it be shown that the readers of the libel could have Identified This general rule is subject to certain exceptions. If the court, in denying the motion to dismiss or motion
the personality of the individual defamed." (Kunkle vs. Cablenews-American and Lyons 42 Phil. 760). to quash, acts without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion, then certiorari or
prohibition lies. The reason is that it would be unfair to require the defendant or accused to undergo the
This principle has been recognized to be of vital importance, especially where a group or class of ordeal and expense of a trial if the court has no jurisdiction over the subject matter or offense, or is not
persons, as in the case at bar, claim to have been defamed, for it is evident that the larger the the court of proper venue, or if the denial of the motion to dismiss or motion to quash is made with
collectivity, the more difficult it is for the individual member to prove that the defamatory remarks apply grave abuse of discretion or a whimsical and capricious exercise of judgment. In such cases, the ordinary
to him. (Cf. 70 ALR 2d. 1384). remedy of appeal cannot be plain and adequate. The following are a few examples of the exceptions to
the general rule.
In the case of Uy Tioco vs. Yang Shu Wen , 32 Phil. 624, this Court held as follows:
In De Jesus vs. Garcia (19 SCRA 554), upon the denial of a motion to dismiss based on lack of jurisdiction
Defamatory remarks directed at a class or group of persons in general language only, are not actionable over the subject matter, this Court granted the petition for certiorari and prohibition against the City
by individuals composing the class or group unless the statements are sweeping; and it is very probable Court of Manila and directed the respondent court to dismiss the case.
that even then no action would lie where the body is composed of so large a number of persons that
common sense would tell those to whom the publication was made that there was room for persons In Lopez vs. City Judge (18 SCRA 616), upon the denial of a motion to quash based on lack of jurisdiction
connected with the body to pursue an upright and law abiding course and that it would be unreasonable over the offense, this Court granted the petition for prohibition and enjoined the respondent court from
and absurd to condemn all because of the actions of a part. (supra p. 628). further proceeding in the case.

It is evident from the above ruling that where the defamation is alleged to have been directed at a group In Enriquez vs. Macadaeg (84 Phil. 674), upon the denial of a motion to dismiss based on improper
or class, it is essential that the statement must be so sweeping or all-embracing as to apply to every venue, this Court granted the petition for prohibition and enjoined the respondent judge from taking
individual in that group or class, or sufficiently specific so that each individual in the class or group can cognizance of the case except to dismiss the same.
prove that the defamatory statement specifically pointed to him, so that he can bring the action
separately, if need be. In Manalo vs. Mariano (69 SCRA 80), upon the denial of a motion to dismiss based on bar by prior
judgment, this Court granted the petition for certiorari and directed the respondent judge to dismiss the
We note that private respondents filed a "class suit" in representation of all the 8,500 sugarcane planters case.
of Negros Occidental. Petitioner disagrees and argues that the absence of any actionable basis in the
complaint cannot be cured by the filing of a class suit on behalf of the aforesaid sugar planters. In Yuviengco vs. Dacuycuy (105 SCRA 668), upon the denial of a motion to dismiss based on the Statute
of Frauds, this Court granted the petition for certiorari and dismissed the amended complaint.
We find petitioner's contention meritorious. In Tacas vs. Cariaso (72 SCRA 527), this Court granted the petition for certiorari after the motion to quash
based on double jeopardy was denied by respondent judge and ordered him to desist from further
The case at bar is not a class suit. It is not a case where one or more may sue for the benefit of all action in the criminal case except to dismiss the same.
(Mathay vs. Consolidated Bank and Trust Company, 58 SCRA 559) or where the representation of class In People vs. Ramos (83 SCRA 11), the order denying the motion to quash based on prescription was set
interest affected by the judgment or decree is indispensable to make each member of the class an actual aside on certiorari and the criminal case was dismissed by this Court.
party (Borlaza vs. Polistico, 47 Phil. 348). We have here a case where each of the plaintiffs has a separate
and distinct reputation in the community. They do not have a common or general interest in the subject Respondent Court correctly stated the general rule and its exceptions. However, it ruled that none of the
matter of the controversy. exceptions is present in the case at bar and that the case appears complex and complicated,
necessitating a full-blown trial to get to the bottom of the controversy.
The disputed portion of the article which refers to plaintiff Sola and which was claimed to be libelous
never singled out plaintiff Sola as a sugar planter. The news report merely stated that the victim had Petitioner's motion to dismiss is based on the ground that the complaint states no cause of action
been arrested by members of a special police unit brought into the area by Pablo Sola, the mayor of against it by pointing out the non-libelous nature of the article sued upon. There is no need of a trial in
Kabankalan. Hence, the report, referring as it does to an official act performed by an elective public view of the conclusion of this Court that the article in question is not libelous. The specific allegation in
official, is within the realm of privilege and protected by the constitutional guarantees of free speech and the complaint, to the effect that the article attributed to the sugarcane planters the deaths and
press. brutalization of sugarcane workers, is not borne out by a perusal of the actual text.

The article further stated that Sola and the commander of the special police unit were arrested. The The complaint contains a recital of the favorable working conditions of the agricultural workers in the
Court takes judicial notice of this fact. (People vs. Sola, 103 SCRA 393.) sugar industry and the various foundations and programs supported by planters' associations for the
benefit of their workers. Undoubtedly, the statements in the article in question are sweeping and
The second issue to be resolved here is whether or not the special civil action of certiorari or prohibition exaggerated; but, paraphrasing the ruling in the Uy Tioco case above quoted, it would be unreasonable
is available to petitioner whose motion to dismiss the complaint and subsequent motion for and absurd to condemn the majority of the sugarcane planters, who have at heart the welfare of their
reconsideration were denied. workers, because of the actions of a part. Nonetheless, articles such as the one in question may also
As a general rule, an order denying a motion to dismiss is merely interlocutory and cannot be subject of serve to prick the consciences of those who have but are not doing anything or enough for those who do
appeal until final judgment or order is rendered. (Sec. 2 of Rule 4 1). The ordinary procedure to be not have.
It must be noted that the persons allegedly defamed, the herein plaintiffs, were not identified with
On the other hand, petitioner would do well to heed the admonition of the President to media that they specificity. The subject article was directed at the Muslims without mentioning or identifying the herein
should check the sources of their information to ensure the publication of the truth. Freedom of the plaintiffs x x x. It is thus apparent that the alleged libelous article refers to the larger collectivity of
press, like all freedoms, should be exercised with responsibility. Muslims for which the readers of the libel could not readily identify the personalities of the persons
defamed. Hence, it is difficult for an individual Muslim member to prove that the defamatory remarks
WHEREFORE, the decision of the Intermediate Appellate Court is reversed and the complaint in Civil Case apply to him. The evidence presented in this case failed to convince this court that, indeed, the
No. 15812 of the Court of First Instance of Negros Occidental is dismissed, without pronouncement as to defamatory remarks really applied to the herein plaintiffs.3
costs. SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 135306 January 28, 2003 On 27 August 1998 the Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the trial court. It opined that it was
MVRS PUBLICATIONS, INC., MARS C. LACONSAY, MYLA C. AGUJA and AGUSTINO G. BINEGAS, JR., "clear from the disputed article that the defamation was directed to all adherents of the Islamic faith. It
petitioners, stated that pigs were sacred and idolized as god by members of the Muslim religion. This libelous
vs.ISLAMIC DA'WAH COUNCIL OF THE PHILIPPINES, INC., ABDULRAHMAN R.T. LINZAG, IBRAHIM F.P. imputation undeniably applied to the plaintiff-appellants who are Muslims sharing the same religious
ARCILLA, ABDUL RASHID DE GUZMAN, AL-FARED DA SILVA and IBRAHIM B.A. JUNIO, respondents. beliefs." It added that the suit for damages was a "class suit" and that ISLAMIC DA'WAH COUNCIL OF THE
PHILIPPINES, INC.'s religious status as a Muslim umbrella organization gave it the requisite personality to
BELLOSILLO, J.: sue and protect the interests of all Muslims.4
I may utterly detest what you write, but I shall fight to the death to make it possible for you to continue
writing it. Hence, the instant petition for review assailing the findings of the appellate court (a) on the existence of
the elements of libel, (b) the right of respondents to institute the class suit, and, (c) the liability of
Voltaire petitioners for moral damages, exemplary damages, attorney's fees and costs of suit.
VOLTAIRE'S PONTIFICAL VERSE bestirs once again the basic liberties to free speech and free press
liberties that belong as well, if not more, to those who question, who do not conform, who differ. For the Defamation, which includes libel and slander, means the offense of injuring a person's character, fame or
ultimate good which we all strive to achieve for ourselves and our posterity can better be reached by a reputation through false and malicious statements.5 It is that which tends to injure reputation or to
free exchange of ideas, where the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in diminish the esteem, respect, good will or confidence in the plaintiff or to excite derogatory feelings or
the competition of the free market not just the ideas we desire, but including those thoughts we opinions about the plaintiff.6 It is the publication of anything which is injurious to the good name or
despise.1 reputation of another or tends to bring him into disrepute.7 Defamation is an invasion of a relational
interest since it involves the opinion which others in the community may have, or tend to have, of the
ISLAMIC DA'WAH COUNCIL OF THE PHILIPPINES, INC., a local federation of more than seventy (70) plaintiff.8
Muslim religious organizations, and individual Muslims ABDULRAHMAN R.T. LINZAG, IBRAHIM F.P.
ARCILLA, ABDUL RASHID DE GUZMAN, AL-FARED DA SILVA and IBRAHIM B.A. JUNIO, filed in the Regional It must be stressed that words which are merely insulting are not actionable as libel or slander per se,
Trial Court of Manila a complaint for damages in their own behalf and as a class suit in behalf of the and mere words of general abuse however opprobrious, ill-natured, or vexatious, whether written or
Muslim members nationwide against MVRS PUBLICATIONS, INC., MARS C. LACONSAY, MYLA C. AGUJA spoken, do not constitute a basis for an action for defamation in the absence of an allegation for special
and AGUSTINO G. BINEGAS, JR., arising from an article published in the 1 August 1992 issue of Bulgar, a damages.9 The fact that the language is offensive to the plaintiff does not make it actionable by itself.10
daily tabloid. The article reads:
Declarations made about a large class of people cannot be interpreted to advert to an identified or
"ALAM BA NINYO? identifiable individual. Absent circumstances specifically pointing or alluding to a particular member of a
Na ang mga baboy at kahit anong uri ng hayop sa Mindanao ay hindi kinakain ng mga Muslim? class, no member of such class has a right of action11 without at all impairing the equally demanding
Para sa kanila ang mga ito ay isang sagradong bagay. Hindi nila ito kailangang kainin kahit na sila pa ay right of free speech and expression, as well as of the press, under the Bill of Rights.12 Thus, in
magutom at mawalan ng ulam sa tuwing sila ay kakain. Ginagawa nila itong Diyos at sinasamba pa nila Newsweek, Inc. v. Intermediate Appellate Court,13 we dismissed a complaint for libel against Newsweek,
ito sa tuwing araw ng kanilang pangingilin lalung-lalo na sa araw na tinatawag nilang 'Ramadan'." Inc., on the ground that private respondents failed to state a cause of action since they made no
allegation in the complaint that anything contained in the article complained of specifically referred to
The complaint alleged that the libelous statement was insulting and damaging to the Muslims; that these any of them. Private respondents, incorporated associations of sugarcane planters in Negros Occidental
words alluding to the pig as the God of the Muslims was not only published out of sheer ignorance but claiming to have 8,500 members and several individual members, filed a class action suit for damages in
with intent to hurt the feelings, cast insult and disparage the Muslims and Islam, as a religion in this behalf of all sugarcane planters in Negros Occidental. The complaint filed in the Court of First Instance of
country, in violation of law, public policy, good morals and human relations; that on account of these Bacolod City alleged that Newsweek, Inc., committed libel against them by the publication of the article
libelous words Bulgar insulted not only the Muslims in the Philippines but the entire Muslim world, "Island of Fear" in its weekly newsmagazine allegedly depicting Negros Province as a place dominated by
especially every Muslim individual in non-Muslim countries. wealthy landowners and sugar planters who not only exploited the impoverished and underpaid
sugarcane workers but also brutalized and killed them with impunity. Private respondents alleged that
MVRS PUBLICATIONS, INC., and AGUSTINO G. BINEGAS, JR., in their defense, contended that the article the article showed a deliberate and malicious use of falsehood, slanted presentation and/or
did not mention respondents as the object of the article and therefore were not entitled to damages; misrepresentation of facts intended to put the sugarcane planters in a bad light, expose them to public
and, that the article was merely an expression of belief or opinion and was published without malice nor ridicule, discredit and humiliation in the Philippines and abroad, and make them the objects of hatred,
intention to cause damage, prejudice or injury to Muslims.2 contempt and hostility of their agricultural workers and of the public in general. We ratiocinated

On 30 June 1995 the trial court dismissed the complaint holding that the plaintiffs failed to establish x x x where the defamation is alleged to have been directed at a group or class, it is essential that the
their cause of action since the persons allegedly defamed by the article were not specifically identified statement must be so sweeping or all-embracing as to apply to every individual in that group or class, or
sufficiently specific so that each individual in the class or group can prove that the defamatory statement
specifically pointed to him, so that he can bring the action separately, if need be x x x x The case at bar is A general charge that the lawyers in the city are shysters would obviously not be a charge that all of the
not a class suit. It is not a case where one or more may sue for the benefit of all, or where the lawyers were shysters. A charge that the lawyers in a local point in a great city, such as Times Square in
representation of class interest affected by the judgment or decree is indispensable to make each New York City, were shysters would obviously not include all of the lawyers who practiced in that district;
member of the class an actual party. We have here a case where each of the plaintiffs has a separate and but a statement that all of the lawyers who practiced in a particular building in that district were shysters
distinct reputation in the community. They do not have a common or general interest in the subject would be a specific charge, so that any lawyer having an office within that building could sue.
matter of the controversy.
If the group is a very large one, then the alleged libelous statement is considered to have no application
In the present case, there was no fairly identifiable person who was allegedly injured by the Bulgar to anyone in particular, since one might as well defame all mankind. Not only does the group as such
article. Since the persons allegedly defamed could not be identifiable, private respondents have no have no action; the plaintiff does not establish any personal reference to himself.20 At present, modern
individual causes of action; hence, they cannot sue for a class allegedly disparaged. Private respondents societal groups are both numerous and complex. The same principle follows with these groups: as the
must have a cause of action in common with the class to which they belong to in order for the case to size of these groups increases, the chances for members of such groups to recover damages on tortious
prosper. libel become elusive. This principle is said to embrace two (2) important public policies: first, where the
group referred to is large, the courts presume that no reasonable reader would take the statements as
An individual Muslim has a reputation that is personal, separate and distinct in the community. Each so literally applying to each individual member; and second, the limitation on liability would satisfactorily
Muslim, as part of the larger Muslim community in the Philippines of over five (5) million people, belongs safeguard freedom of speech and expression, as well as of the press, effecting a sound compromise
to a different trade and profession; each has a varying interest and a divergent political and religious between the conflicting fundamental interests involved in libel cases.21
view some may be conservative, others liberal. A Muslim may find the article dishonorable, even
blasphemous; others may find it as an opportunity to strengthen their faith and educate the non- In the instant case, the Muslim community is too vast as to readily ascertain who among the Muslims
believers and the "infidels." There is no injury to the reputation of the individual Muslims who constitute were particularly defamed. The size of the group renders the reference as indeterminate and generic as
this community that can give rise to an action for group libel. Each reputation is personal in character to a similar attack on Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists or Mormons would do. The word "Muslim" is
every person. Together, the Muslims do not have a single common reputation that will give them a descriptive of those who are believers of Islam, a religion divided into varying sects, such as the Sunnites,
common or general interest in the subject matter of the controversy. the Shiites, the Kharijites, the Sufis and others based upon political and theological distinctions. "Muslim"
is a name which describes only a general segment of the Philippine population, comprising a
In Arcand v. The Evening Call Publishing Company,14 the United States Court of Appeals held that one heterogeneous body whose construction is not so well defined as to render it impossible for any
guiding principle of group libel is that defamation of a large group does not give rise to a cause of action representative identification.
on the part of an individual unless it can be shown that he is the target of the defamatory matter.
The Christian religion in the Philippines is likewise divided into different sects: Catholic, Baptist,
The rule on libel has been restrictive. In an American case,15 a person had allegedly committed libel Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Lutheran, and other groups the essence of which may lie in an inspired
against all persons of the Jewish religion. The Court held that there could be no libel against an extensive charlatan, whose temple may be a corner house in the fringes of the countryside. As with the Christian
community in common law. In an English case, where libel consisted of allegations of immorality in a religion, so it is with other religions that represent the nation's culturally diverse people and minister to
Catholic nunnery, the Court considered that if the libel were on the whole Roman Catholic Church each one's spiritual needs. The Muslim population may be divided into smaller groups with varying
generally, then the defendant must be absolved.16 With regard to the largest sectors in society, agenda, from the prayerful conservative to the passionately radical. These divisions in the Muslim
including religious groups, it may be generally concluded that no criminal action at the behest of the population may still be too large and ambiguous to provide a reasonable inference to any personality
state, or civil action on behalf of the individual, will lie. who can bring a case in an action for libel.

In another case, the plaintiffs claimed that all Muslims, numbering more than 600 million, were defamed The foregoing are in essence the same view scholarly expressed by Mr. Justice Reynato S. Puno in the
by the airing of a national television broadcast of a film depicting the public execution of a Saudi Arabian course of the deliberations in this case. We extensively reproduce hereunder his comprehensive and
princess accused of adultery, and alleging that such film was "insulting and defamatory" to the Islamic penetrating discussion on group libel
religion.17 The United States District Court of the Northern District of California concluded that the
plaintiffs' prayer for $20 Billion in damages arising from "an international conspiracy to insult, ridicule, Defamation is made up of the twin torts of libel and slander the one being, in general, written, while
discredit and abuse followers of Islam throughout the world, Arabs and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia" the other in general is oral. In either form, defamation is an invasion of the interest in reputation and
bordered on the "frivolous," ruling that the plaintiffs had failed to demonstrate an actionable claim for good name. This is a "relational interest" since it involves the opinion others in the community may have,
defamation. The California Court stressed that the aim of the law on defamation was to protect or tend to have of the plaintiff.
individuals; a group may be sufficiently large that a statement concerning it could not defame individual
group members.18 The law of defamation protects the interest in reputation the interest in acquiring, retaining and
enjoying one's reputation as good as one's character and conduct warrant. The mere fact that the
Philip Wittenberg, in his book "Dangerous Words: A Guide to the Law of Libel,"19 discusses the plaintiff's feelings and sensibilities have been offended is not enough to create a cause of action for
inappropriateness of any action for tortious libel involving large groups, and provides a succinct defamation. Defamation requires that something be communicated to a third person that may affect the
illustration: opinion others may have of the plaintiff. The unprivileged communication must be shown of a statement
that would tend to hurt plaintiff's reputation, to impair plaintiff's standing in the community.
There are groupings which may be finite enough so that a description of the body is a description of the
members. Here the problem is merely one of evaluation. Is the description of the member implicit in the Although the gist of an action for defamation is an injury to reputation, the focus of a defamation action
description of the body, or is there a possibility that a description of the body may consist of a variety of is upon the allegedly defamatory statement itself and its predictable effect upon third persons. A
persons, those included within the charge, and those excluded from it? statement is ordinarily considered defamatory if it "tend[s] to expose one to public hatred, shame,
obloquy, contumely, odium, contempt, ridicule, aversion, ostracism, degradation or disgracex x x." The
Restatement of Torts defines a defamatory statement as one that "tends to so harm the reputation of increasing size may be seen to dilute the harm to individuals and any resulting injury will fall beneath the
another as to lower him in the estimation of the community or to deter third persons from associating or threshold for a viable lawsuit.
dealing with him."
x x x x There are many other groupings of men than those that are contained within the foregoing group
Consequently as a prerequisite to recovery, it is necessary for the plaintiff to prove as part of his prima classifications. There are all the religions of the world, there are all the political and ideological beliefs;
facie case that the defendant (1) published a statement that was (2) defamatory (3) of and concerning there are the many colors of the human race. Group defamation has been a fertile and dangerous
the plaintiff. weapon of attack on various racial, religious and political minorities. Some states, therefore, have passed
statutes to prevent concerted efforts to harass minority groups in the United States by making it a crime
The rule in libel is that the action must be brought by the person against whom the defamatory charge to circulate insidious rumors against racial and religious groups. Thus far, any civil remedy for such
has been made. In the American jurisdiction, no action lies by a third person for damages suffered by broadside defamation has been lacking.
reason of defamation of another person, even though the plaintiff suffers some injury therefrom. For
recovery in defamation cases, it is necessary that the publication be "of and concerning the plaintiff." There have been numerous attempts by individual members to seek redress in the courts for libel on
Even when a publication may be clearly defamatory as to somebody, if the words have no personal these groups, but very few have succeeded because it felt that the groups are too large and poorly
application to the plaintiff, they are not actionable by him. If no one is identified, there can be no libel defined to support a finding that the plaintiff was singled out for personal attack x x x x (citations
because no one's reputation has been injured x x x x omitted).

In fine, in order for one to maintain an action for an alleged defamatory statement, it must appear that Our conclusion therefore is that the statements published by petitioners in the instant case did not
the plaintiff is the person with reference to whom the statement was made. This principle is of vital specifically identify nor refer to any particular individuals who were purportedly the subject of the
importance in cases where a group or class is defamed since, usually, the larger the collective, the more alleged libelous publication. Respondents can scarcely claim to having been singled out for social censure
difficult it is for an individual member to show that he was the person at whom the defamation was pointedly resulting in damages.
directed.
A contrary view is expressed that what is involved in the present case is an intentional tortious act
If the defamatory statements were directed at a small, restricted group of persons, they applied to any causing mental distress and not an action for libel. That opinion invokes Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire22
member of the group, and an individual member could maintain an action for defamation. When the where the U.S. Supreme Court held that words heaping extreme profanity, intended merely to incite
defamatory language was used toward a small group or class, including every member, it has been held hostility, hatred or violence, have no social value and do not enjoy constitutional protection; and
that the defamatory language referred to each member so that each could maintain an action. This small Beauharnais v. Illinois23 where it was also ruled that hate speech which denigrates a group of persons
group or class may be a jury, persons engaged in certain businesses, professions or employments, a identified by their religion, race or ethnic origin defames that group and the law may validly prohibit
restricted subdivision of a particular class, a society, a football team, a family, small groups of union such speech on the same ground as defamation of an individual.
officials, a board of public officers, or engineers of a particular company.
We do not agree to the contrary view articulated in the immediately preceding paragraph. Primarily, an
In contrast, if defamatory words are used broadly in respect to a large class or group of persons, and "emotional distress" tort action is personal in nature, i.e., it is a civil action filed by an individual24 to
there is nothing that points, or by proper colloquium or innuendo can be made to apply, to a particular assuage the injuries to his emotional tranquility due to personal attacks on his character. It has no
member of the class or group, no member has a right of action for libel or slander. Where the application in the instant case since no particular individual was identified in the disputed article of
defamatory matter had no special, personal application and was so general that no individual damages Bulgar. Also, the purported damage caused by the article, assuming there was any, falls under the
could be presumed, and where the class referred to was so numerous that great vexation and principle of relational harm which includes harm to social relationships in the community in the form
oppression might grow out of the multiplicity of suits, no private action could be maintained. This rule of defamation; as distinguished from the principle of reactive harm which includes injuries to
has been applied to defamatory publications concerning groups or classes of persons engaged in a individual emotional tranquility in the form of an infliction of emotional distress. In their complaint,
particular business, profession or employment, directed at associations or groups of association officials, respondents clearly asserted an alleged harm to the standing of Muslims in the community, especially to
and to those directed at miscellaneous groups or classes of persons. their activities in propagating their faith in Metro Manila and in other non-Muslim communities in the
country.25 It is thus beyond cavil that the present case falls within the application of the relational harm
Distinguishing a small group which if defamed entitles all its members to sue from a large group principle of tort actions for defamation, rather than the reactive harm principle on which the concept of
which if defamed entitles no one to sue is not always so simple. Some authorities have noted that in emotional distress properly belongs.
cases permitting recovery, the group generally has twenty five (25) or fewer members. However, there is
usually no articulated limit on size. Suits have been permitted by members of fairly large groups when Moreover, under the Second Restatement of the Law, to recover for the intentional infliction of
some distinguishing characteristic of the individual or group increases the likelihood that the statement emotional distress the plaintiff must show that: (a) The conduct of the defendant was intentional or in
could be interpreted to apply individually. For example, a single player on the 60 to 70 man Oklahoma reckless disregard of the plaintiff; (b) The conduct was extreme and outrageous; (c) There was a causal
University football team was permitted to sue when a writer accused the entire team of taking connection between the defendant's conduct and the plaintiff's mental distress; and, (d) The plaintiff's
amphetamines to "hop up" its performance; the individual was a fullback, i.e., a significant position on mental distress was extreme and severe.26
the team and had played in all but two of the team's games.
"Extreme and outrageous conduct" means conduct that is so outrageous in character, and so extreme in
A prime consideration, therefore, is the public perception of the size of the group and whether a degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as atrocious, and utterly
statement will be interpreted to refer to every member. The more organized and cohesive a group, the intolerable in civilized society. The defendant's actions must have been so terrifying as naturally to
easier it is to tar all its members with the same brush and the more likely a court will permit a suit from humiliate, embarrass or frighten the plaintiff.27 Generally, conduct will be found to be actionable where
an individual even if the group includes more than twenty five (25) members. At some point, however, the recitation of the facts to an average member of the community would arouse his resentment against
the actor, and lead him or her to exclaim, "Outrageous!" as his or her reaction.28
Professor Calvert Magruder reinforces Prosser with this succinct observation, viz:35
"Emotional distress" means any highly unpleasant mental reaction such as extreme grief, shame,
humiliation, embarrassment, anger, disappointment, worry, nausea, mental suffering and anguish, There is no occasion for the law to intervene in every case where someone's feelings are hurt. There
shock, fright, horror, and chagrin.29 "Severe emotional distress," in some jurisdictions, refers to any type must still be freedom to express an unflattering opinion, and some safety valve must be left through
of severe and disabling emotional or mental condition which may be generally recognized and diagnosed which irascible tempers may blow off relatively harmless steam.
by professionals trained to do so, including posttraumatic stress disorder, neurosis, psychosis, chronic
depression, or phobia.30 The plaintiff is required to show, among other things, that he or she has Thus, it is evident that even American courts are reluctant to adopt a rule of recovery for emotional
suffered emotional distress so severe that no reasonable person could be expected to endure it; severity harm that would "open up a wide vista of litigation in the field of bad manners," an area in which a
of the distress is an element of the cause of action, not simply a matter of damages.31 "toughening of the mental hide" was thought to be a more appropriate remedy.36 Perhaps of greater
concern were the questions of causation, proof, and the ability to accurately assess damages for
Any party seeking recovery for mental anguish must prove more than mere worry, anxiety, vexation, emotional harm, each of which continues to concern courts today.37
embarrassment, or anger. Liability does not arise from mere insults, indignities, threats, annoyances,
petty expressions, or other trivialities. In determining whether the tort of outrage had been committed, In this connection, the doctrines in Chaplinsky and Beauharnais had largely been superseded by
a plaintiff is necessarily expected and required to be hardened to a certain amount of criticism, rough subsequent First Amendment doctrines. Back in simpler times in the history of free expression the
language, and to occasional acts and words that are definitely inconsiderate and unkind; the mere fact Supreme Court appeared to espouse a theory, known as the Two-Class Theory, that treated certain types
that the actor knows that the other will regard the conduct as insulting, or will have his feelings hurt, is of expression as taboo forms of speech, beneath the dignity of the First Amendment. The most
not enough.32 celebrated statement of this view was expressed in Chaplinsky:

Hustler Magazine v. Falwell33 illustrates the test case of a civil action for damages on intentional There are certain well-defined and narrowly limited classes of speech, the prevention and punishment of
infliction of emotional distress. A parody appeared in Hustler magazine featuring the American which have never been thought to raise any Constitutional problem. These include the lewd and
fundamentalist preacher and evangelist Reverend Jerry Falwell depicting him in an inebriated state obscene, the profane, the libelous, and the insulting or "fighting" words those which by their very
having an incestuous, sexual liaison with his mother in an outhouse. Falwell sued Hustler and its utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace. It has been well observed that
publisher Larry Flynt for damages. The United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia such utterances are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a
ruled that the parody was not libelous, because no reasonable reader would have understood it as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest
factual assertion that Falwell engaged in the act described. The jury, however, awarded $200,000 in in order and morality.
damages on a separate count of "intentional infliction of emotional distress," a cause of action that did
not require a false statement of fact to be made. The United States Supreme Court in a unanimous Today, however, the theory is no longer viable; modern First Amendment principles have passed it by.
decision overturned the jury verdict of the Virginia Court and held that Reverend Falwell may not recover American courts no longer accept the view that speech may be proscribed merely because it is "lewd,"
for intentional infliction of emotional distress. It was argued that the material might be deemed "profane," "insulting" or otherwise vulgar or offensive.38 Cohen v. California39 is illustrative: Paul Robert
outrageous and may have been intended to cause severe emotional distress, but these circumstances Cohen wore a jacket bearing the words "Fuck the Draft" in a Los Angeles courthouse in April 1968, which
were not sufficient to overcome the free speech rights guaranteed under the First Amendment of the caused his eventual arrest. Cohen was convicted for violating a California statute prohibiting any person
United States Constitution. Simply stated, an intentional tort causing emotional distress must necessarily from "disturb[ing] the peace x x x by offensive conduct." The U.S. Supreme Court conceded that Cohen's
give way to the fundamental right to free speech. expletive contained in his jacket was "vulgar," but it concluded that his speech was nonetheless
protected by the right to free speech. It was neither considered an "incitement" to illegal action nor
It must be observed that although Falwell was regarded by the U.S. High Court as a "public figure," he "obscenity." It did not constitute insulting or "fighting" words for it had not been directed at a person
was an individual particularly singled out or identified in the parody appearing on Hustler magazine. Also, who was likely to retaliate or at someone who could not avoid the message. In other words, no one was
the emotional distress allegedly suffered by Reverend Falwell involved a reactive interest an present in the Los Angeles courthouse who would have regarded Cohen's speech as a direct personal
emotional response to the parody which supposedly injured his psychological well-being. insult, nor was there any danger of reactive violence against him.

Verily, our position is clear that the conduct of petitioners was not extreme or outrageous. Neither was No specific individual was targeted in the allegedly defamatory words printed on Cohen's jacket. The
the emotional distress allegedly suffered by respondents so severe that no reasonable person could be conviction could only be justified by California's desire to exercise the broad power in preserving the
expected to endure it. There is no evidence on record that points to that result. cleanliness of discourse in the public sphere, which the U.S. Supreme Court refused to grant to the State,
holding that no objective distinctions can be made between vulgar and nonvulgar speech, and that the
Professor William Prosser, views tort actions on intentional infliction of emotional distress in this emotive elements of speech are just as essential in the exercise of this right as the purely cognitive. As
manner34 Mr. Justice Harlan so eloquently wrote: "[O]ne man's vulgarity is another man's lyric x x x words are
often chosen as much for their emotive as their cognitive force."40 With Cohen, the U.S. Supreme Court
There is virtually unanimous agreement that such ordinary defendants are not liable for mere insult, finally laid the Constitutional foundation for judicial protection of provocative and potentially offensive
indignity, annoyance, or even threats, where the case is lacking in other circumstances of aggravation. speech.
The reasons are not far to seek. Our manners, and with them our law, have not yet progressed to the
point where we are able to afford a remedy in the form of tort damages for all intended mental Similarly, libelous speech is no longer outside the First Amendment protection. Only one small piece of
disturbance. Liability of course cannot be extended to every trivial indignity x x x x The plaintiff must the Two-Class Theory in Chaplinsky survives U.S. courts continue to treat "obscene" speech as not
necessarily be expected and required to be hardened to a certain amount of rough language, and to acts within the protection of the First Amendment at all. With respect to the "fighting words" doctrine, while
that are definitely inconsiderate and unkind x x x The plaintiff cannot recover merely because of hurt it remains alive it was modified by the current rigorous clear and present danger test.41 Thus, in Cohen
feelings. the U.S. Supreme Court in applying the test held that there was no showing that Cohen's jacket bearing
the words "Fuck the Draft" had threatened to provoke imminent violence; and that protecting the criticism of religious principles, including those which may be outrageously appalling, immensely
sensibilities of onlookers was not sufficiently compelling interest to restrain Cohen's speech. erroneous, or those couched as fairly informative comments. The greater danger in our society is the
possibility that it may encourage the frequency of suits among religious fundamentalists, whether
Beauharnais, which closely followed the Chaplinsky doctrine, suffered the same fate as Chaplinsky. Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, or others. This would unnecessarily make the civil courts a
Indeed, when Beauharnais was decided in 1952, the Two-Class Theory was still flourishing. While battleground to assert their spiritual ideas, and advance their respective religious agenda.
concededly the U.S. High Tribunal did not formally abandon Beauharnais, the seminal shifts in U.S.
constitutional jurisprudence substantially undercut Beauharnais and seriously undermined what is left of It need not be stressed that this Court has no power to determine which is proper religious conduct or
its vitality as a precedent. Among the cases that dealt a crushing impact on Beauharnais and rendered it belief; neither does it have the authority to rule on the merits of one religion over another, nor declare
almost certainly a dead letter case law are Brandenburg v. Ohio,42 and, again, Cohen v. California.43 which belief to uphold or cast asunder, for the validity of religious beliefs or values are outside the
These decisions recognize a much narrower set of permissible grounds for restricting speech than did sphere of the judiciary. Such matters are better left for the religious authorities to address what is
Beauharnais.44 rightfully within their doctrine and realm of influence. Courts must be viewpoint-neutral when it comes
to religious matters if only to affirm the neutrality principle of free speech rights under modern
In Brandenburg, appellant who was a leader of the Ku Klux Klan was convicted under the Ohio Criminal jurisprudence where "[a]ll ideas are treated equal in the eyes of the First Amendment even those
Syndicalism Statute for advocating the necessity, duty and propriety of crime, sabotage, violence, or ideas that are universally condemned and run counter to constitutional principles."52 Under the right to
unlawful methods of terrorism as a means of accomplishing industrial or political reforms; and for free speech, "there is no such thing as a false idea. However pernicious an opinion may seem, we depend
voluntarily assembling with a group formed to teach or advocate the doctrines of criminal syndicalism. for its correction not on the conscience of judges and juries but on the competition of other ideas."53
Appellant challenged the statute and was sustained by the U.S. Supreme Court, holding that the Denying certiorari and affirming the appellate court decision would surely create a chilling effect on the
advocacy of illegal action becomes punishable only if such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech, of expression, and of the press.
imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.45 Except in unusual instances,
Brandenburg protects the advocacy of lawlessness as long as such speech is not translated into action. WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The assailed Decision of the Court of Appeals dated 27 August
1998 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE, and the Decision of the RTC-Br. 4, Manila, dismissing the complaint for
The importance of the Brandenburg ruling cannot be overemphasized. Prof. Smolla affirmed that lack of merit, is REINSTATED and AFFIRMED. No pronouncement as to costs. SO ORDERED.
"Brandenburg must be understood as overruling Beauharnais and eliminating the possibility of treating G.R. No. 164437 May 15, 2009
group libel under the same First Amendment standards as individual libel."46 It may well be considered HECTOR C. VILLANUEVA, Petitioner,
as one of the lynchpins of the modern doctrine of free speech, which seeks to give special protection to vs. PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER, INC., LETTY JIMENEZ MAGSANOC, ROSAURO G. ACOSTA, JOSE MARIA
politically relevant speech. NOLASCO, ARTEMIO T. ENGRACIA, JR., RAFAEL CHEEKEE, and MANILA DAILY BULLETIN PUBLISHING
CORPORATION, NAPOLEON G. RAMA, BEN F. RODRIGUEZ, ARTHUR S. SALES, CRIS J. ICBAN, JR.,
In any case, respondents' lack of cause of action cannot be cured by the filing of a class suit. As correctly Respondents.
pointed out by Mr. Justice Jose C. Vitug during the deliberations, "an element of a class suit is the D E C I S I O N: QUISUMBING, J.:
adequacy of representation. In determining the question of fair and adequate representation of
members of a class, the court must consider (a) whether the interest of the named party is coextensive This petition for review on certiorari assails the Amended Decision1 dated May 25, 2004 of the Court of
with the interest of the other members of the class; (b) the proportion of those made parties as it so Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 54134, reversing the Decision2 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Negros
bears to the total membership of the class; and, (c) any other factor bearing on the ability of the named Oriental, Dumaguete City, Branch 44 in Civil Case No. 206-B, which had awarded damages to petitioner
party to speak for the rest of the class.47 for respondents false reporting.

The rules require that courts must make sure that the persons intervening should be sufficiently The basic facts in this case are uncomplicated.
numerous to fully protect the interests of all concerned. In the present controversy, Islamic Da'wah Petitioner was one of the mayoralty candidates in Bais, Negros Oriental during the May 11, 1992
Council of the Philippines, Inc., seeks in effect to assert the interests not only of the Muslims in the elections.
Philippines but of the whole Muslim world as well. Private respondents obviously lack the sufficiency of
numbers to represent such a global group; neither have they been able to demonstrate the identity of On March 30, 1990, Ricardo Nolan, another mayoralty candidate, petitioned for the disqualification of
their interests with those they seek to represent. Unless it can be shown that there can be a safe petitioner from running in the elections. Said petition, however, was denied by the COMELEC.3
guaranty that those absent will be adequately represented by those present, a class suit, given its Two days before the elections, or on May 9, 1992, respondent Manila Daily Bulletin Publishing
magnitude in this instance, would be unavailing."48 Corporation (Manila Bulletin) published the following story:

Likewise on the matter of damages, we agree that "moral damages may be recovered only if the plaintiff The Comelec has disqualified Hector G. Villanueva as Lakas-NUCD candidate for mayor of Bais City for
is able to satisfactorily prove the existence of the factual basis for the damages and its causal connection having been convicted in three administrative cases for grave abuse of authority and harassment in
with the acts complained of,49 and so it must be, as moral damages although incapable of pecuniary 1987, while he was officer-in-charge of the mayors office of Bais City.4 [Emphasis and underscoring
estimation are designed not to impose a penalty but to compensate for injury sustained and actual supplied.]
damages suffered.50 Exemplary damages, on the other hand, may only be awarded if claimant is able to
establish his right to moral, temperate, liquidated or compensatory damages.51 Unfortunately, neither A day before the elections or on May 10, 1992, respondent Philippine Daily Inquirer, Inc. (PDI) also came
of the requirements to sustain an award for either of these damages would appear to have been out with a similar story, to wit:
adequately established by respondents."
The Commission on Elections disqualified Hector G. Villanueva as Lakas-NUCD candidate for mayor of
In a pluralistic society like the Philippines where misinformation about another individual's religion is as Bais City for having been convicted in three administrative cases for grave abuse of authority and
commonplace as self-appointed critics of government, it would be more appropriate to respect the fair harassment in 1987, while he was the officer-in-charge of the mayors office in the city.
WHEREFORE FOREGOING CONSIDERED, this Court holds that defendants Philippine Daily Inquirer, [Inc.]
The Comelec upheld the recommendation of the Comelec office in Bais City, stressing that Villanuevas and Manila [Daily] Bulletin Publishing Corporation with their respective officers are liable [for] damages
conviction in the administrative cases barred him from seeking any elective office. to plaintiff in the following manner:

The Comelec cited Section 40 of the Local Government Code of 1991, which provides that among those 1. As moral damages, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, [Inc.] and the Manila [Daily] Bulletin Publishing
who are disqualified from running for any elective position are "those removed from office as a result of Corporation are ordered to pay P1,000,000.00 each to plaintiff;
an administrative case." 2. Both defendants are likewise ordered to pay an exemplary damage in the amount of P500,000.00
each;
Villanueva was appointed Bais City OIC on April 18, 1986 by then Local Government Minister Aquilino 3. To pay plaintiffs attorneys fees in the amount of P100,000.00;
Pimentel. Sometime during the same year, three administrative cases were instituted against Villanueva 4. And to pay the costs.
before the Department of Local Government upon complaint of Rebecco V. Fernandez and Dr. Harte C.
Fuentes. SO ORDERED.10
The trial court found the news items derogatory and injurious to petitioners reputation and candidacy. It
Sometime in May 1987, the ministry found Villanueva "guilty as charged" and ordered him removed faulted respondents for failing to verify the truth of the news tips they published and held respondents
from his position as OIC of the city government, which decision was approved by Minister Jaime Ferrer. liable for negligence, citing Policarpio v. Manila Times Pub. Co., Inc.11 The trial court also ruled that
because the news items lacked truth and fairness, they were not privileged communications.
In the same month, Francisco G. Villanueva was appointed OIC Mayor to replace Hector Villanueva who
had been removed from office. On appeal by respondents, the Court of Appeals dismissed the complaint. It explained that although the
stories were false and not privileged, as there is no proof they were obtained from a press conference or
The poll body also stated that insofar as the penalty of the removal is concerned, this cannot be reversed release, respondents were not impelled by malice or improper motive. There was also no proof that
anymore, and consequently cannot be the subject matter of an appeal. petitioners supporters junked him due to the reports. Neither was there any proof he would win,
making his action unfounded.
The indefinite term as OIC to which respondent was appointed in 1986 already lapsed, with the holding
of the 1988 local elections and the assumption of office of those elected therein.5 [Emphasis and Before us, petitioner raises the lone issue of whether:
underscoring supplied.]
[THE] HONORABLE APPELLATE COURT COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO
On May 11, 1992, the national and local elections were held as scheduled. When results came out, it UTTER LACK OF JURISDICTION WHEN IT UNILATERALLY, UNPROCEDURALLY AND ARBITRARILY CHANGED
turned out that petitioner failed in his mayoralty bid. THE PLEADING-BORNE AND PRE-TRIAL ORDER DELINEATED THEORY OF QUASI-DELICT OF APPELLEE,
THEREBY DISMISSING THE CASE FOR FAILURE TO EVIDENCE AN ESSENTIAL REQUISITE OF ITS IMPOSED
Believing that his defeat was caused by the publication of the above-quoted stories, petitioner sued IRRELEVANT THEORY.12
respondents PDI and Manila Bulletin as well as their publishers and editors for damages before the RTC
of Bais City. He alleged that the articles were "maliciously timed" to defeat him. He claimed he should Simply stated, we are asked to resolve the issue of whether petitioner is required to prove malice to be
have won by landslide, but his supporters reportedly believed the news items distributed by his rivals entitled to damages.
and voted for other candidates. He asked for actual damages of P270,000 for the amount he spent for
the campaign, moral damages of P10,000,000, an unspecified amount of exemplary damages, attorneys Petitioner argues that his cause of action is based on quasi-delict which only requires proof of fault or
fees of P300,000 and costs of suit.6 negligence, not proof of malice beyond reasonable doubt as required in a criminal prosecution for libel.
He argues that the case is entirely different and separate from an independent civil action arising from
Respondents disclaimed liability. They asserted that no malice can be attributed to them as they did not libel under Article 10013 of the Revised Penal Code. He claims he proffered proofs sustaining his claim
know petitioner and had no interest in the outcome of the election, stressing that the stories were for damages under quasi-delict, not under the law on libel, as malice is hard to prove. He stresses that
privileged in nature.7 nowhere in the complaint did he mention libel, and nothing in his complaint shows that his cause of
action had some shade of libel as defined in the Revised Penal Code. He also did not hint a resort to a
According to Manila Bulletin reporter Edgardo T. Suarez, he got the story during a COMELEC criminal proceeding for libel.14
commissioners press briefing. He, however, came in late and only a fellow reporter told him that the
disqualification case against petitioner was granted. He did not bother to get a confirmation from PDI and its officers argue that petitioners complaint clearly lays a cause of action arising from libel as it
anyone as he had a deadline to beat.8 highlights malice underlying the publications. And as malice is an element of libel, the appellate court
committed no error in characterizing the case as one arising from libel.15
PDI political section editor Carlos Hidalgo, on the other hand, said that he got the story from a press
release. He claimed that he found the press release on his desk the day Manila Bulletin published the For their part, Manila Bulletin and its officers claim that petitioner changed his theory, which must be
same story. The press release bore COMELECs letterhead and was signed by one Sonia Dimasupil, a disallowed as it violates respondents right to due process. Although petitioners claim for damages
former Malaya newspaper editor who was in-charge of COMELEC press releases. He tried to contact her before the trial court hinged on the erroneous publications, which he alleged were maliciously timed, he
but she was out of the office. Since the news item was also published in the Manila Bulletin, he felt claims in his petition before this Court that his cause of action is actually one for quasi-delict or tort. They
confident the press release was authentic. He however failed to produce the press release in court.9 stress that the prayer and allegations in petitioners complaint, which never alleged quasi-delict or tort
but malicious publication as basis for the claim for damages, control his case theory. Thus, it may not be
On April 18, 1996, the trial court rendered a decision in favor of petitioner as follows: altered unless there was an amendment of the complaint to change the cause of action. They claim that
petitioners initiatory pleading and the trial courts pre-trial order and decision reveal that his cause of
action for damages arose from the publications of the "malicious" articles; hence, he should have proved In the instant case, there is no denying that the questioned articles dealt with matters of public interest.
actual malice to be entitled to any award of damages. They added that the appellate court correctly These are matters about which the public has the right to be informed, taking into account the very
ruled that the articles were not published with actual malice.161avvphil.zw+ public character of the election itself. For this reason, they attracted media mileage and drew public
attention not only to the election itself but to the candidates. As one of the candidates, petitioner
We rule in favor of the respondents. consequently assumed the status of a public figure within the purview of Ayers Productions Pty. Ltd. v.
Capulong.25
Basic is the rule that what determines the nature of an action as well as which court has jurisdiction over
it are the allegations of the complaint and the character of the relief sought.17 The nature of a pleading But even assuming a person would not qualify as a public figure, it would not necessarily follow that he
is determined by allegations therein made in good faith, the stage of the proceeding at which it is filed, could not validly be the subject of a public comment. For he could; for instance, if and when he would be
and the primary objective of the party filing the same. The ground chosen or the rationale adopted by involved in a public issue. If a matter is a subject of public or general interest, it cannot suddenly become
the court in resolving the case does not determine or change the real nature thereof. less so merely because a private individual is involved or because in some sense the individual did not
voluntarily choose to become involved. The publics primary interest is in the event; the public focus is
The complaint was denominated as one for "damages", and a perusal of its content reveals that the on the conduct of the participant and the content, effect and significance of the conduct, not the
factual allegations constituted a complaint for damages based on malicious publication. It specifically participants prior anonymity or notoriety.26
pointed out that petitioner lost the election because of the bad publicity created by the malicious
publication of respondents PDI and Manila Bulletin. It is alleged numerous times that the action for In any event, having been OIC-Mayor of Bais City after the People Power Revolution, petitioner in this
damages stemmed from respondents malicious publication. Petitioner sought that respondents be case as early as 1992 was already a well-known official and public figure.
declared guilty of irresponsible and malicious publication and be made liable for damages. The fact that
petitioner later on changed his theory to quasi-delict does not change the nature of petitioners However, it must be stressed that the fact that a communication or publication is privileged does not
complaint and convert petitioners action into quasi-delict. The complaint remains to be one for mean that it is not actionable; the privileged character simply does away with the presumption of malice,
damages based on malicious publication. which the plaintiff has to prove in such a case.27 That proof in a civil case must of course be based on
preponderance of evidence. This, however, petitioner failed to do in this case.
Consequently, as the issue of malice was raised, it was incumbent on petitioner to prove the same. The
basic rule is that mere allegation is not evidence, and is not equivalent to proof.18 As correctly stated by Under the current state of our jurisprudence, to be considered malicious, the libelous statement must be
the Court of Appeals, while the questioned news item was found to be untrue, this does not necessarily shown to have been written or published with the knowledge that they are false or in reckless disregard
render the same malicious. of whether they are false or not. "Reckless disregard of what is false or not" means that the author or
publisher entertains serious doubt as to the truth of the publication, or that he possesses a high degree
To fully appreciate the import of the complaint alleging malice and damages, we must recall the essence of awareness of their probable falsity.28
of libel.
In the instant case, we find no conclusive showing that the published articles in question were written
Libel is defined as "a public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, with knowledge that these were false or in reckless disregard of what was false or not. According to
or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or Manila Bulletin reporter Edgardo T. Suarez, he got the story from a fellow reporter who told him that the
contempt of a natural person or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead."19 Any disqualification case against petitioner was granted. PDI, on the other hand, said that they got the story
of these imputations is defamatory and under the general rule stated in Article 354 of the Revised Penal from a press release the very same day the Manila Bulletin published the same story. PDI claims that the
Code, every defamatory imputation is presumed to be malicious.20 The presumption of malice, press release bore COMELECs letterhead, signed by one Sonia Dimasupil, who was in-charge of
however, does not exist in the following instances: COMELEC press releases. They also tried to contact her but she was out of the office. Since the news
item was already published in the Manila Bulletin, they felt confident the press release was authentic.
1. A private communication made by any person to another in the performance of any legal, moral, or Following the narration of events narrated by respondents, it cannot be said that the publications, were
social duty; and published with reckless disregard of what is false or not.

2. A fair and true report, made in good faith, without any comments or remarks, of any judicial, Nevertheless, even assuming that the contents of the articles turned out to be false, mere error,
legislative, or other official proceedings which are not of confidential nature, or of any statement, report, inaccuracy or even falsity alone does not prove actual malice. Errors or misstatements are inevitable in
or speech delivered in said proceedings, or of any other act performed by public officers in the exercise any scheme of truly free expression and debate. Consistent with good faith and reasonable care, the
of their functions.21 press should not be held to account, to a point of suppression, for honest mistakes or imperfections in
the choice of language. There must be some room for misstatement of fact as well as for misjudgment.
We note that the publications or articles in question are neither private communications nor true reports Only by giving them much leeway and tolerance can they courageously and effectively function as critical
of official proceedings without any comments or remarks. However, this does not necessarily mean that agencies in our democracy.29
the questioned articles are not privileged. The enumeration under Art. 354 is not an exclusive list of
qualified privileged communications since fair commentaries on matters of public interest are likewise A newspaper, especially one national in reach and coverage, should be free to report on events and
privileged and constitute a valid defense in an action for libel or slander.22 The rule on privileged developments in which the public has a legitimate interest with minimum fear of being hauled to court
communication had its genesis not in the nations penal code but in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution by one group or another on criminal or civil charges for malice or damages, i.e. libel, so long as the
guaranteeing freedom of speech and of the press. As early as 1918, in United States v. Caete,23 this newspaper respects and keeps within the standards of morality and civility prevailing within the general
Court ruled that publications which are privileged for reasons of public policy are protected by the community.30
constitutional guaranty of freedom of speech.24
Likewise, in our view respondents failure to counter-check their report or present their informant defamatory falsehood relating to his official conduct unless he proves that the statement was made with
should not be a reason to hold them liable. While substantiation of the facts supplied is an important actual malice that is, with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was
reporting standard, still, a reporter may rely on information given by a lone source although it false or not." The United States Supreme Court went further in Curtis Publishing Co. v. Butts,39 where
such immunity, was held as covering statements concerning public figures regardless of whether or not
reflects only one side of the story provided the reporter does not entertain a "high degree of awareness they are government officials. Why there should be such an extension is understandable in the light of
of [its] probable falsity."31 Petitioner, in this case, presented no proof that respondents entertained such the broad scope enjoyed by press freedom which certainly allows a full and free discussion of public
awareness. Failure to present respondents informant before the court should not be taken against issues. What can be more logical and appropriate, then, than such an expansion of the principle. As
them.32 noted by a commentator: "Since discussion of public issues cannot be meaningful without reference to
the men involved on both sides of such issues, and since such men will not necessarily be public officials,
Worth stressing, jurisprudence instructs us that a privileged communication should not be subjected to one cannot but agree that the Court was right in Curtis to extend the Times40 rule to all public
microscopic examination to discover grounds for malice or falsity. Such excessive scrutiny would defeat figures."41 [Emphasis supplied.]
the protection which the law throws over privileged communications. The ultimate test is that of bona
fides.33 Furthermore, the guarantee of press freedom has also come to ensure that claims for damages arising
from the utilization of the freedom be not unreasonable or exorbitant as to practically cause a chilling
Further, worthy of note, before the filing of the complaint, respondents herein received no word of effect on the exercise thereof. Damages, in our view, could not simply arise from an inaccurate or false
protest, exception or objection from petitioner. Had the error in the news reports in question been statement without irrefutable proof of actual malice as element of the assailed publication.
pointed out by interested parties to the respondents, their publishers and editors could have promptly
made a rectification through print and broadcast media just before and during the election day WHEREFORE, the assailed Amended Decision dated May 25, 2004 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV
deflecting thereby any prejudice to petitioners political or personal interest. No. 54134 is AFFIRMED. SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 157643 March 28, 2008
As aptly observed in Quisumbing v. Lopez, et al.:34 CRISTINELLI S. FERMIN, Petitioner,
Every citizen of course has the right to enjoy a good name and reputation, but we do not consider that vs.PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.
the respondents, under the circumstances of this case, had violated said right or abused the freedom of DECISION
the press. The newspapers should be given such leeway and tolerance as to enable them to courageously NACHURA, J.:
and effectively perform their important role in our democracy. In the preparation of stories, press
reporters and edition usually have to race with their deadlines; and consistently with good faith and Before us is a petition1 for review on certiorari, under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, of the Decision2
reasonable care, they should not be held to account, to a point of suppression, for honest mistakes or dated September 3, 2002 and the Resolution3 dated March 24, 2003 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-
imperfection in the choice of words.35 [Emphasis supplied.] G.R. CR No. 20890 entitled "People of the Philippines v. Cristenelli S. Fermin and Bogs C. Tugas."

We find respondents entitled to the protection of the rules concerning qualified privilege, growing out of On complaint of spouses Annabelle Rama Gutierrez and Eduardo (Eddie) Gutierrez, two (2) criminal
constitutional guaranties in our Bill of Rights. We cannot punish journalists including publishers for an informations for libel4 were filed against Cristinelli5 S. Fermin and Bogs C. Tugas before the Regional
honest endeavor to serve the public when moved by a sense of civic duty and prodded by their sense of Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City, Branch 218. Except for the name of the complainant,6 the informations
responsibility as news media to report what they perceived to be a genuine report. uniformly read

Media men are always reminded of their responsibilities as such. This time, there is also a need to That on or about the 14th day of June, 1995 in Quezon City, Philippines, the above-named accused
remind public figures of the consequences of being one. Fittingly, as held in Time, Inc. v. Hill,36 one of CRISTENELLI SALAZAR FERMIN, publisher, and BOGS C. TUGAS, Editor-in-Chief of Gossip Tabloid with
the costs associated with participation in public affairs is an attendant loss of privacy. offices located at 68-A Magnolia Tulip St., Roxas District, Quezon City, and circulated in Quezon City and
other parts of Metro Manila and the whole country, conspiring together, confederating with and
Exposure of the self to others in varying degrees is a concomitant of life in a civilized community. The risk mutually helping each other, publicly and acting with malice, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and
of this exposure is an essential incident of life in a society which places a primary value on freedom of feloniously print and circulate in the headline and lead story of the said GOSSIP TABLOID issue of June
speech and of press. "Freedom of discussion, if it would fulfill its historic function in this nation, must 14, 1995 the following material, to wit:
embrace all issues about which information is needed or appropriate to enable the members of society
to cope with the exigencies of their period."37 "MAS MALAKING HALAGA ANG NADISPALKO NILA SA STATES, MAY MGA NAIWAN DING ASUNTO DOON
SI ANNABELLE"
On petitioners claim for damages, we find no evidence to support their award. Indeed, it cannot be said "IMPOSIBLENG NASA AMERIKA NGAYON SI ANNABELLE DAHIL SA KALAT DIN ANG ASUNTO NILA DUN,
that respondents published the questioned articles for the sole purpose of harassing petitioner. Proof BUKOD PA SA NAPAKARAMING PINOY NA HUMAHANTING SA KANILA MAS MALAKING PROBLEMA ANG
and motive that the publication was prompted by a sinister design to vex and humiliate petitioner has KAILANGAN NIYANG HARAPIN SA STATES DAHIL SA PERANG NADISPALKO NILA, NAGHAHANAP LANG NG
not been clearly and preponderantly established to entitle the petitioner to damages. There remains SAKIT NG KATAWAN SI ANNABELLE KUNG SA STATES NGA NIYA MAIISIPANG PUMUNTA NGAYON PARA
unfulfilled the need to prove that the publications were made with actual malice that is, with the LANG TAKASAN NIYA SI LIGAYA SANTOS AT ANG SINTENSIYA SA KANYA"
knowledge of the publications falsity or with reckless disregard of whether they were false or not.38
when in truth and in fact, the accused very well knew that the same are entirely false and untrue but
Thus, from American jurisprudence as amplified in Lopez v. Court of Appeals: were publicly made for no other purpose than to expose said ANNABELLE RAMA GUTIERREZ to
humiliation and disgrace, as it depicts her to be a fugitive from justice and a swindler, thereby causing
For liability to arise then without offending press freedom, there is this test to meet: "The constitutional dishonor, discredit and contempt upon the person of the offended party, to the damage and prejudice of
guarantees require, we think, a federal rule that prohibits a public official from recovering damages for a the said ANNABELLE RAMA GUTIERREZ.
Being interrelated, we shall discuss the first and the second issues jointly, then the third and the fourth
CONTRARY TO LAW.7 issues together.
Upon arraignment, petitioner and co-accused Bogs C. Tugas (Tugas) both pleaded "not guilty."
Thereafter, a joint trial ensued. Petitioner posits that, to sustain a conviction for libel under Article 360 of the Revised Penal Code, it is
After trial on the merits, the RTC of Quezon City, Branch 218, in its Joint Decision8 dated January 27, mandatory that the publisher knowingly participated in or consented to the preparation and publication
1997, found petitioner and Tugas guilty of libel. The dispositive portion of the Joint Decision reads of the libelous article. This principle is, allegedly, based on our ruling in U.S. v. Taylor,12 People v.
WHEREFORE, prosecution having established the guilt of the accused, judgment is hereby rendered Topacio and Santiago,13 U.S. v. Madrigal,14 U.S. v. Abad Santos,15 and U.S. v. Ocampo,16 as purportedly
finding CRISTENELLI S. FERMIN and BOGS C. TUGAS GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt, of libel, punishable clarified in People v. Beltran and Soliven.17 She submits that these cases were applied by the CA in
under Art. 355 of the Revised Penal Code and sentences them to an indeterminate penalty of three (3) acquitting her co-accused Tugas, and being similarly situated with him, she is also entitled to an
months and eleven (11) days of arresto mayor, as minimum, to one (1) year, eight (8) months and acquittal. She claims that she had adduced ample evidence to show that she had no hand in the
twenty-one (21) days of prision correccional, as maximum, for each case. preparation and publication of the offending article, nor in the review, editing, examination, and
approval of the articles published in Gossip Tabloid.
Likewise, accused Cristenelli S. Fermin and Bogs Tugas are sentenced to pay jointly and solidarily:
a) moral damages of: The arguments are too simplistic and the cited jurisprudence are either misplaced or, in fact, damning.
1. P500,000.00 to Annabelle Rama in Criminal Case No. Q-95-62823; and
2. P500,000.00 to Eddie Gutierrez in Criminal Case No. Q-95-62824; Foremost, U.S. v. Madrigal and U.S. v. Abad Santos are not applicable to the present case. U.S. v.
b) attorneys fees of P50,000.00. Madrigal pertains to a criminal prosecution under Section 30 of Act No. 1519 for fraudulently
SO ORDERED.9 representing the weight or measure of anything to be greater or less than it is, whereas U.S. v. Abad
Santos refers to criminal responsibility under the Internal Revenue Law (Act. No. 2339).
Aggrieved, petitioner and Tugas appealed to the CA. The appellate court, in its Decision dated September
3, 2002, affirmed the conviction of petitioner, but acquitted Tugas on account of non-participation in the The other cases are more in point, but they serve to reinforce the conviction of, rather than absolve,
publication of the libelous article. The fallo of the Decision reads petitioner.

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered as follows: In U.S. v. Taylor, the accused was indicted under Section 6 of Act No. 277 which provides that: "Every
1. The appealed decision as against the accused-appellant BOGS C. TUGAS is REVERSED and SET ASIDE, author, editor or proprietor of any book, newspaper, or serial publication is chargeable with the
and another is entered ACQUITTING him of the crime charged and ABSOLVING him from any civil publication of any words contained in any part of said book or number of each newspaper or serial as
liability; and fully as if he were the author of the same." However, proof adduced during the trial showed that
2. The same appealed decision as against accused-appellant CRISTENELLI S. FERMIN is AFFIRMED, with accused was the manager of the publication without the corresponding evidence that, as such, he was
the MODIFICATION that the award of moral damages is REDUCED to P300,000.00 for EACH offended directly responsible for the writing, editing, or publishing of the matter contained in the said libelous
party, and the award of attorneys fees is DELETED. article.18
Costs against the appellant FERMIN. SO ORDERED.10
In People v. Topacio and Santiago, reference was made to the Spanish text of Article 360 of the Revised
The CA denied petitioners motion for reconsideration for lack of merit in the Resolution dated March Penal Code which includes the verb "publicar." Thus, it was held that Article 360 includes not only the
24, 2003. Hence, this petition, raising the following arguments: author or the person who causes the libelous matter to be published, but also the person who prints or
publishes it.
I.
THE RULING IN U.S. VS. TAYLOR, PEOPLE VS. TOPACIO AND SANTIAGO, U.S. VS. MADRIGAL AND U.S. VS. Based on these cases, therefore, proof of knowledge of and participation in the publication of the
SANTOS AND THE HOLDING IN U.S. VS. OCAMPO AS CLARIFIED BY THE COURT OF APPEALS IN PEOPLE VS. offending article is not required, if the accused has been specifically identified as "author, editor, or
BELTRAN AND SOLIVEN REQUIRING KNOWLEDGE, PARTICIPATION AND COMPLICITY BY THE PUBLISHER proprietor" or "printer/publisher" of the publication, as petitioner and Tugas are in this case.
IN THE PREPARATION AND APPROVAL OF THE LIBELOUS ARTICLE TO SUSTAIN THE LATTERS CONVICTION
FOR LIBEL ARE APPLICABLE IN THE PRESENT CASE. The rationale for the criminal culpability of those persons enumerated in Article 360 of the Revised Penal
Code19 was enunciated in U.S. v. Ocampo,20 to wit:
II.
ART. 360 OF THE REVISED PENAL CODE WHICH MAKES A PUBLISHER LIABLE FOR LIBEL TO THE SAME "According to the legal doctrines and jurisprudence of the United States, the printer of a publication
EXTENT AS IF HE WERE THE AUTHOR THEREOF MERELY CREATES A DISPUTABLE PRESUMPTION WHICH containing libelous matter is liable for the same by reason of his direct connection therewith and his
MAY BE REBUTTED BY CONTRARY EVIDENCE. cognizance of the contents thereof. With regard to a publication in which a libel is printed, not only is the
publisher but also all other persons who in any way participate in or have any connection with its
III. publication are liable as publishers." x x x x
THE QUESTIONED ARTICLE IS NOT LIBELOUS.
In the case of State vs. Mason (26 L.R.A., 779; 26 Oreg., 273, 46 Am. St. Rep., 629), the question of the
IV. responsibility of the manager or proprietor of a newspaper was discussed. The court said, among other
THE QUESTIONED ARTICLE IS PROTECTED BY THE MANTLE OF THE FREEDOM OF THE PRESS AND IS things (pp. 782, 783):
WITHIN THE REALM OF FAIR AND HONEST COMMENT.11
"The question then recurs as to whether the manager or proprietor of a newspaper can escape criminal
responsibility solely on the ground that the libelous article was published without his knowledge or
consent. When a libel is published in a newspaper, such fact alone is sufficient evidence prima facie to the lack of evidence that he knew and approved the article written by Luis D. Beltran about then
charge the manager or proprietor with the guilt of its publication. President Corazon C. Aquino in the newspapers October 12, 1987 issue. Petitioner submits that People
v. Beltran and Soliven serves as a guide to this Court regarding the criminal liability of the publisher of
"The manager and proprietor of a newspaper, we think ought to be held prima facie criminally for the newspaper where a libelous article is published. Put differently, it appears that petitioner wants this
whatever appears in his paper; and it should be no defense that the publication was made without his Court to follow the CA decision and adopt it as judicial precedent under the principle of stare decisis.
knowledge or consent, x x x
"One who furnishes the means for carrying on the publication of a newspaper and entrusts its The doctrine of stare decisis, embodied in Article 824 of the Civil Code, is enunciated, thus:
management to servants or employees whom he selects and controls may be said to cause to be
published what actually appears, and should be held responsible therefore, whether he was individually The doctrine of stare decisis enjoins adherence to judicial precedents. It requires courts in a country to
concerned in the publication or not, x x x. Criminal responsibility for the acts of an agent or servant in the follow the rule established in a decision of the Supreme Court thereof. That decision becomes a judicial
course of his employment necessarily implies some degree of guilt or delinquency on the part of the precedent to be followed in subsequent cases by all courts in the land. The doctrine of stare decisis is
publisher; x x x. based on the principle that once a question of law has been examined and decided, it should be deemed
"We think, therefore, the mere fact that the libelous article was published in the newspaper without the settled and closed to further argument.25 (Emphasis supplied)
knowledge or consent of its proprietor or manager is no defense to a criminal prosecution against such
proprietor or manager." Unfortunately, the Beltran decision attained finality at the level of the CA. Thus, if the CA seemingly
made a new pronouncement regarding the criminal liability of a publisher under Article 360 of the
In the case of Commonwealth vs. Morgan (107 Mass., 197), this same question was considered and the Revised Penal Code, that ruling cannot bind this Court unless we purposely adopt the same. Be that as it
court held that in the criminal prosecution of a publisher of a newspaper in which a libel appears, he is may, we find no compelling reason to revisit U.S. v. Ocampo; to modify it would amount to judicial
prima facie presumed to have published the libel, and that the exclusion of an offer by the defendant to legislation. Article 360 is clear and unambiguous, and to apply People v. Beltran and Soliven, which
prove that he never saw the libel and was not aware of its publication until it was pointed out to him and requires specific knowledge, participation, and approval on the part of the publisher to be liable for the
that an apology and retraction were afterwards published in the same paper, gave him no ground for publication of a libelous article, would be reading into the law an additional requirement that was not
exception. In this same case, Mr. Justice Colt, speaking for the court, said: intended by it.
"It is the duty of the proprietor of a public paper, which may be used for the publication of improper
communications, to use reasonable caution in the conduct of his business that no libels be published." In the same vein, we note that the CA erred in acquitting Tugas. Tugas cannot feign lack of participation
(Whartons Criminal Law, secs. 1627, 1649; 1 Bishops Criminal Law, secs. 219, 221; People vs. Wilson, 64 in the publication of the questioned article as was evident from his and petitioners Joint Counter-
Ill., 195; Commonwealth vs. Damon, 136 Mass., 441.) Affidavit,26 and as gleaned from his testimony before the trial court, to wit:

The above doctrine is also the doctrine established by the English courts. In the case of Rex vs. Walter (3 WITNESS: As editor-in-chief, I have no participation in the writing of the questioned article and my only
Esp., 21) Lord Kenyon said that he was "clearly of the opinion that the proprietor of a newspaper was participation in the publication is the handling of the physical lay-outing, indication and allocation of
answerable criminally as well as civilly for the acts of his servants or agents for misconduct in the type-size of the body of the article, before the same was printed and published in GOSSIP Tabloid.
management of the paper." Q: You do not deny the statements in this publication as executed by you in the counter-affidavit and
sworn in before the City Prosecutor, is this correct?
This was also the opinion of Lord Hale, Mr. Justice Powell, and Mr. Justice Foster. A: Yes, that is correct.
ATTY. ALENTAJAN:
Lofft, an English author, in his work on Libel and Slander, said: That is all for the witness, your Honor.

"An information for libel will lie against the publisher of a paper, although he did not know of its being COURT: Do we get it right from you, if you were acting as you were, you will not allow the said
put into the paper and stopped the sale as soon as he discovered it." publication of this same article or same stories?
A: If I were, if I was physically present, honestly I will because if you can see the article, your Honor, it is
In the case of People vs. Clay (86 Ill., 147) the court held that according to our source, it is not a direct comment.
"A person who makes a defamatory statement to the agent of a newspaper for publication, is liable both COURT: So whether you are there or not, [the] same article leading to them (sic) will still find its way to
civilly and criminally, and his liability is shared by the agent and all others who aid in publishing it." come out?
A: Yes, your honor.27
It is worthy to note that petitioner was not only the "publisher," as shown by the editorial box of Gossip
Tabloid,21 but also its "president" and "chairperson" as she herself admitted on the witness stand.22 Tugas testimony, in fact, confirms his actual participation in the preparation and publication of the
She also testified that she handled the business aspect of the publication, and assigns editors to take controversial article and his approval thereof as it was written. Moreover, his alibi, which was considered
charge of everything.23 Obviously, petitioner had full control over the publication of articles in the said meritorious by the CA, that he was confined at the Mother of Perpetual Help Clinic in Angeles City, is
tabloid. Her excuse of lack of knowledge, consent, or participation in the release of the libelous article unavailing, in view of the testimony of his attending physician that Tugas medical condition did not
fails to persuade. Following our ruling in Ocampo, petitioners criminal guilt should be affirmed, whether prevent him from performing his work, thus
or not she had actual knowledge and participation, having furnished the means of carrying on the Q: How would you describe the condition of the patient on June 13, 1995?
publication of the article purportedly prepared by the members of the Gossip Reportorial Team, who A: He is in stable condition.
were employees under her control and supervision. Q: You said he was in severe pain, from your opinion, was that condition sufficient to enable him to
work?
Petitioner argues that Ocampo has been clarified by the CA in People v. Beltran and Soliven such that A: Yes, in my opinion.28
Maximo V. Soliven, as publisher of The Philippine Star, was acquitted by the appellate court in view of Q: You said your impression of the patient was urethral colic and this was caused by spasm?
A: Yes, sir. HINDI SIYA MAKAKAPUNTA SA AMERIKA DAHIL NAPAKARAMI RIN NIYANG ASUNTONG INIWAN DUN
Q: When you say spasm, it is not sustained, it comes every now and then and [intermittently], it is not NOON PA, NAKAPAG-ABROAD MAN SIYA, E, PIHADONG HINDI SIYA SA AMERIKA NAGTULOY, SA
sustained? AMERIKA PA KAYA SIYA MAGTATAGO, E, ILANG TAON NA RIN SIYANG INAABANGAN DUN NG NGA
A: Yes, sir. KABABAYAN NATING NILOKO NIYA, IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER?... NAAALALA PA BA NINYO YUNG MGA
Q: Now you said he was in stable condition? MAMAHALING KALDERO NA IBINEBENTA NILA NOON SA AMERIKA, DUN SILA NAGKAPROBLEMA,
A: Yes, sir. MILYON-MILYON ANG INVOLVED, KAYA KINAILANGAN NILANG UMUWI SA PILIPINAS NOON!
Q: That means that his ailment is not life-threatening?
A: Correct. The rest of the article, which continued to the entire second page of the tabloid, follows
Q: In fact, visitors were allowed to see him? Mainit na pinag-uusapan ngayon ang ibat ibang posibilidad na maaaring gawin ni Annabelle Rama
A: Yes, sir. Gutierrez para lang hindi matuloy ang pag-aresto at pagkukulong sa kanya ng mga awtoridad kaugnay ng
Q: He can also write? sintensiyang ipinapataw sa kanya ni Manila-RTC Judge Rodolfo Palattao.
A: Yes, sir. Mula noong June 8, nabatid ng Gossip Tabloid, ay wala pang sinumang nakapagtuturo kung saan talaga
Q: He was allowed to [receive] friends? naroon ang ina ni Ruffa Gutierrez na hindi pinayagang makapagpiyansa ng Branch 33 para sa
A: Yes, sir. pansamantala niyang kalayaan.
Q: According to you, he was able to work also, he is not totally incapacitated in performing certain May mga nagpapalagay na sa pamamagitan ng tinatawag na back-door exit, ang pag-alis ng bansa sa
chores in the hospital room? paraang hindi na kailangan pang dumaan sa NAIA, ay nakaalis na si Annabelle noon pang nakaraang
A: No, sir. Biyernes, June 9, patungong Amerika.
Q: Now, prior to 7:10 oclock in the morning of June 13, 1995, you did not see Mr. Bogs Tugas? Pero isang mapagkakatiwalaang source ng Gossip Tabloid ang nagsabing napaka-imposibleng sa Amerika
A: I saw him, he was admitted at 7:00 oclock but I saw him before. nagtungo si Annabelle dahil doon man ay may mga nakahanda nang awtoridad na handang magkulong
Q: How long before 7:10 were you able to see him? kay Annabelle, sakaling mapatunayang naroon nga siya.
A: That is about 2 hours. "Hindi siya makapupunta sa Amerika dahil napakarami rin niyang asuntong iniwan doon noon pa!
Q: About 5:00 oclock in the morning? "Nag-abroad man siya, e pihadong hindi siya sa Amerika nagtuloy dahil nakaabang na rin ang
A: Yes, sir. sangkatutak niyang maniningil dun ngayon!
Q: Who was his companion when you saw him? "Sa Amerika pa kaya siya magtatago, samantalang ilang taon na rin siyang inaabangan dun ng mga
A: He was boarding in my place. kababayan nating niloko niya, in one way or another?" simula ng source ng Gossip Tabloid.
Q: So, you brought him to the hospital? Niliwanag ng naturang source na ang dahilan ng biglaang pag-uwi ng pamilya Gutierrez sa bansa ilang
A: Both of us went to the hospital. taon na ang nakararaan ay may kinalaman sa malaking halagang hindi nabayaran nina Eddie at Annabelle
Q: Which boarding house are you referring [to]? In Angeles City? sa ilang kababayan natin sa Amerika.
A: Yes, sir. "Naaalala pa ba ninyo yung mga kalderong ibinebenta noon nina Eddie at Annabelle sa States?
Q: Do you know that Mr. Bogs Tugas works here in Quezon City as editor-in-chief of a newspaper "Mga mamahaling kaldero yun, hindi basta-basta kaldero ang ibinebenta nila dun, kaya talagang ang
tabloid? ganda-ganda na sana ng buhay nilang mag-anak dun hanggang sa dumating yung point na sinisingil na
A: Yes, sir. sila nung mismong kompanya ng kaldero!
Q: And some of his work is done in your boarding house? "Malaki ang halagang involved, milyon-milyon, kaya nung kinasuhan na sila, e kinailangan nilang umalis
A: I do not know about it. sa Amerika para bumalik na dito.
Q: How did you know that he is working on his paper works in Quezon City? Did you see him do that? "Isa si Bert Leroy, Jr. sa mga Pilipinong nagkaroon ng malaking problema kina Eddie at Annabelle, alam
A: I only know he goes to Manila everyday. ba nyo yun?
Q: In your boarding house, you saw him read and write? "Ang ganda-ganda ng samahan nila nung una sa Amerika, yumaman sila nang dahil sa mga mamahaling
A: Probably yes.29 kaldero na ibinebenta nila, kaso, sumabit sina Eddie at Annabelle dun sa mismong company na
pinagkukunan nila ng produkto!
But, of course, we cannot reinstate the ruling of the trial court convicting Bogs Tugas because with his "Bukod sa napakarami na nilang isinabit na Pinoy sa Amerika dahil sa mga kalderong yun, e sumabit pa
acquittal by the CA, we would run afoul of his constitutional right against double jeopardy. sila nang malaking halaga sa mismong manufacturer nung mga ibinebenta nilang mamahaling kaldero!
"Yun ang dahilan kung bakit bigla-biglang umuwi sa Pilipinas ang pamilya ni Eddie!
Anent the third and fourth issues, petitioner argues that the subject article in the June 14, 1995 issue of "Ang ikinakatwiran nilang mag-asawa noon, e gusto raw kasi nilang lumaking Pilipinong-Pilipino ang
Gossip Tabloid is not libelous, is covered by the mantle of press freedom, and is merely in the nature of a kanilang mga anak, pero ang totoo, e, napakalaki ng problemang iniwan nila sa Amerika!" mahabang
fair and honest comment. We disagree. simula ng source ng Gossip Tabloid.
Masamang-masama diumano ang loob ng mga Pilipinong kinatalo roon nina Eddie at Annabelle, lalo na si
The banner headlines of the offending article read: Annabelle, na bukod sa mataray na ay may kayabangan pa.
"Dati nang ganyan si Annabelle! Mataray siya na wala sa lugar. Nung nasa Amerika pa silang mag-anak,
KUNG TOTOONG NAKATAKAS NA SI ANNABELLE RAMA, IMPOSIBLENG SA STATES SIYA NAGPUNTA! e, yun din ang madalas nilang pag-awayan dun ni Eddie!
MAS MALAKING HALAGA ANG NADISPALKO NILA SA STATES, MAY MGA NAIWAN DING ASUNTO DUN SI "Madalas silang magkagalit, kaya si Eddie, para lang makapagpalipas ng mga sama niya ng loob, e, dun
ANNABELLE! nag-i-stay sa bahay ng mga kaibigan niyang Pinoy!
"Grabe ang naging problema nila dun, kaya wala silang choice that time kung di ang umuwi na lang sa
On the first page of the same issue of Gossip Tabloid, written in smaller but bold letters, are: Pilipinas!
"Ang halagang involved sa pagbebenta nila ng kaldero, e, hindi basta-basta, milyunan yon!
"Kaso yung pinagbebentahan nila, yung halagang dapat sana, e, ibigay nila sa kompanya dahil To the contrary, both petitioner and Tugas failed to adduce evidence to show the truth of the allegations
porsiyentuhan lang naman sila dun, nagastos nila! in the article despite the opportunity to do so.
"Nawala ang pera, at ang balita nga sa States, e, si Annabelle ang dahilan kung bakit nalubog sila noon sa
utang sa States! Further worthy of mention is the admission of petitioner before the trial court that she had very close
"Nag-casino pala si Annabelle! Grabe raw kung magpatalo siya, kaya pati yung kinita nila sa pagbebenta association with then Congressman Golez and mayoralty candidate Joey Marquez, and that she would
ng mamahaling kaldero, e, natunaw!" sabi uli ng source ng Gossip Tabloid. use her skills as a writer to campaign for them. Complainant Eddie Gutierrez ran against then incumbent
Maraming Pilipino ang sinabitan doon ng mag-asawa, ayon pa sa source ng Gossip Tabloid, kaya ngayong Golez for the congressional seat in Paraaque City. Petitioner testified in this wise
may asunto naman si Annabelle dito sa Pilipinas ay napaka-imposibleng sa Amerika pa rin siya tatakbo.
"Paano siya magpupunta dun para tuluyan nang manirahan, e, ang dami-dami ring Pinoy na naghihintay Q: When you acted as writer during the campaign, as you said, for Joey Marquez and Golez, of course
sa kanya dun para maningil sa kanya? you did not give your services for free to these candidates, were you paid?
"Alam nyo ba, bukod sa galit na galit na sa kanila ang mga Pinoy na nandun, e, may mga nakaabang na A: I was not paid, Sir.
ring asunto para kay Annabelle. Q: You just wanted to help them, am I correct?
"So, malabong sa Amerika pa siya tumuloy ngayong napapabalitang nasa abroad siya dahil sa mga A: Yes, because they are my friends, Sir.
naghihintay na kaso sa kanya dun. Q: And you wanted them to win the election, thru your being a writer, is that correct?
"Ang alam namin, e, sa Europe nagbabalak pumunta ang pamilya ni Eddie. A: Yes, Sir.
"Di bat ilang beses nang nagpapabalik-balik dun sina Ruffa. Noon pa, e, pinag-aralan na nina Eddie at Q: You were campaigning hard for Golez and Marquez, right?
Annabelle ang posibilidad ng mga gagawin nila! A: Right, Sir.
"Alam nila na hindi sila puwedeng mag-stay sa States dahil kalat din ang asunto nila dun, bukod pa sa Q: When you say hard, you wanted your candidates to win, is it not?
napakaraming Pinoy na huma-hunting sa kanila! A: Yes, Sir.
"Kaya kung totoong nakalusot na nga si Annabelle ngayon para makatakas siya sa pagkakulong, Q: Who was the opponent of Joey Marquez at that time?
imposibleng sa States siya nagpunta! A: The former Mayor Olivares, Sir.
"Mas malaking problema ang kailangan niyang harapin sa States dahil sa perang nadispalko nila, bukod Q: How about the opponent of Congressman Golez?
pa sa asuntong iniwan nilang nakatiwangwang dun! A: One of them is Eddie Gutierrez, Sir.
"Naghahanap ng sakit ng katawan si Annabelle kung sa States nga niya maisipang pumunta ngayon para Q: And the tandem of Marquez and Golez versus the tandem of Olivares and Eddie Gutierrez, am I
lang malusutan si Ligaya Santos at ang sintensiya sa kanya ni Judge Palattao!" madiin pang pahayag ng correct?
mapagkakatiwalaang source ng Gossip Tabloid.30 A: Actually, that was the situation at that time, Sir.
Q: Of course, the tandem of Joey Marquez was working hard to win over their opponent, is it not?
A libel is defined as a public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary; A: Whatever their problems were, I am out.
or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or Q: As a hard campaigner, you wanted your team to win over the other, is this correct?
contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead.31 In A: Yes, Sir.
determining whether a statement is defamatory, the words used are to be construed in their entirety Q: Of course you understand what PRO work is, it includes propaganda, is that correct?
and should be taken in their plain and ordinary meaning as they would naturally be understood by A: I am sorry I dont accept PR work, Sir.
persons reading them, unless it appears that they were used and understood in another sense.32 Q: Do you understand PRO work?
A: Yes, Sir, I know.
To say that the article, in its entirety, is not libelous disturbs ones sensibilities; it would certainly prick Q: In propaganda, for your side, you promote it as against the other, right?
ones conscience. There is evident imputation of the crime of malversation (that the complainants A: Yes, Sir.35
converted for their personal use the money paid to them by fellow Filipinos in America in their business
of distributing high-end cookware); of vices or defects for being fugitives from the law (that It can be gleaned from her testimony that petitioner had the motive to make defamatory imputations
complainants and their family returned to the Philippines to evade prosecution in America); and of being against complainants. Thus, petitioner cannot, by simply making a general denial, convince us that there
a wastrel (that Annabelle Rama Gutierrez lost the earnings from their business through irresponsible was no malice on her part. Verily, not only was there malice in law, the article being malicious in itself,
gambling in casinos). The attribution was made publicly, considering that Gossip Tabloid had a but there was also malice in fact, as there was motive to talk ill against complainants during the electoral
nationwide circulation. The victims were identified and identifiable. More importantly, the article reeks campaign.
of malice, as it tends to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of the complainants.
Neither can petitioner take refuge in the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech and of the press.
Petitioner claims that there was no malice on her part because, allegedly, the article was merely a fair Although a wide latitude is given to critical utterances made against public officials in the performance of
and honest comment on the fact that Annabelle Rama Gutierrez was issued a warrant of arrest for her their official duties, or against public figures on matters of public interest, such criticism does not
conviction for estafa before then Judge Palattaos court. She even cited as proof of her lack of malice the automatically fall within the ambit of constitutionally protected speech. If the utterances are false,
purported absence of any ill will against complainants, as shown by the article she wrote about malicious or unrelated to a public officers performance of his duties or irrelevant to matters of public
complainants daughter Sharmaine Ruffa Gutierrez in the June 15, 1995 issue of the same tabloid where interest involving public figures, the same may give rise to criminal and civil liability.36 While
she expressed her sympathy and admiration for the latter. complainants are considered public figures for being personalities in the entertainment business, media
people, including gossip and intrigue writers and commentators such as petitioner, do not have the
Notably, however, the complainants successfully refuted the imputations during the trial. Complainants unbridled license to malign their honor and dignity by indiscriminately airing fabricated and malicious
proved that they could return anytime to the United States of America after the publication of the comments, whether in broadcast media or in print, about their personal lives.37
article,33 and that they remained on good terms with the manufacturing company of the cookware.34
We must however take this opportunity to likewise remind media practitioners of the high ethical
standards attached to and demanded by their noble profession. The danger of an unbridled irrational D E C I S I O N: CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:
exercise of the right of free speech and press, that is, in utter contempt of the rights of others and in For almost a century, this Court has sought that elusive equilibrium between the law on defamation on
willful disregard of the cumbrous responsibilities inherent in it, is the eventual self-destruction of the one hand, and the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of speech and press on the other. This case
right and the regression of human society into a veritable Hobbesian state of nature where life is short, revisits that search.
nasty and brutish. Therefore, to recognize that there can be no absolute "unrestraint" in speech is to
truly comprehend the quintessence of freedom in the marketplace of social thought and action, genuine On 30 September 1990, the following news item appeared in the Peoples Journal, a tabloid of general
freedom being that which is limned by the freedom of others. If there is freedom of the press, ought circulation:
there not also be freedom from the press? It is in this sense that self-regulation as distinguished from Swiss Shoots Neighbors Pets
self-censorship becomes the ideal mean for, as Mr. Justice Frankfurter has warned, "[W]ithout x x x a RESIDENTS of a subdivision in Paraaque have asked the Bureau of Immigration to deport a Swiss who
lively sense of responsibility, a free press may readily become a powerful instrument of injustice. allegedly shoots wayward neighbors pets that he finds in his domain.

Lest we be misconstrued, this is not to diminish nor constrict that space in which expression freely The BF Homes residents through lawyer Atty. Efren Angara complained that the deportation of Francis
flourishes and operates. For we have always strongly maintained, as we do now, that freedom of Thoenen, of 10 Calcutta BF Homes Phase III, could help "prevent the recurrence of such incident in the
expression is mans birthright constitutionally protected and guaranteed, and that it has become the future."
singular role of the press to act as its "defensor fidei" in a democratic society such as ours. But it is also
worth keeping in mind that the press is the servant, not the master, of the citizenry, and its freedom Angara explained that house owners could not control their dogs and cats when they slip out of their
does not carry with it an unrestricted hunting license to prey on the ordinary citizen.38 dwellings unnoticed.

In view of the foregoing disquisitions, the conviction of petitioner for libel should be upheld. An alleged confrontation between Thoenen and the owner of a pet he shot recently threatens to
With respect to the penalty to be imposed for this conviction, we note that on January 25, 2008, the exacerbate the problem, Angara said.
Court issued Administrative Circular No. 08-2008, entitled Guidelines in the Observance of a Rule of
Preference in the Imposition of Penalties in Libel Cases. The Circular expresses a preference for the Cristina Lee1
imposition of a fine rather than imprisonment, given the circumstances attendant in the cases39 cited
therein in which only a fine was imposed by this Court on those convicted of libel. It also states that, if The subject of this article, Francis Thoenen, is a retired engineer permanently residing in this country
the penalty imposed is merely a fine but the convict is unable to pay the same, the Revised Penal Code with his Filipina wife and their children. Claiming that the report was false and defamatory, and that the
provisions on subsidiary imprisonment should apply. petitioners acted irresponsibly in failing to verify the truth of the same prior to publication, he filed a civil
case for damages against herein petitioners Philippine Journalists, Inc., Zacarias Nuguid, Jr., its publisher,
However, the Circular likewise allows the court, in the exercise of sound discretion, the option to impose and reporter Cristina Lee.
imprisonment as penalty, whenever the imposition of a fine alone would depreciate the seriousness of
the offense, work violence on the social order, or otherwise be contrary to the imperatives of justice. Thoenen claimed that the article destroyed the respect and admiration he enjoyed in the community,
and that since it had been published, he and his wife received several queries and angry calls from
In the case at bench, the Court considers the publics speculations as to the whereabouts of Annabelle friends, neighbors and relatives. For the impairment of his reputation and standing in the community,
Rama Gutierrez with the issuance of the warrant of arrest after her initial conviction for estafa. and his mental anguish, Thoenen sought P200,000.00 in moral damages, P100,000.00 in exemplary
Petitioner fueled these speculations through her article. However, her article went overboard and damages, and P50,000.00 in attorneys fees.
exceeded the bounds of fair comment. This warrants her conviction. Nonetheless, in light of the
relatively wide latitude given to utterances against public figures such as private complainants, and The petitioners admitted publication of the news item, ostensibly out of a "social and moral duty to
consonant with Administrative Circular No. 08-2008, the Court deems it proper to modify the penalty of inform the public on matters of general interest, promote the public good and protect the moral public
imprisonment to a fine in the amount of P6,000.00, with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency, (sic) of the people," and that the story was published in good faith and without malice.2
in each case. But the award of moral damages for each of the private complainants in the amount of
P500,000.00, as ordered by the trial court, should be restored on account of the serious anxiety and the The principal source of the article was a letter3 by a certain Atty. Efren Angara addressed to
wounded feelings suffered by complainants from the libelous article, particularly taking into account the Commissioner Andrea Domingo of the Commission on Immigration and Deportation (CID, now Bureau of
fact that petitioner and the private complainants were on relatively good terms with each other, and Immigration), which states:
complainants gave no cause or offense which could have provoked the malicious publication.
Dear Madame:
WHEREFORE, the Decision dated September 3, 2002 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 20890 is We would like to request your office to verify the true status/authenticity of the residency in the
AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that in lieu of imprisonment, petitioner Cristinelli S. Fermin is Philippines of a foreign national (a Swiss) by the name of Francis Thoenen who is presently residing at
sentenced to pay a fine in the amount of P6,000.00, with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency, No. 10 Calcuta cor. Beirut Street, BF Homes (PH. III), Paraaque, Metro Manila. I received (sic) complaint
in each case. The award of moral damages, in the amount of P300,000.00 each in favor of complainants from my clients residing around his vicinity that this foreigner had (sic) been causing troubles ever since
Annabelle Rama Gutierrez and Eduardo Gutierrez, is increased to P500,000.00. Costs against petitioner. he showed up. He is too meticulous and had (sic) been shooting dogs and cats passing his house wall
SO ORDERED. everytime.
G.R. No. 143372 December 13, 2005 Such act which (sic) is unacceptable to the owners especially if inspite (sic) of control their pets slips (sic)
PHILIPPINE JOURNALISTS, INC. (PEOPLES JOURNAL), ZACARIAS NUGUID, JR. and CRISTINA LEE, out unnoticed. A confrontation between him and the owner of the dog he shoot, (sic) already occurred
Petitioners, vs. last time. In some instances this guy had been always driving his car barbarously inside the subdivision
FRANCIS THOENEN, Respondent. with children playing around (sic) the street. Before my clients petitioned themselves with the
endorsement of the Homeowners Association and filed to your office for deportation were respectfully On appeal, the court a quo reversed13 the trial court. It held that although freedom of expression and
seeking your assistance to investigate this alien to prevent further incident occurrence (sic) in the future. the right of speech and of the press are among the most zealously guarded in the Constitution, still, in
He should not be allowed to dominate the citizens of this country. the exercise of these rights, Article 19 of the Civil Code requires everyone to "act with justice, give
Very truly yours, everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith." The appellate court emphasized that Thoenen
Atty. Efren B. Angara was neither a public official nor a public figure, and thus,

The petitioners claim that Lee, as the reporter assigned to cover news events in the CID, acquired a copy . . . [E]ven without malice on the part of defendants-appellees, the news item published in the 30
of the above letter from a trusted source in the CIDs Intelligence Division. They claimed to "have September 1990 edition of Peoples Journal had been done in violation of the principle of abuse of right
reasonable grounds to believe in the truth and veracity of the information derived (from their) under Article 19 of the Civil Code, in the absence of a bona fide effort to ascertain the truth thereof, i.e.,
sources."4 "to observe honesty and good faith," which makes their act a wrongful omission. Neither did they "act
with justice and give everyone his due," because without ascertaining the veracity of the information
It was proven at trial that the news article contained several inaccuracies. The headline, which given them by the Intelligence Bureau of the Bureau of Immigration, they published a news article which
categorically stated that the subject of the article engaged in the practice of shooting pets, was untrue.5 they were aware would bring the person specifically named therein, viz, Francis Thoenen, the plaintiff-
Moreover, it is immediately apparent from a comparison between the above letter and the news item in appellant in this case, into disrepute.
question that while the letter is a mere request for verification of Thoenens status, Lee wrote that
residents of BF Homes had "asked the Bureau of Immigration to deport a Swiss who allegedly shoots WHEREFORE, the foregoing considered, the Decision appealed from is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE.
neighbors pets." No complaints had in fact been lodged against him by any of the BF Homeowners,6 nor In its stead, We find for the appellant and award him moral damages of P200,000.00; exemplary
had any pending deportation proceedings been initiated against him in the Bureau of Immigration.7 damages of P50,000.00, and legal fees to P30,000.00; all of which shall be borne jointly and severally by
appellees.14
Thoenen also submitted a Certification8 from the Office of the Bar Confidant that there was no lawyer in Petitioners motion for reconsideration having been denied,15 this petition for certiorari under Rule 45
its rolls by the name of Efren Angara, earlier cited by petitioner Lee as the author of the letter on which of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure was filed on the following grounds:
she based her article. Finally, the trial also showed that despite the fact that respondents address was
indicated in the letter, Cristina Lee made no efforts to contact either him or the purported letter-writer, 1. The Court of Appeals erred in finding the petitioners Cristina Lee, Nuguid and PJI liable under Article
Atty. Angara.9 19 of the Civil Code.
2. The Court of Appeals erred in finding the petitioners liable for libel even if the article was based on a
The petitioners claim that Lee sought confirmation of the story from the newspapers correspondent in letter released by the Bureau of Immigration, hence a qualified privilege communication.
Paraaque, who told her that a woman who refused to identify herself confirmed that there had indeed 3. The Court of Appeals erred in concluding that petitioners did not ascertain the truth of the subject
been an incident of pet-shooting in the neighborhood involving the respondent.10 However, the news item.
correspondent in question was never presented in court to verify the truth of this allegation. Neither was 4. The Court of Appeals erred in awarding damages notwithstanding that the same was excessive
the alleged CID source presented to verify that the above letter had indeed come from the Department, unconscionable and devoid of any basis.
nor even that the same was a certified true copy of a letter on file in their office.
The petitioners argue that this case is one for damages arising from libel, and not one for abuse of rights
On 31 August 1994, the Regional Trial Court, Branch 62, Makati City, rendered a Decision11 in favor of under the New Civil Code. They further claim the constitutional protections extended by the freedom of
the petitioners, which reads in part: speech and of the press clause of the 1987 Constitution against liability for libel, claiming that the article
was published in fulfillment of its social and moral duty to inform the public "on matters of general
There is no malice on the part of the defendants in publishing the news item done in the exercise of their interest, promote the public good and protect the moral [fabric] of the people."16 They insist that the
profession as journalists reporting to the people on matters of public interest. The news report was news article was based on a letter released by the Bureau of Immigration, and is thus a qualifiedly
based on an official communication filed with the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation. privileged communication. To recover damages, the respondent must prove its publication was attended
by actual malice - that is, with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was
As noted by the Court of Appeals in Marti(r)ez vs. Alanao, CA-G.R No. 27086, September 30, 1991, which false or not.17
is similar to the present case:
For the reasons stated below, we hold that the constitutional privilege granted under the freedom of
While indeed, the news item subject of the present case might have ruffled the sensitivities of plaintiff, speech and the press against liability for damages does not extend to the petitioners in this case.
this Court however believes that the alleged defamatory articles falls within the purview of a qualifiedly
privileged matter, and that therefore, it cannot be presumed to be malicious. The onus of proving malice The freedom of speech and of the press is not absolute. The freedom of speech and press and assembly,
is accordingly shifted to the plaintiff, that is, that he must prove that the defendants were actuated by ill- first laid down by President McKinley in the Instruction to the Second Philippine Commission of 07 April
will in what they caused to be printed and published, with a design to carelessly or wantonly injure the 1900, is an almost verbatim restatement of the first amendment of the Constitution of the United
plaintiff. (US vs. Bustos, et al., 37 Phil. 731) States.18 Enshrined in Section 4, Article III of the Bill of Rights of the 1987 Constitution, it states, "No law
shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people
This, plaintiff failed to do, consequently, his case must fall. peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances."

The publication in question is a privileged communication protected by the freedom of the press. But not all speech is protected. "The right of free speech is not absolute at all times and under all
circumstances. There are certain well-defined and narrowly limited classes of speech, the prevention and
WHEREFORE, the Complaint is hereby ordered DISMISSED WITHOUT PRONOUNCEMENT AS TO COSTS.12 punishment of which has never been thought to raise any Constitutional problem. These include the
lewd and obscene, the profane, the libelous, and the insulting or fighting words - those which by their
very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace. It has been well 2. A fair and true report, made in good faith, without any comments or remarks, of any judicial,
observed that such utterances are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight legislative or other official proceedings which are not of confidential nature, or of any statement, report
social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by or speech delivered in said proceedings, or of any other act performed by public officers in the exercise
the social interest in order and morality." 19 of their functions.

Libel is not protected speech. Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code defines libel as "a public and The article is not a privileged communication. We first discussed the freedom of speech and press and
malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, assembly vis-a-vis the laws on libel and slander in the groundbreaking case of US v. Bustos,23 where we
status, or circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or juridical applied the prevailing English and American jurisprudence to the effect that:
person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead."
The interest of society and the maintenance of good government demand a full discussion of public
For an imputation to be libelous, the following requisites must be met: (a) the allegation of a affairs. Complete liberty to comment on the conduct of public men is a scalpel in the case of free speech.
discreditable act or condition concerning another; (b) publication of the charge; (c) identity of the person The sharp incision of its probe relieves the abscesses of officialdom. Men in public life may suffer under a
defamed; and (d) existence of malice.20 In Vasquez v. Court of Appeals,21 we had occasion to further hostile and an unjust accusation; the wound can be assuaged with the balm of a clear conscience. A
explain. Thus: public officer must not be too thin-skinned with reference to comment upon his official acts. Only thus
can the intelligence and dignity of the individual be exalted. Of course, criticism does not authorize
An allegation is considered defamatory if it ascribes to a person the commission of a crime, the defamation. Nevertheless, as the individual is less than the State, so must expected criticism be born for
possession of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status or circumstance the common good? Rising superior to any official, or set of officials, to the Chief Executive, to the
which tends to dishonor or discredit or put him in contempt, or which tends to blacken the memory of Legislature, to the Judiciary - to any or all the agencies of Government - public opinion should be the
one who is dead. constant source of liberty and democracy. (citations omitted)

There is publication if the material is communicated to a third person. It is not required that the person The demand to protect public opinion for the welfare of society and the orderly administration of
defamed has read or heard about the libelous remark. What is material is that a third person has read or government inevitably lead to the adoption of the doctrine of privileged communication. "A privileged
heard the libelous statement, for "a mans reputation is the estimate in which others hold him, not the communication may be either absolutely privileged or qualifiedly privileged. Absolutely privileged
good opinion which he has of himself." communications are those which are not actionable even if the author has acted in bad faith. An
example is found in Sec. 11, Art. VI of the 1987 Constitution which exempts a member of Congress from
On the other hand, to satisfy the element of identifiability, it must be shown that at least a third person liability for any speech or debate in the Congress or in any Committee thereof. Upon the other hand,
or a stranger was able to identify him as the object of the defamatory statement. qualifiedly privileged communications containing defamatory imputations are not actionable unless
found to have been made without good intention or justifiable motive. To this genre belong private
Finally, malice or ill will must be present. Art. 354 of the Revised Penal Code provides: communications and fair and true report without any comments or remarks."24

Every defamatory imputation is presumed to be malicious, even if it be true, if no good intention and The appellate court correctly ruled that the petitioners story is not privileged in character, for it is
justifiable motive for making it is shown, except in the following cases: neither "private communication" nor a fair and true report without any comments or remarks.

1. A private communication made by any person to another in the performance of any legal, moral or US v. Bustos defined the concept of private communication thus: "A communication made bona fide
security duty; and upon any subject-matter in which the party communicating has an interest, or in reference to which he
2. A fair and true report, made in good faith, without any comments or remarks, of any judicial, has a duty, is privileged, if made to a person having a corresponding interest or duty, although it
legislative or other official proceedings which are not of confidential nature, or of any statement, report contained criminatory matter which without this privilege would be slanderous and actionable. A
or speech delivered in said proceedings, or of any other act performed by public officers in the exercise pertinent illustration of the application of qualified privilege is a complaint made in good faith and
of their functions. (citations omitted, emphasis supplied) without malice in regard to the character or conduct of a public official when addressed to an officer or a
board having some interest or duty in the matter."25
In this case, there is no controversy as to the existence of the three elements. The respondents name
and address were clearly indicated in the article ascribing to him the questionable practice of shooting This defense is unavailing to petitioners. In Daez v. Court of Appeals26 we held that:
the wayward pets of his neighbors. The backlash caused by the publication of the article was in fact such
that stones had been thrown at their house, breaking several flower pots, and daily and nightly calls As a rule, it is the right and duty of a citizen to make a complaint of any misconduct on the part of public
compelled him to request a change of their telephone number.22 These facts are not contested by the officials, which comes to his notice, to those charged with supervision over them. Such a communication
petitioners. What the petitioners claim is the absence of proof of the fourth element - malice. is qualifiedly privileged and the author is not guilty of libel. The rule on privilege, however, imposes an
additional requirement. Such complaints should be addressed solely to some official having jurisdiction
As a general rule, malice is presumed. Article 354 of the Revised Penal Code states: to inquire into the charges, or power to redress the grievance or has some duty to perform or interest in
connection therewith. (emphasis supplied)
ART. 354. Requirement of Publicity. - Every defamatory imputation is presumed to be malicious, even if it
be true, if no good intention and justifiable motive for making it is shown, except in the following cases: In the instant case, even if we assume that the letter written by the spurious Atty. Angara is privileged
communication, it lost its character as such when the matter was published in the newspaper and
1. A private communication made by any person to another in the performance of any legal, moral or circulated among the general population. A written letter containing libelous matter cannot be classified
social duty; and as privileged when it is published and circulated in public,27 which was what the petitioners did in this
case.
derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality The knowingly
Neither is the news item a fair and true report without any comments or remarks of any judicial, false statement and the false statement made with reckless disregard of the truth, do not enjoy
legislative or other official proceedings; there is in fact no proceeding to speak of. Nor is the article constitutional protection" (citations omitted).35
related to any act performed by public officers in the exercise of their functions, for it concerns only false
imputations against Thoenen, a private individual seeking a quiet life. The legitimate state interest underlying the law of libel is the compensation of the individuals for the
harm inflicted upon them by defamatory falsehood. After all, the individuals right to protection of his
The petitioners also claim to have made the report out of a "social and moral duty to inform the public own good name "reflects no more than our basic concept of the essential dignity and worth of every
on matters of general interest." human being a concept at the root of any decent system of ordered liberty."36

In Borjal v. Court of Appeals, we stated that "the enumeration under Art. 354 is not an exclusive list of The appellate court awarded Thoenen moral damages of P200,000.00, exemplary damages of
qualifiedly privileged communications since fair commentaries on matters of public interest are likewise P50,000.00 and legal fees of P30,000.00, to be borne jointly and severally by the herein petitioners. In
privileged. We stated that the doctrine of fair commentaries means "that while in general every Guevarra v. Almario,37 we noted that the damages in a libel case must depend upon the facts of the
discreditable imputation publicly made is deemed false, because every man is presumed innocent until particular case and the sound discretion of the court, although appellate courts were "more likely to
his guilt is judicially proved, and every false imputation is deemed malicious, nevertheless, when the reduce damages for libel than to increase them."38 So it is in this case.
discreditable imputation is directed against a public person in his public capacity, it is not necessarily
actionable. In order that such discreditable imputation to a public official may be actionable, it must WHEREFORE, the Decision of the Court of Appeals of 17 January 2000 reversing the Decision of the
either be a false allegation of fact or a comment based on a false supposition."28 Regional Trial Court, Branch 62, Makati City, of 31 August 1994 is hereby AFFIRMED, subject to the
modification that petitioners are ordered to pay, jointly and severally, moral damages in the sum of
Again, this argument is unavailing to the petitioners. As we said, the respondent is a private individual, P100,000.00, exemplary damages of P30,000.00, and legal fees of P20,000.00. No costs.
and not a public official or public figure. We are persuaded by the reasoning of the United States SO ORDERED.
Supreme Court in Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc.,29 that a newspaper or broadcaster publishing defamatory COMPILED CASES:
falsehoods about an individual who is neither a public official nor a public figure may not claim a G.R. No. 203335 February 11, 2014
constitutional privilege against liability, for injury inflicted, even if the falsehood arose in a discussion of JOSE JESUS M. DISINI, JR., ROWENA S. DISINI, LIANNE IVY P. MEDINA, JANETTE TORAL and ERNESTO
public interest.30 SONIDO, JR., Petitioners,
vs.
Having established that the article cannot be considered as privileged communication, malice is THE SECRETARY OF JUSTICE, THE SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR AND LOCAL
therefore presumed, and the fourth requisite for the imputation of libel to attach to the petitioners in GOVERNMENT, THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATIONS
this case is met. The news article is therefore defamatory and is not within the realm of protected TECHNOLOGY OFFICE, THE CHIEF OF THE PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE and THE DIRECTOR OF THE
speech. There is no longer a need to discuss the other assignment of errors, save for the amount of NATIONAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, Respondents.
damages to which respondent is entitled. DECISION

In Policarpio v. Manila Times Publishing Co., Inc.,31 we awarded damages where the defendants ABAD, J.:
deliberately presented a private individual in a worse light that what she actually was, and where other
factual errors were not prevented although defendants had the means to ascertain the veracity of their These consolidated petitions seek to declare several provisions of Republic Act (R.A.) 10175, the
report. Such are the facts obtaining here. Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, unconstitutional and void.

We must point out that Lees brief news item contained falsehoods on two levels. On its face, her The Facts and the Case
statement that residents of BF Homes had "asked the Bureau of Immigration to deport a Swiss who The cybercrime law aims to regulate access to and use of the cyberspace. Using his laptop or computer, a
allegedly shoots neighbors pets" is patently untrue since the letter of the spurious Atty. Angara was a person can connect to the internet, a system that links him to other computers and enable him, among
mere request for verification of Thoenens status as a foreign resident. Lees article, moreover, is also other things, to:
untrue, in that the events she reported never happened. The respondent had never shot any of his
neighbors pets, no complaints had been lodged against him by his neighbors, and no deportation 1. Access virtual libraries and encyclopedias for all kinds of information that he needs for research, study,
proceedings had been initiated against him. Worse, the author of Lees main source of information, Atty. amusement, upliftment, or pure curiosity;
Efren Angara, apparently either does not exist, or is not a lawyer. Petitioner Lee would have been 2. Post billboard-like notices or messages, including pictures and videos, for the general public or for
enlightened on substantially all these matters had she but tried to contact either Angara or Thoenen. special audiences like associates, classmates, or friends and read postings from them;
3. Advertise and promote goods or services and make purchases and payments;
Although it has been stressed that a newspaper "should not be held to account to a point of suppression 4. Inquire and do business with institutional entities like government agencies, banks, stock exchanges,
for honest mistakes, or imperfection in the choice of words,"32 even the most liberal view of free speech trade houses, credit card companies, public utilities, hospitals, and schools; and
has never countenanced the publication of falsehoods, especially the persistent and unmitigated 5. Communicate in writing or by voice with any person through his e-mail address or telephone.
dissemination of patent lies.33 "There is no constitutional value in false statements of fact. Neither the
intentional lie nor the careless error materially advances societys interest in uninhibited, robust, and This is cyberspace, a system that accommodates millions and billions of simultaneous and ongoing
wide-open debate."34 The use of the known lie as a tool is at once at odds with the premises of individual accesses to and uses of the internet. The cyberspace is a boon to the need of the current
democratic government and with the orderly manner in which economic, social, or political change is to generation for greater information and facility of communication. But all is not well with the system
be effected. Calculated falsehood falls into that class of utterances which "are no essential part of any since it could not filter out a number of persons of ill will who would want to use cyberspace technology
exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be for mischiefs and crimes. One of them can, for instance, avail himself of the system to unjustly ruin the
reputation of another or bully the latter by posting defamatory statements against him that people can Some petitioners also raise the constitutionality of related Articles 353, 354, 361, and 362 of the RPC on
read. the crime of libel.

And because linking with the internet opens up a user to communications from others, the ill-motivated The Rulings of the Court
can use the cyberspace for committing theft by hacking into or surreptitiously accessing his bank account Section 4(a)(1)
or credit card or defrauding him through false representations. The wicked can use the cyberspace, too, Section 4(a)(1) provides:
for illicit trafficking in sex or for exposing to pornography guileless children who have access to the Section 4. Cybercrime Offenses. The following acts constitute the offense of cybercrime punishable
internet. For this reason, the government has a legitimate right to regulate the use of cyberspace and under this Act:
contain and punish wrongdoings. (a) Offenses against the confidentiality, integrity and availability of computer data and systems:
(1) Illegal Access. The access to the whole or any part of a computer system without right.
Notably, there are also those who would want, like vandals, to wreak or cause havoc to the computer
systems and networks of indispensable or highly useful institutions as well as to the laptop or computer Petitioners contend that Section 4(a)(1) fails to meet the strict scrutiny standard required of laws that
programs and memories of innocent individuals. They accomplish this by sending electronic viruses or interfere with the fundamental rights of the people and should thus be struck down.
virtual dynamites that destroy those computer systems, networks, programs, and memories. The
government certainly has the duty and the right to prevent these tomfooleries from happening and The Court has in a way found the strict scrutiny standard, an American constitutional construct,1 useful
punish their perpetrators, hence the Cybercrime Prevention Act. in determining the constitutionality of laws that tend to target a class of things or persons. According to
this standard, a legislative classification that impermissibly interferes with the exercise of fundamental
But petitioners claim that the means adopted by the cybercrime law for regulating undesirable right or operates to the peculiar class disadvantage of a suspect class is presumed unconstitutional. The
cyberspace activities violate certain of their constitutional rights. The government of course asserts that burden is on the government to prove that the classification is necessary to achieve a compelling state
the law merely seeks to reasonably put order into cyberspace activities, punish wrongdoings, and interest and that it is the least restrictive means to protect such interest.2 Later, the strict scrutiny
prevent hurtful attacks on the system. standard was used to assess the validity of laws dealing with the regulation of speech, gender, or race as
well as other fundamental rights, as expansion from its earlier applications to equal protection.3
Pending hearing and adjudication of the issues presented in these cases, on February 5, 2013 the Court
extended the original 120-day temporary restraining order (TRO) that it earlier issued on October 9, In the cases before it, the Court finds nothing in Section 4(a)(1) that calls for the application of the strict
2012, enjoining respondent government agencies from implementing the cybercrime law until further scrutiny standard since no fundamental freedom, like speech, is involved in punishing what is essentially
orders. a condemnable act accessing the computer system of another without right. It is a universally
condemned conduct.4
The Issues Presented
Petitioners of course fear that this section will jeopardize the work of ethical hackers, professionals who
Petitioners challenge the constitutionality of the following provisions of the cybercrime law that regard employ tools and techniques used by criminal hackers but would neither damage the target systems nor
certain acts as crimes and impose penalties for their commission as well as provisions that would enable steal information. Ethical hackers evaluate the target systems security and report back to the owners
the government to track down and penalize violators. These provisions are: the vulnerabilities they found in it and give instructions for how these can be remedied. Ethical hackers
are the equivalent of independent auditors who come into an organization to verify its bookkeeping
a. Section 4(a)(1) on Illegal Access; records.5
b. Section 4(a)(3) on Data Interference;
c. Section 4(a)(6) on Cyber-squatting; Besides, a clients engagement of an ethical hacker requires an agreement between them as to the
d. Section 4(b)(3) on Identity Theft; extent of the search, the methods to be used, and the systems to be tested. This is referred to as the
e. Section 4(c)(1) on Cybersex; "get out of jail free card."6 Since the ethical hacker does his job with prior permission from the client,
f. Section 4(c)(2) on Child Pornography; such permission would insulate him from the coverage of Section 4(a)(1).
g. Section 4(c)(3) on Unsolicited Commercial Communications;
h. Section 4(c)(4) on Libel; Section 4(a)(3) of the Cybercrime Law
i. Section 5 on Aiding or Abetting and Attempt in the Commission of Cybercrimes; Section 4(a)(3) provides:
j. Section 6 on the Penalty of One Degree Higher; Section 4. Cybercrime Offenses. The following acts constitute the offense of cybercrime punishable
k. Section 7 on the Prosecution under both the Revised Penal Code (RPC) and R.A. 10175; under this Act:
l. Section 8 on Penalties; (a) Offenses against the confidentiality, integrity and availability of computer data and systems:
m. Section 12 on Real-Time Collection of Traffic Data; xxxx
n. Section 13 on Preservation of Computer Data; (3) Data Interference. The intentional or reckless alteration, damaging, deletion or deterioration of
o. Section 14 on Disclosure of Computer Data; computer data, electronic document, or electronic data message, without right, including the
p. Section 15 on Search, Seizure and Examination of Computer Data; introduction or transmission of viruses.
q. Section 17 on Destruction of Computer Data;
r. Section 19 on Restricting or Blocking Access to Computer Data; Petitioners claim that Section 4(a)(3) suffers from overbreadth in that, while it seeks to discourage data
s. Section 20 on Obstruction of Justice; interference, it intrudes into the area of protected speech and expression, creating a chilling and
t. Section 24 on Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC); and deterrent effect on these guaranteed freedoms.
u. Section 26(a) on CICCs Powers and Functions.
Under the overbreadth doctrine, a proper governmental purpose, constitutionally subject to state xxxx
regulation, may not be achieved by means that unnecessarily sweep its subject broadly, thereby invading (3) Computer-related Identity Theft. The intentional acquisition, use, misuse, transfer, possession,
the area of protected freedoms.7 But Section 4(a)(3) does not encroach on these freedoms at all. It alteration, or deletion of identifying information belonging to another, whether natural or juridical,
simply punishes what essentially is a form of vandalism,8 the act of willfully destroying without right the without right: Provided: that if no damage has yet been caused, the penalty imposable shall be one (1)
things that belong to others, in this case their computer data, electronic document, or electronic data degree lower.
message. Such act has no connection to guaranteed freedoms. There is no freedom to destroy other
peoples computer systems and private documents. Petitioners claim that Section 4(b)(3) violates the constitutional rights to due process and to privacy and
correspondence, and transgresses the freedom of the press.
All penal laws, like the cybercrime law, have of course an inherent chilling effect, an in terrorem effect9
or the fear of possible prosecution that hangs on the heads of citizens who are minded to step beyond The right to privacy, or the right to be let alone, was institutionalized in the 1987 Constitution as a facet
the boundaries of what is proper. But to prevent the State from legislating criminal laws because they of the right protected by the guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures.13 But the Court
instill such kind of fear is to render the state powerless in addressing and penalizing socially harmful acknowledged its existence as early as 1968 in Morfe v. Mutuc,14 it ruled that the right to privacy exists
conduct.10 Here, the chilling effect that results in paralysis is an illusion since Section 4(a)(3) clearly independently of its identification with liberty; it is in itself fully deserving of constitutional protection.
describes the evil that it seeks to punish and creates no tendency to intimidate the free exercise of ones
constitutional rights. Relevant to any discussion of the right to privacy is the concept known as the "Zones of Privacy." The
Court explained in "In the Matter of the Petition for Issuance of Writ of Habeas Corpus of Sabio v.
Besides, the overbreadth challenge places on petitioners the heavy burden of proving that under no set Senator Gordon"15 the relevance of these zones to the right to privacy:
of circumstances will Section 4(a)(3) be valid.11 Petitioner has failed to discharge this burden.
Zones of privacy are recognized and protected in our laws. Within these zones, any form of intrusion
Section 4(a)(6) of the Cybercrime Law isimpermissible unless excused by law and in accordance with customary legal process. The meticulous
Section 4(a)(6) provides: regard we accord to these zones arises not only from our conviction that the right to privacy is a
Section 4. Cybercrime Offenses. The following acts constitute the offense of cybercrime punishable "constitutional right" and "the right most valued by civilized men," but also from our adherence to the
under this Act: Universal Declaration of Human Rights which mandates that, "no one shall be subjected to arbitrary
(a) Offenses against the confidentiality, integrity and availability of computer data and systems: interference with his privacy" and "everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such
xxxx interference or attacks."
(6) Cyber-squatting. The acquisition of domain name over the internet in bad faith to profit, mislead,
destroy the reputation, and deprive others from registering the same, if such a domain name is: Two constitutional guarantees create these zones of privacy: (a) the right against unreasonable
(i) Similar, identical, or confusingly similar to an existing trademark registered with the appropriate searches16 and seizures, which is the basis of the right to be let alone, and (b) the right to privacy of
government agency at the time of the domain name registration; communication and correspondence.17 In assessing the challenge that the State has impermissibly
(ii) Identical or in any way similar with the name of a person other than the registrant, in case of a intruded into these zones of privacy, a court must determine whether a person has exhibited a
personal name; and reasonable expectation of privacy and, if so, whether that expectation has been violated by
(iii) Acquired without right or with intellectual property interests in it. unreasonable government intrusion.18

Petitioners claim that Section 4(a)(6) or cyber-squatting violates the equal protection clause12 in that, The usual identifying information regarding a person includes his name, his citizenship, his residence
not being narrowly tailored, it will cause a user using his real name to suffer the same fate as those who address, his contact number, his place and date of birth, the name of his spouse if any, his occupation,
use aliases or take the name of another in satire, parody, or any other literary device. For example, and similar data.19 The law punishes those who acquire or use such identifying information without
supposing there exists a well known billionaire-philanthropist named "Julio Gandolfo," the law would right, implicitly to cause damage. Petitioners simply fail to show how government effort to curb
punish for cyber-squatting both the person who registers such name because he claims it to be his computer-related identity theft violates the right to privacy and correspondence as well as the right to
pseudo-name and another who registers the name because it happens to be his real name. Petitioners due process of law.
claim that, considering the substantial distinction between the two, the law should recognize the
difference. Also, the charge of invalidity of this section based on the overbreadth doctrine will not hold water since
the specific conducts proscribed do not intrude into guaranteed freedoms like speech. Clearly, what this
But there is no real difference whether he uses "Julio Gandolfo" which happens to be his real name or section regulates are specific actions: the acquisition, use, misuse or deletion of personal identifying data
use it as a pseudo-name for it is the evil purpose for which he uses the name that the law condemns. The of another. There is no fundamental right to acquire anothers personal data.
law is reasonable in penalizing him for acquiring the domain name in bad faith to profit, mislead, destroy
reputation, or deprive others who are not ill-motivated of the rightful opportunity of registering the Further, petitioners fear that Section 4(b)(3) violates the freedom of the press in that journalists would
same. The challenge to the constitutionality of Section 4(a)(6) on ground of denial of equal protection is be hindered from accessing the unrestricted user account of a person in the news to secure information
baseless. about him that could be published. But this is not the essence of identity theft that the law seeks to
prohibit and punish. Evidently, the theft of identity information must be intended for an illegitimate
Section 4(b)(3) of the Cybercrime Law purpose. Moreover, acquiring and disseminating information made public by the user himself cannot be
Section 4(b)(3) provides: regarded as a form of theft.
Section 4. Cybercrime Offenses. The following acts constitute the offense of cybercrime punishable
under this Act:x x x x The Court has defined intent to gain as an internal act which can be established through the overt acts of
b) Computer-related Offenses: the offender, and it may be presumed from the furtive taking of useful property pertaining to another,
unless special circumstances reveal a different intent on the part of the perpetrator.20 As such, the
press, whether in quest of news reporting or social investigation, has nothing to fear since a special xxxx
circumstance is present to negate intent to gain which is required by this Section. (c) Content-related Offenses:
xxxx
Section 4(c)(1) of the Cybercrime Law (2) Child Pornography. The unlawful or prohibited acts defined and punishable by Republic Act No.
Section 4(c)(1) provides: 9775 or the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009, committed through a computer system: Provided, That
Sec. 4. Cybercrime Offenses. The following acts constitute the offense of cybercrime punishable under the penalty to be imposed shall be (1) one degree higher than that provided for in Republic Act No. 9775.
this Act:
xxxx It seems that the above merely expands the scope of the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 200931 (ACPA)
(c) Content-related Offenses: to cover identical activities in cyberspace. In theory, nothing prevents the government from invoking the
(1) Cybersex. The willful engagement, maintenance, control, or operation, directly or indirectly, of any ACPA when prosecuting persons who commit child pornography using a computer system. Actually,
lascivious exhibition of sexual organs or sexual activity, with the aid of a computer system, for favor or ACPAs definition of child pornography already embraces the use of "electronic, mechanical, digital,
consideration. optical, magnetic or any other means." Notably, no one has questioned this ACPA provision.

Petitioners claim that the above violates the freedom of expression clause of the Constitution.21 They Of course, the law makes the penalty higher by one degree when the crime is committed in cyberspace.
express fear that private communications of sexual character between husband and wife or consenting But no one can complain since the intensity or duration of penalty is a legislative prerogative and there is
adults, which are not regarded as crimes under the penal code, would now be regarded as crimes when rational basis for such higher penalty.32 The potential for uncontrolled proliferation of a particular piece
done "for favor" in cyberspace. In common usage, the term "favor" includes "gracious kindness," "a of child pornography when uploaded in the cyberspace is incalculable.
special privilege or right granted or conceded," or "a token of love (as a ribbon) usually worn
conspicuously."22 This meaning given to the term "favor" embraces socially tolerated trysts. The law as Petitioners point out that the provision of ACPA that makes it unlawful for any person to "produce,
written would invite law enforcement agencies into the bedrooms of married couples or consenting direct, manufacture or create any form of child pornography"33 clearly relates to the prosecution of
individuals. persons who aid and abet the core offenses that ACPA seeks to punish.34 Petitioners are wary that a
person who merely doodles on paper and imagines a sexual abuse of a 16-year-old is not criminally liable
But the deliberations of the Bicameral Committee of Congress on this section of the Cybercrime for producing child pornography but one who formulates the idea on his laptop would be. Further, if the
Prevention Act give a proper perspective on the issue. These deliberations show a lack of intent to author bounces off his ideas on Twitter, anyone who replies to the tweet could be considered aiding and
penalize a "private showing x x x between and among two private persons x x x although that may be a abetting a cybercrime.
form of obscenity to some."23 The understanding of those who drew up the cybercrime law is that the
element of "engaging in a business" is necessary to constitute the illegal cybersex.24 The Act actually The question of aiding and abetting the offense by simply commenting on it will be discussed elsewhere
seeks to punish cyber prostitution, white slave trade, and pornography for favor and consideration. This below. For now the Court must hold that the constitutionality of Section 4(c)(2) is not successfully
includes interactive prostitution and pornography, i.e., by webcam.25 challenged.

The subject of Section 4(c)(1)lascivious exhibition of sexual organs or sexual activityis not novel. Section 4(c)(3) of the Cybercrime Law
Article 201 of the RPC punishes "obscene publications and exhibitions and indecent shows." The Anti- Section 4(c)(3) provides:
Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 penalizes those who "maintain or hire a person to engage in Sec. 4. Cybercrime Offenses. The following acts constitute the offense of cybercrime punishable under
prostitution or pornography."26 The law defines prostitution as any act, transaction, scheme, or design this Act:
involving the use of a person by another, for sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct in exchange for xxxx
money, profit, or any other consideration.27 (c) Content-related Offenses:
xxxx
The case of Nogales v. People28 shows the extent to which the State can regulate materials that serve no (3) Unsolicited Commercial Communications. The transmission of commercial electronic
other purpose than satisfy the market for violence, lust, or pornography.29 The Court weighed the communication with the use of computer system which seeks to advertise, sell, or offer for sale products
property rights of individuals against the public welfare. Private property, if containing pornographic and services are prohibited unless:
materials, may be forfeited and destroyed. Likewise, engaging in sexual acts privately through internet (i) There is prior affirmative consent from the recipient; or
connection, perceived by some as a right, has to be balanced with the mandate of the State to eradicate (ii) The primary intent of the communication is for service and/or administrative announcements from
white slavery and the exploitation of women. the sender to its existing users, subscribers or customers; or
(iii) The following conditions are present:
In any event, consenting adults are protected by the wealth of jurisprudence delineating the bounds of (aa) The commercial electronic communication contains a simple, valid, and reliable way for the recipient
obscenity.30 The Court will not declare Section 4(c)(1) unconstitutional where it stands a construction to reject receipt of further commercial electronic messages (opt-out) from the same source;
that makes it apply only to persons engaged in the business of maintaining, controlling, or operating, (bb) The commercial electronic communication does not purposely disguise the source of the electronic
directly or indirectly, the lascivious exhibition of sexual organs or sexual activity with the aid of a message; and
computer system as Congress has intended. (cc) The commercial electronic communication does not purposely include misleading information in any
part of the message in order to induce the recipients to read the message.
Section 4(c)(2) of the Cybercrime Law
Section 4(c)(2) provides: The above penalizes the transmission of unsolicited commercial communications, also known as "spam."
Sec. 4. Cybercrime Offenses. The following acts constitute the offense of cybercrime punishable under The term "spam" surfaced in early internet chat rooms and interactive fantasy games. One who repeats
this Act: the same sentence or comment was said to be making a "spam." The term referred to a Monty Pythons
Flying Circus scene in which actors would keep saying "Spam, Spam, Spam, and Spam" when reading (c) Content-related Offenses:
options from a menu.35 xxxx
(4) Libel. The unlawful or prohibited acts of libel as defined in Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code, as
The Government, represented by the Solicitor General, points out that unsolicited commercial amended, committed through a computer system or any other similar means which may be devised in
communications or spams are a nuisance that wastes the storage and network capacities of internet the future.
service providers, reduces the efficiency of commerce and technology, and interferes with the owners
peaceful enjoyment of his property. Transmitting spams amounts to trespass to ones privacy since the Petitioners lament that libel provisions of the penal code37 and, in effect, the libel provisions of the
person sending out spams enters the recipients domain without prior permission. The OSG contends cybercrime law carry with them the requirement of "presumed malice" even when the latest
that commercial speech enjoys less protection in law. jurisprudence already replaces it with the higher standard of "actual malice" as a basis for conviction.38
Petitioners argue that inferring "presumed malice" from the accuseds defamatory statement by virtue
But, firstly, the government presents no basis for holding that unsolicited electronic ads reduce the of Article 354 of the penal code infringes on his constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression.
"efficiency of computers." Secondly, people, before the arrival of the age of computers, have already
been receiving such unsolicited ads by mail. These have never been outlawed as nuisance since people Petitioners would go further. They contend that the laws on libel should be stricken down as
might have interest in such ads. What matters is that the recipient has the option of not opening or unconstitutional for otherwise good jurisprudence requiring "actual malice" could easily be overturned
reading these mail ads. That is true with spams. Their recipients always have the option to delete or not as the Court has done in Fermin v. People39 even where the offended parties happened to be public
to read them. figures.

To prohibit the transmission of unsolicited ads would deny a person the right to read his emails, even The elements of libel are: (a) the allegation of a discreditable act or condition concerning another; (b)
unsolicited commercial ads addressed to him. Commercial speech is a separate category of speech which publication of the charge; (c) identity of the person defamed; and (d) existence of malice.40
is not accorded the same level of protection as that given to other constitutionally guaranteed forms of
expression but is nonetheless entitled to protection.36 The State cannot rob him of this right without There is "actual malice" or malice in fact41 when the offender makes the defamatory statement with the
violating the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression. Unsolicited advertisements are knowledge that it is false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.42 The reckless
legitimate forms of expression. disregard standard used here requires a high degree of awareness of probable falsity. There must be
sufficient evidence to permit the conclusion that the accused in fact entertained serious doubts as to the
Articles 353, 354, and 355 of the Penal Code truth of the statement he published. Gross or even extreme negligence is not sufficient to establish
Section 4(c)(4) of the Cyber Crime Law actual malice.43

Petitioners dispute the constitutionality of both the penal code provisions on libel as well as Section The prosecution bears the burden of proving the presence of actual malice in instances where such
4(c)(4) of the Cybercrime Prevention Act on cyberlibel. element is required to establish guilt. The defense of absence of actual malice, even when the statement
turns out to be false, is available where the offended party is a public official or a public figure, as in the
The RPC provisions on libel read: cases of Vasquez (a barangay official) and Borjal (the Executive Director, First National Conference on
Art. 353. Definition of libel. A libel is public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, Land Transportation). Since the penal code and implicitly, the cybercrime law, mainly target libel against
real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, private persons, the Court recognizes that these laws imply a stricter standard of "malice" to convict the
discredit, or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead. author of a defamatory statement where the offended party is a public figure. Societys interest and the
Art. 354. Requirement for publicity. Every defamatory imputation is presumed to be malicious, even if maintenance of good government demand a full discussion of public affairs.44
it be true, if no good intention and justifiable motive for making it is shown, except in the following
cases: Parenthetically, the Court cannot accept the proposition that its ruling in Fermin disregarded the higher
1. A private communication made by any person to another in the performance of any legal, moral or standard of actual malice or malice in fact when it found Cristinelli Fermin guilty of committing libel
social duty; and against complainants who were public figures. Actually, the Court found the presence of malice in fact in
2. A fair and true report, made in good faith, without any comments or remarks, of any judicial, that case. Thus:
legislative or other official proceedings which are not of confidential nature, or of any statement, report
or speech delivered in said proceedings, or of any other act performed by public officers in the exercise It can be gleaned from her testimony that petitioner had the motive to make defamatory imputations
of their functions. against complainants. Thus, petitioner cannot, by simply making a general denial, convince us that there
was no malice on her part. Verily, not only was there malice in law, the article being malicious in itself,
Art. 355. Libel means by writings or similar means. A libel committed by means of writing, printing, but there was also malice in fact, as there was motive to talk ill against complainants during the electoral
lithography, engraving, radio, phonograph, painting, theatrical exhibition, cinematographic exhibition, or campaign. (Emphasis ours)
any similar means, shall be punished by prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods or a
fine ranging from 200 to 6,000 pesos, or both, in addition to the civil action which may be brought by the Indeed, the Court took into account the relatively wide leeway given to utterances against public figures
offended party. in the above case, cinema and television personalities, when it modified the penalty of imprisonment to
just a fine of P6,000.00.
The libel provision of the cybercrime law, on the other hand, merely incorporates to form part of it the
provisions of the RPC on libel. Thus Section 4(c)(4) reads: But, where the offended party is a private individual, the prosecution need not prove the presence of
Sec. 4. Cybercrime Offenses. The following acts constitute the offense of cybercrime punishable under malice. The law explicitly presumes its existence (malice in law) from the defamatory character of the
this Act: assailed statement.45 For his defense, the accused must show that he has a justifiable reason for the
xxxx defamatory statement even if it was in fact true.46
Petitioners assail the constitutionality of Section 5 that renders criminally liable any person who willfully
Petitioners peddle the view that both the penal code and the Cybercrime Prevention Act violate the abets or aids in the commission or attempts to commit any of the offenses enumerated as cybercrimes.
countrys obligations under the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). They point It suffers from overbreadth, creating a chilling and deterrent effect on protected expression.
out that in Adonis v. Republic of the Philippines,47 the United Nations Human Rights Committee
(UNHRC) cited its General Comment 34 to the effect that penal defamation laws should include the The Solicitor General contends, however, that the current body of jurisprudence and laws on aiding and
defense of truth. abetting sufficiently protects the freedom of expression of "netizens," the multitude that avail
themselves of the services of the internet. He points out that existing laws and jurisprudence sufficiently
But General Comment 34 does not say that the truth of the defamatory statement should constitute an delineate the meaning of "aiding or abetting" a crime as to protect the innocent. The Solicitor General
all-encompassing defense. As it happens, Article 361 recognizes truth as a defense but under the argues that plain, ordinary, and common usage is at times sufficient to guide law enforcement agencies
condition that the accused has been prompted in making the statement by good motives and for in enforcing the law.51 The legislature is not required to define every single word contained in the laws
justifiable ends. Thus: they craft.

Art. 361. Proof of the truth. In every criminal prosecution for libel, the truth may be given in evidence Aiding or abetting has of course well-defined meaning and application in existing laws. When a person
to the court and if it appears that the matter charged as libelous is true, and, moreover, that it was aids or abets another in destroying a forest,52 smuggling merchandise into the country,53 or interfering
published with good motives and for justifiable ends, the defendants shall be acquitted. in the peaceful picketing of laborers,54 his action is essentially physical and so is susceptible to easy
assessment as criminal in character. These forms of aiding or abetting lend themselves to the tests of
Proof of the truth of an imputation of an act or omission not constituting a crime shall not be admitted, common sense and human experience.
unless the imputation shall have been made against Government employees with respect to facts related
to the discharge of their official duties. But, when it comes to certain cybercrimes, the waters are muddier and the line of sight is somewhat
blurred. The idea of "aiding or abetting" wrongdoings online threatens the heretofore popular and
In such cases if the defendant proves the truth of the imputation made by him, he shall be acquitted. unchallenged dogmas of cyberspace use.

Besides, the UNHRC did not actually enjoin the Philippines, as petitioners urge, to decriminalize libel. It According to the 2011 Southeast Asia Digital Consumer Report, 33% of Filipinos have accessed the
simply suggested that defamation laws be crafted with care to ensure that they do not stifle freedom of internet within a year, translating to about 31 million users.55 Based on a recent survey, the Philippines
expression.48 Indeed, the ICCPR states that although everyone should enjoy freedom of expression, its ranks 6th in the top 10 most engaged countries for social networking.56 Social networking sites build
exercise carries with it special duties and responsibilities. Free speech is not absolute. It is subject to social relations among people who, for example, share interests, activities, backgrounds, or real-life
certain restrictions, as may be necessary and as may be provided by law.49 connections.57

The Court agrees with the Solicitor General that libel is not a constitutionally protected speech and that Two of the most popular of these sites are Facebook and Twitter. As of late 2012, 1.2 billion people with
the government has an obligation to protect private individuals from defamation. Indeed, cyberlibel is shared interests use Facebook to get in touch.58 Users register at this site, create a personal profile or an
actually not a new crime since Article 353, in relation to Article 355 of the penal code, already punishes open book of who they are, add other users as friends, and exchange messages, including automatic
it. In effect, Section 4(c)(4) above merely affirms that online defamation constitutes "similar means" for notifications when they update their profile.59 A user can post a statement, a photo, or a video on
committing libel. Facebook, which can be made visible to anyone, depending on the users privacy settings.

But the Courts acquiescence goes only insofar as the cybercrime law penalizes the author of the libelous If the post is made available to the public, meaning to everyone and not only to his friends, anyone on
statement or article. Cyberlibel brings with it certain intricacies, unheard of when the penal code Facebook can react to the posting, clicking any of several buttons of preferences on the programs
provisions on libel were enacted. The culture associated with internet media is distinct from that of print. screen such as "Like," "Comment," or "Share." "Like" signifies that the reader likes the posting while
"Comment" enables him to post online his feelings or views about the same, such as "This is great!"
The internet is characterized as encouraging a freewheeling, anything-goes writing style.50 In a sense, When a Facebook user "Shares" a posting, the original "posting" will appear on his own Facebook profile,
they are a world apart in terms of quickness of the readers reaction to defamatory statements posted in consequently making it visible to his down-line Facebook Friends.
cyberspace, facilitated by one-click reply options offered by the networking site as well as by the speed
with which such reactions are disseminated down the line to other internet users. Whether these Twitter, on the other hand, is an internet social networking and microblogging service that enables its
reactions to defamatory statement posted on the internet constitute aiding and abetting libel, acts that users to send and read short text-based messages of up to 140 characters. These are known as "Tweets."
Section 5 of the cybercrime law punishes, is another matter that the Court will deal with next in relation Microblogging is the practice of posting small pieces of digital contentwhich could be in the form of
to Section 5 of the law. text, pictures, links, short videos, or other mediaon the internet. Instead of friends, a Twitter user has
"Followers," those who subscribe to this particular users posts, enabling them to read the same, and
Section 5 of the Cybercrime Law "Following," those whom this particular user is subscribed to, enabling him to read their posts. Like
Section 5 provides: Facebook, a Twitter user can make his tweets available only to his Followers, or to the general public. If a
Sec. 5. Other Offenses. The following acts shall also constitute an offense: post is available to the public, any Twitter user can "Retweet" a given posting. Retweeting is just
(a) Aiding or Abetting in the Commission of Cybercrime. Any person who willfully abets or aids in the reposting or republishing another persons tweet without the need of copying and pasting it.
commission of any of the offenses enumerated in this Act shall be held liable.
(b) Attempt in the Commission of Cybercrime. Any person who willfully attempts to commit any of the In the cyberworld, there are many actors: a) the blogger who originates the assailed statement; b) the
offenses enumerated in this Act shall be held liable. blog service provider like Yahoo; c) the internet service provider like PLDT, Smart, Globe, or Sun; d) the
internet caf that may have provided the computer used for posting the blog; e) the person who makes a
favorable comment on the blog; and f) the person who posts a link to the blog site.60 Now, suppose
Maria (a blogger) maintains a blog on WordPress.com (blog service provider). She needs the internet to The vagueness of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA), 47 U.S.C.S. 223, is a matter of special
access her blog so she subscribes to Sun Broadband (Internet Service Provider). concern for two reasons. First, the CDA is a content-based regulation of speech. The vagueness of such a
regulation raises special U.S. Const. amend. I concerns because of its obvious chilling effect on free
One day, Maria posts on her internet account the statement that a certain married public official has an speech. Second, the CDA is a criminal statute. In addition to the opprobrium and stigma of a criminal
illicit affair with a movie star. Linda, one of Marias friends who sees this post, comments online, "Yes, conviction, the CDA threatens violators with penalties including up to two years in prison for each act of
this is so true! They are so immoral." Marias original post is then multiplied by her friends and the violation. The severity of criminal sanctions may well cause speakers to remain silent rather than
latters friends, and down the line to friends of friends almost ad infinitum. Nena, who is a stranger to communicate even arguably unlawful words, ideas, and images. As a practical matter, this increased
both Maria and Linda, comes across this blog, finds it interesting and so shares the link to this apparently deterrent effect, coupled with the risk of discriminatory enforcement of vague regulations, poses greater
defamatory blog on her Twitter account. Nenas "Followers" then "Retweet" the link to that blog site. U.S. Const. amend. I concerns than those implicated by certain civil regulations.

Pamela, a Twitter user, stumbles upon a random persons "Retweet" of Nenas original tweet and posts xxxx
this on her Facebook account. Immediately, Pamelas Facebook Friends start Liking and making
Comments on the assailed posting. A lot of them even press the Share button, resulting in the further The Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA), 47 U.S.C.S. 223, presents a great threat of censoring
spread of the original posting into tens, hundreds, thousands, and greater postings. speech that, in fact, falls outside the statute's scope. Given the vague contours of the coverage of the
statute, it unquestionably silences some speakers whose messages would be entitled to constitutional
The question is: are online postings such as "Liking" an openly defamatory statement, "Commenting" on protection. That danger provides further reason for insisting that the statute not be overly broad. The
it, or "Sharing" it with others, to be regarded as "aiding or abetting?" In libel in the physical world, if CDAs burden on protected speech cannot be justified if it could be avoided by a more carefully drafted
Nestor places on the office bulletin board a small poster that says, "Armand is a thief!," he could statute. (Emphasis ours)
certainly be charged with libel. If Roger, seeing the poster, writes on it, "I like this!," that could not be
libel since he did not author the poster. If Arthur, passing by and noticing the poster, writes on it, Libel in the cyberspace can of course stain a persons image with just one click of the mouse. Scurrilous
"Correct!," would that be libel? No, for he merely expresses agreement with the statement on the statements can spread and travel fast across the globe like bad news. Moreover, cyberlibel often goes
poster. He still is not its author. Besides, it is not clear if aiding or abetting libel in the physical world is a hand in hand with cyberbullying that oppresses the victim, his relatives, and friends, evoking from mild
crime. to disastrous reactions. Still, a governmental purpose, which seeks to regulate the use of this cyberspace
communication technology to protect a persons reputation and peace of mind, cannot adopt means
But suppose Nestor posts the blog, "Armand is a thief!" on a social networking site. Would a reader and that will unnecessarily and broadly sweep, invading the area of protected freedoms.62
his Friends or Followers, availing themselves of any of the "Like," "Comment," and "Share" reactions, be
guilty of aiding or abetting libel? And, in the complex world of cyberspace expressions of thoughts, when If such means are adopted, self-inhibition borne of fear of what sinister predicaments await internet
will one be liable for aiding or abetting cybercrimes? Where is the venue of the crime? users will suppress otherwise robust discussion of public issues. Democracy will be threatened and with
it, all liberties. Penal laws should provide reasonably clear guidelines for law enforcement officials and
Except for the original author of the assailed statement, the rest (those who pressed Like, Comment and triers of facts to prevent arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.63 The terms "aiding or abetting"
Share) are essentially knee-jerk sentiments of readers who may think little or haphazardly of their constitute broad sweep that generates chilling effect on those who express themselves through
response to the original posting. Will they be liable for aiding or abetting? And, considering the inherent cyberspace posts, comments, and other messages.64 Hence, Section 5 of the cybercrime law that
impossibility of joining hundreds or thousands of responding "Friends" or "Followers" in the criminal punishes "aiding or abetting" libel on the cyberspace is a nullity.
charge to be filed in court, who will make a choice as to who should go to jail for the outbreak of the
challenged posting? When a penal statute encroaches upon the freedom of speech, a facial challenge grounded on the void-
for-vagueness doctrine is acceptable. The inapplicability of the doctrine must be carefully delineated. As
The old parameters for enforcing the traditional form of libel would be a square peg in a round hole Justice Antonio T. Carpio explained in his dissent in Romualdez v. Commission on Elections,65 "we must
when applied to cyberspace libel. Unless the legislature crafts a cyber libel law that takes into account its view these statements of the Court on the inapplicability of the overbreadth and vagueness doctrines to
unique circumstances and culture, such law will tend to create a chilling effect on the millions that use penal statutes as appropriate only insofar as these doctrines are used to mount facial challenges to
this new medium of communication in violation of their constitutionally-guaranteed right to freedom of penal statutes not involving free speech."
expression.
In an "as applied" challenge, the petitioner who claims a violation of his constitutional right can raise any
The United States Supreme Court faced the same issue in Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union,61 a constitutional ground absence of due process, lack of fair notice, lack of ascertainable standards,
case involving the constitutionality of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. The law prohibited (1) overbreadth, or vagueness. Here, one can challenge the constitutionality of a statute only if he asserts a
the knowing transmission, by means of a telecommunications device, of violation of his own rights. It prohibits one from assailing the constitutionality of the statute based solely
on the violation of the rights of third persons not before the court. This rule is also known as the
"obscene or indecent" communications to any recipient under 18 years of age; and (2) the knowing use prohibition against third-party standing.66
of an interactive computer service to send to a specific person or persons under 18 years of age or to
display in a manner available to a person under 18 years of age communications that, in context, depict But this rule admits of exceptions. A petitioner may for instance mount a "facial" challenge to the
or describe, in terms "patently offensive" as measured by contemporary community standards, sexual or constitutionality of a statute even if he claims no violation of his own rights under the assailed statute
excretory activities or organs. where it involves free speech on grounds of overbreadth or vagueness of the statute.

Those who challenged the Act claim that the law violated the First Amendments guarantee of freedom The rationale for this exception is to counter the "chilling effect" on protected speech that comes from
of speech for being overbroad. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed and ruled: statutes violating free speech. A person who does not know whether his speech constitutes a crime
under an overbroad or vague law may simply restrain himself from speaking in order to avoid being related Fraud, Section 4(b)(3) on Computer-related Identity Theft, and Section 4(c)(1) on Cybersex. None
charged of a crime. The overbroad or vague law thus chills him into silence.67 of these offenses borders on the exercise of the freedom of expression.

As already stated, the cyberspace is an incomparable, pervasive medium of communication. It is The crime of willfully attempting to commit any of these offenses is for the same reason not
inevitable that any government threat of punishment regarding certain uses of the medium creates a objectionable. A hacker may for instance have done all that is necessary to illegally access another
chilling effect on the constitutionally-protected freedom of expression of the great masses that use it. In partys computer system but the security employed by the systems lawful owner could frustrate his
this case, the particularly complex web of interaction on social media websites would give law enforcers effort. Another hacker may have gained access to usernames and passwords of others but fail to use
such latitude that they could arbitrarily or selectively enforce the law. these because the system supervisor is alerted.72 If Section 5 that punishes any person who willfully
attempts to commit this specific offense is not upheld, the owner of the username and password could
Who is to decide when to prosecute persons who boost the visibility of a posting on the internet by liking not file a complaint against him for attempted hacking. But this is not right. The hacker should not be
it? Netizens are not given "fair notice" or warning as to what is criminal conduct and what is lawful freed from liability simply because of the vigilance of a lawful owner or his supervisor.
conduct. When a case is filed, how will the court ascertain whether or not one netizens comment aided
and abetted a cybercrime while another comment did not? Petitioners of course claim that Section 5 lacks positive limits and could cover the innocent.73 While this
may be true with respect to cybercrimes that tend to sneak past the area of free expression, any attempt
Of course, if the "Comment" does not merely react to the original posting but creates an altogether new to commit the other acts specified in Section 4(a)(1), Section 4(a)(2), Section 4(a)(3), Section 4(a)(4),
defamatory story against Armand like "He beats his wife and children," then that should be considered Section 4(a)(5), Section 4(a)(6), Section 4(b)(1), Section 4(b)(2), Section 4(b)(3), and Section 4(c)(1) as
an original posting published on the internet. Both the penal code and the cybercrime law clearly punish well as the actors aiding and abetting the commission of such acts can be identified with some
authors of defamatory publications. Make no mistake, libel destroys reputations that society values. reasonable certainty through adroit tracking of their works. Absent concrete proof of the same, the
Allowed to cascade in the internet, it will destroy relationships and, under certain circumstances, will innocent will of course be spared.
generate enmity and tension between social or economic groups, races, or religions, exacerbating
existing tension in their relationships. Section 6 of the Cybercrime Law
Section 6 provides:
In regard to the crime that targets child pornography, when "Google procures, stores, and indexes child Sec. 6. All crimes defined and penalized by the Revised Penal Code, as amended, and special laws, if
pornography and facilitates the completion of transactions involving the dissemination of child committed by, through and with the use of information and communications technologies shall be
pornography," does this make Google and its users aiders and abettors in the commission of child covered by the relevant provisions of this Act: Provided, That the penalty to be imposed shall be one (1)
pornography crimes?68 Byars highlights a feature in the American law on child pornography that the degree higher than that provided for by the Revised Penal Code, as amended, and special laws, as the
Cybercrimes law lacksthe exemption of a provider or notably a plain user of interactive computer case may be.
service from civil liability for child pornography as follows:
Section 6 merely makes commission of existing crimes through the internet a qualifying circumstance. As
No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any the Solicitor General points out, there exists a substantial distinction between crimes committed through
information provided by another information content provider and cannot be held civilly liable for any the use of information and communications technology and similar crimes committed using other
action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or means. In using the technology in question, the offender often evades identification and is able to reach
user considers to be obscene...whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.69 far more victims or cause greater harm. The distinction, therefore, creates a basis for higher penalties for
cybercrimes.
When a person replies to a Tweet containing child pornography, he effectively republishes it whether
wittingly or unwittingly. Does this make him a willing accomplice to the distribution of child Section 7 of the Cybercrime Law
pornography? When a user downloads the Facebook mobile application, the user may give consent to Section 7 provides:
Facebook to access his contact details. In this way, certain information is forwarded to third parties and Sec. 7. Liability under Other Laws. A prosecution under this Act shall be without prejudice to any
unsolicited commercial communication could be disseminated on the basis of this information.70 As the liability for violation of any provision of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, or special laws.
source of this information, is the user aiding the distribution of this communication? The legislature
needs to address this clearly to relieve users of annoying fear of possible criminal prosecution. The Solicitor General points out that Section 7 merely expresses the settled doctrine that a single set of
acts may be prosecuted and penalized simultaneously under two laws, a special law and the Revised
Section 5 with respect to Section 4(c)(4) is unconstitutional. Its vagueness raises apprehension on the Penal Code. When two different laws define two crimes, prior jeopardy as to one does not bar
part of internet users because of its obvious chilling effect on the freedom of expression, especially since prosecution of the other although both offenses arise from the same fact, if each crime involves some
the crime of aiding or abetting ensnares all the actors in the cyberspace front in a fuzzy way. What is important act which is not an essential element of the other.74 With the exception of the crimes of
more, as the petitioners point out, formal crimes such as libel are not punishable unless online libel and online child pornography, the Court would rather leave the determination of the correct
consummated.71 In the absence of legislation tracing the interaction of netizens and their level of application of Section 7 to actual cases.
responsibility such as in other countries, Section 5, in relation to Section 4(c)(4) on Libel, Section 4(c)(3)
on Unsolicited Commercial Communications, and Section 4(c)(2) on Child Pornography, cannot stand Online libel is different. There should be no question that if the published material on print, said to be
scrutiny. libelous, is again posted online or vice versa, that identical material cannot be the subject of two
separate libels. The two offenses, one a violation of Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code and the other
But the crime of aiding or abetting the commission of cybercrimes under Section 5 should be permitted a violation of Section 4(c)(4) of R.A. 10175 involve essentially the same elements and are in fact one and
to apply to Section 4(a)(1) on Illegal Access, Section 4(a)(2) on Illegal Interception, Section 4(a)(3) on Data the same offense. Indeed, the OSG itself claims that online libel under Section 4(c)(4) is not a new crime
Interference, Section 4(a)(4) on System Interference, Section 4(a)(5) on Misuse of Devices, Section but is one already punished under Article 353. Section 4(c)(4) merely establishes the computer system as
4(a)(6) on Cyber-squatting, Section 4(b)(1) on Computer-related Forgery, Section 4(b)(2) on Computer-
another means of publication.75 Charging the offender under both laws would be a blatant violation of
the proscription against double jeopardy.76 The courts should not encroach on this prerogative of the lawmaking body.78

The same is true with child pornography committed online. Section 4(c)(2) merely expands the ACPAs Section 12 of the Cybercrime Law
scope so as to include identical activities in cyberspace. As previously discussed, ACPAs definition of Section 12 provides:
child pornography in fact already covers the use of "electronic, mechanical, digital, optical, magnetic or Sec. 12. Real-Time Collection of Traffic Data. Law enforcement authorities, with due cause, shall be
any other means." Thus, charging the offender under both Section 4(c)(2) and ACPA would likewise be authorized to collect or record by technical or electronic means traffic data in real-time associated with
tantamount to a violation of the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy. specified communications transmitted by means of a computer system.

Section 8 of the Cybercrime Law Traffic data refer only to the communications origin, destination, route, time, date, size, duration, or
Section 8 provides: type of underlying service, but not content, nor identities.
Sec. 8. Penalties. Any person found guilty of any of the punishable acts enumerated in Sections 4(a)
and 4(b) of this Act shall be punished with imprisonment of prision mayor or a fine of at least Two All other data to be collected or seized or disclosed will require a court warrant.
hundred thousand pesos (PhP200,000.00) up to a maximum amount commensurate to the damage
incurred or both. Service providers are required to cooperate and assist law enforcement authorities in the collection or
recording of the above-stated information.
Any person found guilty of the punishable act under Section 4(a)(5) shall be punished with imprisonment
of prision mayor or a fine of not more than Five hundred thousand pesos (PhP500,000.00) or both. The court warrant required under this section shall only be issued or granted upon written application
and the examination under oath or affirmation of the applicant and the witnesses he may produce and
If punishable acts in Section 4(a) are committed against critical infrastructure, the penalty of reclusion the showing: (1) that there are reasonable grounds to believe that any of the crimes enumerated
temporal or a fine of at least Five hundred thousand pesos (PhP500,000.00) up to maximum amount hereinabove has been committed, or is being committed, or is about to be committed; (2) that there are
commensurate to the damage incurred or both, shall be imposed. reasonable grounds to believe that evidence that will be obtained is essential to the conviction of any
person for, or to the solution of, or to the prevention of, any such crimes; and (3) that there are no other
Any person found guilty of any of the punishable acts enumerated in Section 4(c)(1) of this Act shall be means readily available for obtaining such evidence.
punished with imprisonment of prision mayor or a fine of at least Two hundred thousand pesos
(PhP200,000.00) but not exceeding One million pesos (PhP1,000,000.00) or both. Petitioners assail the grant to law enforcement agencies of the power to collect or record traffic data in
real time as tending to curtail civil liberties or provide opportunities for official abuse. They claim that
Any person found guilty of any of the punishable acts enumerated in Section 4(c)(2) of this Act shall be data showing where digital messages come from, what kind they are, and where they are destined need
punished with the penalties as enumerated in Republic Act No. 9775 or the "Anti-Child Pornography Act not be incriminating to their senders or recipients before they are to be protected. Petitioners invoke the
of 2009:" Provided, That the penalty to be imposed shall be one (1) degree higher than that provided for right of every individual to privacy and to be protected from government snooping into the messages or
in Republic Act No. 9775, if committed through a computer system. information that they send to one another.

Any person found guilty of any of the punishable acts enumerated in Section 4(c)(3) shall be punished The first question is whether or not Section 12 has a proper governmental purpose since a law may
with imprisonment of arresto mayor or a fine of at least Fifty thousand pesos (PhP50,000.00) but not require the disclosure of matters normally considered private but then only upon showing that such
exceeding Two hundred fifty thousand pesos (PhP250,000.00) or both. requirement has a rational relation to the purpose of the law,79 that there is a compelling State interest
behind the law, and that the provision itself is narrowly drawn.80 In assessing regulations affecting
Any person found guilty of any of the punishable acts enumerated in Section 5 shall be punished with privacy rights, courts should balance the legitimate concerns of the State against constitutional
imprisonment one (1) degree lower than that of the prescribed penalty for the offense or a fine of at guarantees.81
least One hundred thousand pesos (PhP100,000.00) but not exceeding Five hundred thousand pesos
(PhP500,000.00) or both. Undoubtedly, the State has a compelling interest in enacting the cybercrime law for there is a need to
put order to the tremendous activities in cyberspace for public good.82 To do this, it is within the realm
Section 8 provides for the penalties for the following crimes: Sections 4(a) on Offenses Against the of reason that the government should be able to monitor traffic data to enhance its ability to combat all
Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability of Computer Data and Systems; 4(b) on Computer-related sorts of cybercrimes.
Offenses; 4(a)(5) on Misuse of Devices; when the crime punishable under 4(a) is committed against
critical infrastructure; 4(c)(1) on Cybersex; 4(c)(2) on Child Pornography; 4(c)(3) on Unsolicited Chapter IV of the cybercrime law, of which the collection or recording of traffic data is a part, aims to
Commercial Communications; and Section 5 on Aiding or Abetting, and Attempt in the Commission of provide law enforcement authorities with the power they need for spotting, preventing, and
Cybercrime. investigating crimes committed in cyberspace. Crime-fighting is a state business. Indeed, as Chief Justice
Sereno points out, the Budapest Convention on Cybercrimes requires signatory countries to adopt
The matter of fixing penalties for the commission of crimes is as a rule a legislative prerogative. Here the legislative measures to empower state authorities to collect or record "traffic data, in real time,
legislature prescribed a measure of severe penalties for what it regards as deleterious cybercrimes. They associated with specified communications."83 And this is precisely what Section 12 does. It empowers
appear proportionate to the evil sought to be punished. The power to determine penalties for offenses is law enforcement agencies in this country to collect or record such data.
not diluted or improperly wielded simply because at some prior time the act or omission was but an
element of another offense or might just have been connected with another crime.77 Judges and But is not evidence of yesterdays traffic data, like the scene of the crime after it has been committed,
magistrates can only interpret and apply them and have no authority to modify or revise their range as adequate for fighting cybercrimes and, therefore, real-time data is superfluous for that purpose?
determined by the legislative department. Evidently, it is not. Those who commit the crimes of accessing a computer system without right,84
transmitting viruses,85 lasciviously exhibiting sexual organs or sexual activity for favor or and addresses (residential or office) of the sender and the recipient, only their coded internet protocol
consideration;86 and producing child pornography87 could easily evade detection and prosecution by (IP) addresses. The packets travel from one computer system to another where their contents are pieced
simply moving the physical location of their computers or laptops from day to day. In this digital age, the back together.
wicked can commit cybercrimes from virtually anywhere: from internet cafs, from kindred places that
provide free internet services, and from unregistered mobile internet connectors. Criminals using Section 12 does not permit law enforcement authorities to look into the contents of the messages and
cellphones under pre-paid arrangements and with unregistered SIM cards do not have listed addresses uncover the identities of the sender and the recipient.
and can neither be located nor identified. There are many ways the cyber criminals can quickly erase
their tracks. Those who peddle child pornography could use relays of computers to mislead law For example, when one calls to speak to another through his cellphone, the service providers
enforcement authorities regarding their places of operations. Evidently, it is only real-time traffic data communications system will put his voice message into packets and send them to the other persons
collection or recording and a subsequent recourse to court-issued search and seizure warrant that can cellphone where they are refitted together and heard. The latters spoken reply is sent to the caller in
succeed in ferreting them out. the same way. To be connected by the service provider, the sender reveals his cellphone number to the
service provider when he puts his call through. He also reveals the cellphone number to the person he
Petitioners of course point out that the provisions of Section 12 are too broad and do not provide ample calls. The other ways of communicating electronically follow the same basic pattern.
safeguards against crossing legal boundaries and invading the peoples right to privacy. The concern is
understandable. Indeed, the Court recognizes in Morfe v. Mutuc88 that certain constitutional guarantees In Smith v. Maryland,94 cited by the Solicitor General, the United States Supreme Court reasoned that
work together to create zones of privacy wherein governmental powers may not intrude, and that there telephone users in the 70s must realize that they necessarily convey phone numbers to the telephone
exists an independent constitutional right of privacy. Such right to be left alone has been regarded as the company in order to complete a call. That Court ruled that even if there is an expectation that phone
beginning of all freedoms.89 numbers one dials should remain private, such expectation is not one that society is prepared to
recognize as reasonable.
But that right is not unqualified. In Whalen v. Roe,90 the United States Supreme Court classified privacy
into two categories: decisional privacy and informational privacy. Decisional privacy involves the right to In much the same way, ICT users must know that they cannot communicate or exchange data with one
independence in making certain important decisions, while informational privacy refers to the interest in another over cyberspace except through some service providers to whom they must submit certain
avoiding disclosure of personal matters. It is the latter rightthe right to informational privacythat traffic data that are needed for a successful cyberspace communication. The conveyance of this data
those who oppose government collection or recording of traffic data in real-time seek to protect. takes them out of the private sphere, making the expectation to privacy in regard to them an
expectation that society is not prepared to recognize as reasonable.
Informational privacy has two aspects: the right not to have private information disclosed, and the right
to live freely without surveillance and intrusion.91 In determining whether or not a matter is entitled to The Court, however, agrees with Justices Carpio and Brion that when seemingly random bits of traffic
the right to privacy, this Court has laid down a two-fold test. The first is a subjective test, where one data are gathered in bulk, pooled together, and analyzed, they reveal patterns of activities which can
claiming the right must have an actual or legitimate expectation of privacy over a certain matter. The then be used to create profiles of the persons under surveillance. With enough traffic data, analysts may
second is an objective test, where his or her expectation of privacy must be one society is prepared to be able to determine a persons close associations, religious views, political affiliations, even sexual
accept as objectively reasonable.92 preferences. Such information is likely beyond what the public may expect to be disclosed, and clearly
falls within matters protected by the right to privacy. But has the procedure that Section 12 of the law
Since the validity of the cybercrime law is being challenged, not in relation to its application to a provides been drawn narrowly enough to protect individual rights?
particular person or group, petitioners challenge to Section 12 applies to all information and
communications technology (ICT) users, meaning the large segment of the population who use all sorts Section 12 empowers law enforcement authorities, "with due cause," to collect or record by technical or
of electronic devices to communicate with one another. Consequently, the expectation of privacy is to electronic means traffic data in real-time. Petitioners point out that the phrase "due cause" has no
be measured from the general publics point of view. Without reasonable expectation of privacy, the precedent in law or jurisprudence and that whether there is due cause or not is left to the discretion of
right to it would have no basis in fact. the police. Replying to this, the Solicitor General asserts that Congress is not required to define the
meaning of every word it uses in drafting the law.
As the Solicitor General points out, an ordinary ICT user who courses his communication through a
service provider, must of necessity disclose to the latter, a third person, the traffic data needed for Indeed, courts are able to save vague provisions of law through statutory construction. But the
connecting him to the recipient ICT user. For example, an ICT user who writes a text message intended cybercrime law, dealing with a novel situation, fails to hint at the meaning it intends for the phrase "due
for another ICT user must furnish his service provider with his cellphone number and the cellphone cause." The Solicitor General suggests that "due cause" should mean "just reason or motive" and
number of his recipient, accompanying the message sent. It is this information that creates the traffic "adherence to a lawful procedure." But the Court cannot draw this meaning since Section 12 does not
data. Transmitting communications is akin to putting a letter in an envelope properly addressed, sealing even bother to relate the collection of data to the probable commission of a particular crime. It just says,
it closed, and sending it through the postal service. Those who post letters have no expectations that no "with due cause," thus justifying a general gathering of data. It is akin to the use of a general search
one will read the information appearing outside the envelope. warrant that the Constitution prohibits.

Computer datamessages of all kindstravel across the internet in packets and in a way that may be Due cause is also not descriptive of the purpose for which data collection will be used. Will the law
likened to parcels of letters or things that are sent through the posts. When data is sent from any one enforcement agencies use the traffic data to identify the perpetrator of a cyber attack? Or will it be used
source, the content is broken up into packets and around each of these packets is a wrapper or header. to build up a case against an identified suspect? Can the data be used to prevent cybercrimes from
This header contains the traffic data: information that tells computers where the packet originated, what happening?
kind of data is in the packet (SMS, voice call, video, internet chat messages, email, online browsing data,
etc.), where the packet is going, and how the packet fits together with other packets.93 The difference is The authority that Section 12 gives law enforcement agencies is too sweeping and lacks restraint. While
that traffic data sent through the internet at times across the ocean do not disclose the actual names it says that traffic data collection should not disclose identities or content data, such restraint is but an
illusion. Admittedly, nothing can prevent law enforcement agencies holding these data in their hands of garnishment of personal property in civil forfeiture proceedings. Such order prevents internet users
from looking into the identity of their sender or receiver and what the data contains. This will from accessing and disposing of traffic data that essentially belong to them.
unnecessarily expose the citizenry to leaked information or, worse, to extortion from certain bad
elements in these agencies. No doubt, the contents of materials sent or received through the internet belong to their authors or
recipients and are to be considered private communications. But it is not clear that a service provider has
Section 12, of course, limits the collection of traffic data to those "associated with specified an obligation to indefinitely keep a copy of the same as they pass its system for the benefit of users. By
communications." But this supposed limitation is no limitation at all since, evidently, it is the law virtue of Section 13, however, the law now requires service providers to keep traffic data and subscriber
enforcement agencies that would specify the target communications. The power is virtually limitless, information relating to communication services for at least six months from the date of the transaction
enabling law enforcement authorities to engage in "fishing expedition," choosing whatever specified and those relating to content data for at least six months from receipt of the order for their preservation.
communication they want. This evidently threatens the right of individuals to privacy.
Actually, the user ought to have kept a copy of that data when it crossed his computer if he was so
The Solicitor General points out that Section 12 needs to authorize collection of traffic data "in real time" minded. The service provider has never assumed responsibility for their loss or deletion while in its keep.
because it is not possible to get a court warrant that would authorize the search of what is akin to a
"moving vehicle." But warrantless search is associated with a police officers determination of probable At any rate, as the Solicitor General correctly points out, the data that service providers preserve on
cause that a crime has been committed, that there is no opportunity for getting a warrant, and that orders of law enforcement authorities are not made inaccessible to users by reason of the issuance of
unless the search is immediately carried out, the thing to be searched stands to be removed. These such orders. The process of preserving data will not unduly hamper the normal transmission or use of
preconditions are not provided in Section 12. the same.

The Solicitor General is honest enough to admit that Section 12 provides minimal protection to internet Section 14 of the Cybercrime Law
users and that the procedure envisioned by the law could be better served by providing for more robust Section 14 provides:
safeguards. His bare assurance that law enforcement authorities will not abuse the provisions of Section Sec. 14. Disclosure of Computer Data. Law enforcement authorities, upon securing a court warrant,
12 is of course not enough. The grant of the power to track cyberspace communications in real time and shall issue an order requiring any person or service provider to disclose or submit subscribers
determine their sources and destinations must be narrowly drawn to preclude abuses.95 information, traffic data or relevant data in his/its possession or control within seventy-two (72) hours
from receipt of the order in relation to a valid complaint officially docketed and assigned for
Petitioners also ask that the Court strike down Section 12 for being violative of the void-for-vagueness investigation and the disclosure is necessary and relevant for the purpose of investigation.
doctrine and the overbreadth doctrine. These doctrines however, have been consistently held by this
Court to apply only to free speech cases. But Section 12 on its own neither regulates nor punishes any The process envisioned in Section 14 is being likened to the issuance of a subpoena. Petitioners
type of speech. Therefore, such analysis is unnecessary. objection is that the issuance of subpoenas is a judicial function. But it is well-settled that the power to
issue subpoenas is not exclusively a judicial function. Executive agencies have the power to issue
This Court is mindful that advances in technology allow the government and kindred institutions to subpoena as an adjunct of their investigatory powers.98
monitor individuals and place them under surveillance in ways that have previously been impractical or
even impossible. "All the forces of a technological age x x x operate to narrow the area of privacy and Besides, what Section 14 envisions is merely the enforcement of a duly issued court warrant, a function
facilitate intrusions into it. In modern terms, the capacity to maintain and support this enclave of private usually lodged in the hands of law enforcers to enable them to carry out their executive functions. The
life marks the difference between a democratic and a totalitarian society."96 The Court must ensure that prescribed procedure for disclosure would not constitute an unlawful search or seizure nor would it
laws seeking to take advantage of these technologies be written with specificity and definiteness as to violate the privacy of communications and correspondence. Disclosure can be made only after judicial
ensure respect for the rights that the Constitution guarantees. intervention.

Section 13 of the Cybercrime Law Section 15 of the Cybercrime Law


Section 13 provides: Section 15 provides:
Sec. 13. Preservation of Computer Data. The integrity of traffic data and subscriber information Sec. 15. Search, Seizure and Examination of Computer Data. Where a search and seizure warrant is
relating to communication services provided by a service provider shall be preserved for a minimum properly issued, the law enforcement authorities shall likewise have the following powers and duties.
period of six (6) months from the date of the transaction. Content data shall be similarly preserved for six
(6) months from the date of receipt of the order from law enforcement authorities requiring its Within the time period specified in the warrant, to conduct interception, as defined in this Act, and:
preservation.
(a) To secure a computer system or a computer data storage medium;
Law enforcement authorities may order a one-time extension for another six (6) months: Provided, That (b) To make and retain a copy of those computer data secured;
once computer data preserved, transmitted or stored by a service provider is used as evidence in a case, (c) To maintain the integrity of the relevant stored computer data;
the mere furnishing to such service provider of the transmittal document to the Office of the Prosecutor (d) To conduct forensic analysis or examination of the computer data storage medium; and
shall be deemed a notification to preserve the computer data until the termination of the case. (e) To render inaccessible or remove those computer data in the accessed computer or computer and
communications network.
The service provider ordered to preserve computer data shall keep confidential the order and its
compliance. Pursuant thereof, the law enforcement authorities may order any person who has knowledge about the
functioning of the computer system and the measures to protect and preserve the computer data
Petitioners in G.R. 20339197 claim that Section 13 constitutes an undue deprivation of the right to therein to provide, as is reasonable, the necessary information, to enable the undertaking of the search,
property. They liken the data preservation order that law enforcement authorities are to issue as a form seizure and examination.
The content of the computer data can also constitute speech. In such a case, Section 19 operates as a
Law enforcement authorities may request for an extension of time to complete the examination of the restriction on the freedom of expression over cyberspace. Certainly not all forms of speech are
computer data storage medium and to make a return thereon but in no case for a period longer than protected. Legislature may, within constitutional bounds, declare certain kinds of expression as illegal.
thirty (30) days from date of approval by the court. But for an executive officer to seize content alleged to be unprotected without any judicial warrant, it is
not enough for him to be of the opinion that such content violates some law, for to do so would make
Petitioners challenge Section 15 on the assumption that it will supplant established search and seizure him judge, jury, and executioner all rolled into one.100
procedures. On its face, however, Section 15 merely enumerates the duties of law enforcement
authorities that would ensure the proper collection, preservation, and use of computer system or data Not only does Section 19 preclude any judicial intervention, but it also disregards jurisprudential
that have been seized by virtue of a court warrant. The exercise of these duties do not pose any threat guidelines established to determine the validity of restrictions on speech. Restraints on free speech are
on the rights of the person from whom they were taken. Section 15 does not appear to supersede generally evaluated on one of or a combination of three tests: the dangerous tendency doctrine, the
existing search and seizure rules but merely supplements them. balancing of interest test, and the clear and present danger rule.101 Section 19, however, merely
requires that the data to be blocked be found prima facie in violation of any provision of the cybercrime
Section 17 of the Cybercrime Law law. Taking Section 6 into consideration, this can actually be made to apply in relation to any penal
Section 17 provides: provision. It does not take into consideration any of the three tests mentioned above.
Sec. 17. Destruction of Computer Data. Upon expiration of the periods as provided in Sections 13 and
15, service providers and law enforcement authorities, as the case may be, shall immediately and The Court is therefore compelled to strike down Section 19 for being violative of the constitutional
completely destroy the computer data subject of a preservation and examination. guarantees to freedom of expression and against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Section 17 would have the computer data, previous subject of preservation or examination, destroyed or
deleted upon the lapse of the prescribed period. The Solicitor General justifies this as necessary to clear Section 20 of the Cybercrime Law
up the service providers storage systems and prevent overload. It would also ensure that investigations Section 20 provides:
are quickly concluded. Sec. 20. Noncompliance. Failure to comply with the provisions of Chapter IV hereof specifically the
orders from law enforcement authorities shall be punished as a violation of Presidential Decree No. 1829
Petitioners claim that such destruction of computer data subject of previous preservation or examination with imprisonment of prision correctional in its maximum period or a fine of One hundred thousand
violates the users right against deprivation of property without due process of law. But, as already pesos (Php100,000.00) or both, for each and every noncompliance with an order issued by law
stated, it is unclear that the user has a demandable right to require the service provider to have that enforcement authorities.
copy of the data saved indefinitely for him in its storage system. If he wanted them preserved, he should
have saved them in his computer when he generated the data or received it. He could also request the Petitioners challenge Section 20, alleging that it is a bill of attainder. The argument is that the mere
service provider for a copy before it is deleted. failure to comply constitutes a legislative finding of guilt, without regard to situations where non-
compliance would be reasonable or valid.
Section 19 of the Cybercrime Law
Section 19 empowers the Department of Justice to restrict or block access to computer data: But since the non-compliance would be punished as a violation of Presidential Decree (P.D.) 1829,102
Sec. 19. Restricting or Blocking Access to Computer Data. When a computer data is prima facie found Section 20 necessarily incorporates elements of the offense which are defined therein. If Congress had
to be in violation of the provisions of this Act, the DOJ shall issue an order to restrict or block access to intended for Section 20 to constitute an offense in and of itself, it would not have had to make reference
such computer data. to any other statue or provision.

Petitioners contest Section 19 in that it stifles freedom of expression and violates the right against P.D. 1829 states:
unreasonable searches and seizures. The Solicitor General concedes that this provision may be Section 1. The penalty of prision correccional in its maximum period, or a fine ranging from 1,000 to
unconstitutional. But since laws enjoy a presumption of constitutionality, the Court must satisfy itself 6,000 pesos, or both, shall be imposed upon any person who knowingly or willfully obstructs, impedes,
that Section 19 indeed violates the freedom and right mentioned. frustrates or delays the apprehension of suspects and the investigation and prosecution of criminal cases
by committing any of the following acts:
Computer data99 may refer to entire programs or lines of code, including malware, as well as files that x x x.
contain texts, images, audio, or video recordings. Without having to go into a lengthy discussion of
property rights in the digital space, it is indisputable that computer data, produced or created by their Thus, the act of non-compliance, for it to be punishable, must still be done "knowingly or willfully." There
writers or authors may constitute personal property. Consequently, they are protected from must still be a judicial determination of guilt, during which, as the Solicitor General assumes, defense and
unreasonable searches and seizures, whether while stored in their personal computers or in the service justifications for non-compliance may be raised. Thus, Section 20 is valid insofar as it applies to the
providers systems. provisions of Chapter IV which are not struck down by the Court.

Section 2, Article III of the 1987 Constitution provides that the right to be secure in ones papers and Sections 24 and 26(a) of the Cybercrime Law
effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be Sections 24 and 26(a) provide:
inviolable. Further, it states that no search warrant shall issue except upon probable cause to be Sec. 24. Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center. There is hereby created, within thirty (30)
determined personally by the judge. Here, the Government, in effect, seizes and places the computer days from the effectivity of this Act, an inter-agency body to be known as the Cybercrime Investigation
data under its control and disposition without a warrant. The Department of Justice order cannot and Coordinating Center (CICC), under the administrative supervision of the Office of the President, for
substitute for judicial search warrant. policy coordination among concerned agencies and for the formulation and enforcement of the national
cybersecurity plan.
Sec. 26. Powers and Functions. The CICC shall have the following powers and functions:
(a) To formulate a national cybersecurity plan and extend immediate assistance of real time commission k. Section 15 that authorizes the search, seizure, and examination of computer data under a court-issued
of cybercrime offenses through a computer emergency response team (CERT); x x x. warrant;
l. Section 17 that authorizes the destruction of previously preserved computer data after the expiration
Petitioners mainly contend that Congress invalidly delegated its power when it gave the Cybercrime of the prescribed holding periods;
Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC) the power to formulate a national cybersecurity plan m. Section 20 that penalizes obstruction of justice in relation to cybercrime investigations;
without any sufficient standards or parameters for it to follow. n. Section 24 that establishes a Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC);
o. Section 26(a) that defines the CICCs Powers and Functions; and
In order to determine whether there is undue delegation of legislative power, the Court has adopted two p. Articles 353, 354, 361, and 362 of the Revised Penal Code that penalizes libel.
tests: the completeness test and the sufficient standard test. Under the first test, the law must be
complete in all its terms and conditions when it leaves the legislature such that when it reaches the Further, the Court DECLARES:
delegate, the only thing he will have to do is to enforce it.1avvphi1 The second test mandates adequate 1. Section 4(c)(4) that penalizes online libel as VALID and CONSTITUTIONAL with respect to the original
guidelines or limitations in the law to determine the boundaries of the delegates authority and prevent author of the post; but VOID and UNCONSTITUTIONAL with respect to others who simply receive the
the delegation from running riot.103 post and react to it; and
2. Section 5 that penalizes aiding or abetting and attempt in the commission of cybercrimes as VA L I D
Here, the cybercrime law is complete in itself when it directed the CICC to formulate and implement a and CONSTITUTIONAL only in relation to Section 4(a)(1) on Illegal Access, Section 4(a)(2) on Illegal
national cybersecurity plan. Also, contrary to the position of the petitioners, the law gave sufficient Interception, Section 4(a)(3) on Data Interference, Section 4(a)(4) on System
standards for the CICC to follow when it provided a definition of cybersecurity.
Interference, Section 4(a)(5) on Misuse of Devices, Section 4(a)(6) on Cyber-squatting, Section 4(b)(1) on
Cybersecurity refers to the collection of tools, policies, risk management approaches, actions, training, Computer-related Forgery, Section 4(b)(2) on Computer-related Fraud, Section 4(b)(3) on Computer-
best practices, assurance and technologies that can be used to protect cyber environment and related Identity Theft, and Section 4(c)(1) on Cybersex; but VOID and UNCONSTITUTIONAL with respect
organization and users assets.104 This definition serves as the parameters within which CICC should to Sections 4(c)(2) on Child Pornography, 4(c)(3) on Unsolicited Commercial Communications, and 4(c)(4)
work in formulating the cybersecurity plan. on online Libel.1wphi1

Further, the formulation of the cybersecurity plan is consistent with the policy of the law to "prevent and Lastly, the Court RESOLVES to LEAVE THE DETERMINATION of the correct application of Section 7 that
combat such [cyber] offenses by facilitating their detection, investigation, and prosecution at both the authorizes prosecution of the offender under both the Revised Penal Code and Republic Act 10175 to
domestic and international levels, and by providing arrangements for fast and reliable international actual cases, WITH THE EXCEPTION of the crimes of:
cooperation."105 This policy is clearly adopted in the interest of law and order, which has been
considered as sufficient standard.106 Hence, Sections 24 and 26(a) are likewise valid. 1. Online libel as to which, charging the offender under both Section 4(c)(4) of Republic Act 10175 and
Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code constitutes a violation of the proscription against double jeopardy;
WHEREFORE, the Court DECLARES: as well as
2. Child pornography committed online as to which, charging the offender under both Section 4(c)(2) of
1. VOID for being UNCONSTITUTIONAL: Republic Act 10175 and Republic Act 9775 or the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009 also constitutes a
a. Section 4(c)(3) of Republic Act 10175 that penalizes posting of unsolicited commercial violation of the same proscription, and, in respect to these, is VOID and UNCONSTITUTIONAL.
communications;
b. Section 12 that authorizes the collection or recording of traffic data in real-time; and SO ORDERED.
c. Section 19 of the same Act that authorizes the Department of Justice to restrict or block access to
suspected Computer Data.

2. VALID and CONSTITUTIONAL:


a. Section 4(a)(1) that penalizes accessing a computer system without right;
b. Section 4(a)(3) that penalizes data interference, including transmission of viruses;
c. Section 4(a)(6) that penalizes cyber-squatting or acquiring domain name over the internet in bad faith
to the prejudice of others;
d. Section 4(b)(3) that penalizes identity theft or the use or misuse of identifying information belonging
to another;
e. Section 4(c)(1) that penalizes cybersex or the lascivious exhibition of sexual organs or sexual activity
for favor or consideration;
f. Section 4(c)(2) that penalizes the production of child pornography;
g. Section 6 that imposes penalties one degree higher when crimes defined under the Revised Penal
Code are committed with the use of information and communications technologies;
h. Section 8 that prescribes the penalties for cybercrimes;
i. Section 13 that permits law enforcement authorities to require service providers to preserve traffic
data and subscriber information as well as specified content data for six months;
j. Section 14 that authorizes the disclosure of computer data under a court-issued warrant;