Cyber Libel: Liability for Posting in Social Media

Libel in the Cyberspace Image

In response to developments in technology and the ever-growing use of multiple forms of social media in the Philippines, Congress enacted Republic Act No. 10175, also known as the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

Law Defining Cyber Libel

R.A. 10175 deals with many crimes, including byber libel. Sec. 4(c)(4) of R.A. 10175 states:

“(4) Libel. – The unlawful or prohibited acts of libel as defined in Art. 355 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, committed through a computer system or any other similar means which may be devised in the future.”

On the other hand, Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code, referred to in R.A. 10175, provides:

“Art. 355. Libel means by writings or similar means. — A libel committed by means of writing, printing, lithography, engraving, radio, phonograph, painting, theatrical exhibition, cinematographic exhibition, or 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 offended party.”

Culled from these provisions are the following elements of Cyberlibel, as punished under Section 4(c)(4) of R.A. 10175 in relation to Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code:

a. There must be an imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstance.

b. The imputation must be made publicly.

c. The imputation must be malicious.

d. The imputation must be directed at a natural or juridical person, or one who is dead.

e. The imputation must tend to cause the dishonor, discredit or contempt of the person defamed. (Reyes, Luis B., Revised Penal Code, Fifteenth Edition, 2001, page 932.)

f. The imputation was done through the use of a computer system or any other similar means. (Sec. 4(c)(4) of R.A. 10175)

Malice is present when it is shown that the author of the libelous remarks made such remarks with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard as to the truth or falsity thereof. (Yuchengco vs. The Manila Chronicle Publishing Corporation, G.R. No. 184315, 25 November 2009)

Also, even if the name of the person is not indicated in the post, the owner of the post is still liable so long as the other persons who read the libelous post can identify the person alluded to. Thus, in the case of Philippine Journalists’ vs Thoenen (G.R. No. 143372, 13 December 2005), the Supreme Court ruled that the element of identifiability is met if it is shown that at least a third person or a stranger was able to identify him as the object of the defamatory statement.

On the matter of freedom of speech, the Supreme Court held that the public interest involved in freedom of speech and the individual interest in the maintenance of private honor and reputation need to be accommodated one to the other. In the balancing of these interests, the law prohibits the reckless disregard of private reputation by publishing or circulating defamatory statements without any bona fide effort to ascertain the truth thereof. (Erwin Tulfo vs. People of the Philippines and Atty. Carlos T. So, G.R. No. 161032, 16 September 2008.)

Freedom of Speech abnd Punishment for Cyber Libel

A violation of R.A. 10175, particularly Sec. 4(c)(4) of R.A. 10175 (Cyberlibel) can result, not only in the filing of a criminal complaint, but also a civil complaint for damages.

Article 2219, paragraph (7) of the Civil Code allows the recovery of moral damages in case of libel, slander or any other form of defamation. This provision of law establishes the right of an offended party in a case for oral defamation to recover from the guilty party damages for injury to his feelings and reputation. The offended party is likewise allowed to recover punitive or exemplary damages. (Occena vs. Icamina, G.R. No. 82146, 22 January 1990)

About Nicolas and De Vega Law Offices

If you need assistance in cybercrimecivil or other criminal law-related issues,  we can help you. Nicolas and de Vega Law Offices is a full-service law firm in the Philippines.  You may visit us at the 16th Flr., Suite 1607 AIC Burgundy Empire Tower, ADB Ave., Ortigas Center, 1605 Pasig City, Metro Manila, Philippines.  You may also call us at +632 84706126, +632 84706130, +632 84016392 or e-mail us at [email protected]. Visit our website