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There are several blogs on the net setup for the sole purpose of defaming other expats. I wont give their URLs or names. I don’t wish to promote those in any way. I got mentioned on one of them. More than a year ago, I had a group of expats show up on my site posting comments about an individual from Cagayan de Oro (CDO). I don’t know the man under attack. Because I allowed the guy to post a reply to those comments it was implied that I was supporting him.
I finally decided I didn’t want that kind of stuff on my website. So I deleted every comment about it. Those guys can go feud some place else. I’m not interested in the expat wars that go on here. I want to do my thing, present the world the way I see it. To respond to reasonable civil criticism and even be nice when I do it. Though when you’re a near perfect as I am, criticism is hard to take.
I don’t know the man, I don’t believe allegations made on the web and especially not those of the man that owns that website. They look like the rantings of a madman to me. I just don’t understand how anyone could go on and on about the things he does. I don’t see how anyone can even read it. It is a mess.
But these laws apply to all of us and one should keep them in mind, especially bloggers. One government agency has been involved in charging a blogger for saying it left food to rot in a warehouse. I think it was the Department of Health (DOH) but I’m not certain of that. Court proceedings have started but as of the last articles I read on the subject the accused didn’t show up.
One could quite unintentional find themselves before a court. So, think before you attack or say something negative about a person that can be identified in your article or speech.
Now I’m not a lawyer and nothing I say should be considered legal advice. I don’t fully understand this law so relaying on me alone wouldn’t be wise.
Basically though, the truth is not always a defense. In US law, libel and slander cases are often lost because the injured party cannot prove there was malice. Under Philippines law, malice is presumed with some exceptions. It is up to the accused to overcome that presumption.
The following court case shows the four elements of libel in the Philippines:
Under Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines, libel is defined as a public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status or circumstance tending to discredit or cause the dishonor or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead. Thus, the elements of libel are: (a) imputation of a discreditable act or condition to another; (b) publication of the imputation; (c) identity of the person defamed; and, (d) existence of malice. [Daez v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 47971, 31 October 1990, 191 SCRA 61, 67]
And here is that good old common sense I so often notice in the Philippine legal system. You don’t have to come right out and say it. You can instead make an implication, a suggestion that will discredit someone. Does that mean in the Philippines, a parody could be a defense. Falwell sued Hustler and lost the case because Hustler was able to convince the court that their story was parody. The story was about Falwell’s mother and it was not true, but it was certainly vile. I’m uncertain but I think in the Philippines if it looks like a real story and identifies someone, a parody would not be a defense.
I found a source that I believe was written by a Filipino law professor that will shed some light on this topic. Part of what he said is quoted below:
“Words calculated to induce suspicion are sometimes more effective to destroy reputation than false charges directly made. Ironical and metaphorical language is a favored vehicle for slander. A charge is sufficient if the words are calculated to induce the hearers to suppose and understand that the person or persons against whom they were uttered were guilty of certain offenses, or are sufficient to impeach their honesty, virtue, or reputation, or to hold the person or persons up to public ridicule. . . . ” [Lacsa v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 161 SCRA 427 (1988) citing U.S. v. O’Connell, 37 Phil. 767 (1918)]
As I was researching this issue, I wondered how can a press even function if the truth is not a defense. Then I found the answer. Like many things in the law, intent is everything. If one is trying to serve some public good, like the reporting of a crime, I think it would be easy to show good intentions.
One defense is that the words that defamed an individual were created with good intentions and not with the intent to cause harm to an individual. But since malice is usually presumed it is up to the defendant to show that. Again, I don’t know but I suspect this the most common defense. The good intent defense must also prove that the defamatory incident is true.
The truth is not necessarily a defense. The accused must show that it is both true and that it was published with good intent not just to harm the person that was defamed. However, this only applies to the allegation of a crime being committed. Where defamation has occurred because of say a vice, then the truth is not a defense.
It is important to remember that any of the imputations covered by Article 353 is defamatory and, under the general rule laid down in Article 354, 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. There is malice when the author of the imputation is prompted by personal ill-will or spite and speaks not in response to duty but merely to injure the reputation of the person who claims to have been defamed. Truth then is not a defense, unless it is shown that the matter charged as libelous was made with good motives and for justifiable ends.
Bloggers should be careful of what they say. I personally am getting tired of what has become trite in my eyes of bashing the politically correct. I’m even more tired of it by anonymous people. You’re foolish not to be legally correct.
Also, if you’re a blogger and you get a take down request by someone that feels injured, I think you’d be wise to swallow your pride and take it down. Of course, that depends on the situation and it depends on if you have the money to defend yourself and are willing to part with that money.
One final thing, this is not just a civil matter in the Philippines. Under Philippine Law, libel is defined in Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code. You can go too jail for libel and slander in the Philippines. If you’re visiting or living in the Philippines, you are subject to Philippine law.
Download Article 353 of Revised Penal Code. (Right click and choose save as to download.)
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