L. Crimes against honor

Atty. Jericho Del Puerto

Atty. Jericho Del Puerto

Lawyer, Author, Mentor

Frequency: ★★★★★

GENERAL PROVISIONS

1) 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. (Article 360, Act No. 3815, Revised Penal Code)

The author or editor of a book or pamphlet, or the editor or business manager of a daily newspaper, magazine or serial publication, shall be responsible for the defamations contained therein to the same extent as if he were the author thereof. (Parargaph 2, Article 360, Ibid.)

2) Venue for criminal and civil actions

The criminal and civil action for damages in cases of written defamations, shall be filed simultaneously or separately with the court of first instance of the province or city where the libelous article is printed and first published or where any of the offended parties actually resides at the time of the commission of the offense: Provided, however, That where one of the offended parties is a public officer whose office is in the City of Manila at the time of the commission of the offense, the action shall be filed in the Court of First Instance of the City of Manila, or of the city or province where the libelous article is printed and first published, and in case such public officer does not hold office in the City of Manila, the action shall be filed in the Court of First Instance of the province or city where he held office at the time of the commission of the offense or where the libelous article is printed and first published and in case one of the offended parties is a private individual, the action shall be filed in the Court of First Instance of the province or city where he actually resides at the time of the commission of the offense or where the libelous matter is printed and first published: Provided, further, That the civil action shall be filed in the same court where the criminal action is filed and vice versa: Provided, furthermore, That the court where the criminal action or civil action for damages is first filed, shall acquire jurisdiction to the exclusion of other courts: And, provided, finally, That this amendment shall not apply to cases of written defamations, the civil and/or criminal actions which have been filed in court at the time of the effectivity of this law. (Parargaph 3, Article 360, Ibid.)

3) Preliminary investigation

Preliminary investigation of criminal action for written defamations as provided for in the chapter shall be conducted by the provincial or city fiscal of the province or city, or by the municipal court of the city or capital of the province where such action may be instituted in accordance with the provisions of this article. (Parargaph 4, Article 360, Ibid.)

4) Private complainant

No criminal action for defamation which consists in the imputation of a crime which cannot be prosecuted de oficio shall be brought except at the instance of and upon complaint expressly filed by the offended party. (Last, Parargaph , Article 360, Ibid.)

5) Proof of the truth

In every criminal prosecution for libel, the truth may be given in evidence to the court and if it appears that the matter charged as libelous is true, and, moreover, that it was published with good motives and for justifiable ends, the defendants shall be acquitted. (Article 361, Ibid.)

Proof of the truth of an imputation of an act or omission not constituting a crime shall not be admitted, unless the imputation shall have been made against Government employees with respect to facts related to the discharge of their official duties. (Parargaph 2, Article 361, Ibid.)

In such cases if the defendant proves the truth of the imputation made by him, he shall be acquitted. (Last Parargaph, Article 361, Ibid.)

6) Libelous remarks

Libelous remarks or comments connected with the matter privileged under the provisions of Article 354, if made with malice, shall not exempt the author thereof nor the editor or managing editor of a newspaper from criminal liability. (Article 362, Ibid.)

1. Libel

LIBEL: A libel is public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead. (Article 353, Act No. 3815, Revised Penal Code)

ELEMENTS:

1) It must be defamatory;

2) It must be malicious;

3) It must be given publicity; and,

4) The victim must be identifiable. (Diaz v. People, G.R. No. 159787, 25 May 2007)

DEFAMATORY: In determining whether a statement is defamatory, the words used are to be construed in their entirety and should be taken in their plain, natural, and ordinary meaning as they would naturally be understood by the persons reading them, unless it appears that they were used and understood in another sense. (Ibid.)

MALICE: If on its face the article is defamatory, there is a presumption that the offender acted with malice. In Article 354 of the same Code, 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. (Ibid.)

PUBLICATION; GENERAL RULE: Libel is published not only when it is widely circulated, but also when it is made known or brought to the attention or notice of another person other than its author and the offended party. (Yuchengco v. The Manila Chronicle Publishing Corporation, G.R. No. 184315, 25 November 2009)

PUBLICATION; GENERAL RULE; EXCEPTION: …except in the following cases:

1) A private communication made by any person to another in the performance of any legal, moral or social duty; and,

2) A fair and true report, made in good faith, without any comments or remarks, of any judicial, 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 of their functions. (Ibid.)

VICTIM IS IDENTIFIABLE: In order to maintain a libel suit, it is essential that the victim be identifiable, although it is not necessary that the person be named. It is enough if by intrinsic reference the allusion is apparent or if the publication contains matters of description or reference to facts and circumstances from which others reading the article may know the person alluded to, or if the latter is pointed out by extraneous circumstances so that those knowing such person could and did understand that he was the person referred to. This requirement is complied with where a third person recognized or could identify the party vilified in the article. (Diaz v. People, supra.)

2. Simple slander/oral defamation

ELEMENTS:

1) There must be an imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, status or circumstances;

2) Made orally;

3) Publicly;

4) And maliciously;

5) Directed to a natural or juridical person, or one who is dead;

6) Which tends to cause dishonor, discredit or contempt of the person defamed. (De Leon v. People, G.R. No. 212623, 11 January 2016)

SIMPLE/GRAVE: Oral defamation may either be simple or grave. It becomes grave when it is of a serious and insulting nature. (Ibid.)

DEFAMATORY: An allegation is considered defamatory if it ascribes to a person the commission of a crime, the possession of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstance which tends to dishonor or discredit or put him in contempt or which tends to blacken the memory of one who is dead. (Urmaza v. Rojas, G.R. No. 240012, 22 January 2020)

3. Grave slander/oral defamation

ELEMENTS:

1) There must be an imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, status or circumstances – which is of a serious and insulting nature;

2) Made orally;

3) Publicly;

4) And maliciously;

5) Directed to a natural or juridical person, or one who is dead;

6) Which tends to cause dishonor, discredit or contempt of the person defamed. (De Leon v. People, G.R. No. 212623, 11 January 2016)

GRAVITY OF ORAL DEFAMATION: There is grave slander when it is of a serious and insulting nature. The gravity of the oral defamation depends not only (1) upon the expressions used, but also (2) on the personal relations of the accused and the offended party, and (3) the circumstances surrounding the case. Indeed, it is a doctrine of ancient respectability that defamatory words will fall under one or the other, depending not only upon their sense, grammatical significance, and accepted ordinary meaning judging them separately, but also upon the special circumstances of the case, antecedents or relationship between the offended party and the offender, which might tend to prove the intention of the offender at the time. (Villanueva v. People, G.R. No. 160351, 10 April 2006)

SOCIAL STANDING: The social standing and position of the offended party are also taken into account and thus, it was held that the slander was grave, because the offended party had held previously the Office of Congressman, Governor, and Senator and was then a candidate for Vice-President, for which no amount of sophistry would take the statement out of the compass of grave oral defamation. (Ibid.)

HEAT OF ANGER: Uttering defamatory words in the heat of anger, with some provocation on the part of the offended party constitutes only a light felony. (Ibid.)

3. Slander by deed

ELEMENTS:

1) That the offender performs any act not included in any other crime against honor;

2) That such act is performed in the presence of other person or persons; and,

3) That such act casts dishonor, discredit or contempt upon the offended party. (Ibid.)

CIRCUMSTANCES: Whether a certain slanderous act constitutes slander by deed of a serious nature or not, depends on the social standing of the offended party, the circumstances under which the act was committed, the occasion, etc. It is libel committed by actions rather than words. The most common examples are slapping someone or spitting on his/her face in front of the public market, in full view of a crowd, thus casting dishonor, discredit, and contempt upon the person of another. (Ibid.)

4. Incriminating Innocent Person

ELEMENTS:

1) The offender performs an act;

2) By such act he directly incriminates or imputes to an innocent person the commission of a crime; and,

3) Such act does not constitute perjury. (Campanano, Jr. v. Datuin, G.R. No. 172142, 17 October 2007)

5. Intriguing Against Honor

ELEMENTS:

1) The offender causes any intrigue; and,

2) It is for its principal purpose to blemish the honor or reputation of a person. (Article 364, Act No. 3815, Revised Penal Code)

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