What you need to know about online libel




Think Before You Click

On a Sunday afternoon, you received a text message from your close friend that a certain Ms. Madona (fictional character), posted on facebook, your dispute regarding a land owned by your grandparents. 

On that same post she mentioned that you are “malandi” “ambisyosa” and “mata pobre”, and that “kailangan mo ng pumunta ng espesyalista para sa nunal mo sa ilong”, and that, her family was aggrieved because you send them letters to vacate the property.

Your close friend is certain that the post is referring to you because Ms. Madona mentioned about the description of you and your recent feud about the land. You feeling betrayed and violated, you ask a lawyer, whether or not Ms. Madona can be prosecuted under any law.

It took years for the Congress to finally pass such law, and the Supreme Court reviewed and upheld its validity and struck down other provisions as unconstitutional.   What makes it different from the libel under the Revised Penal Code (RPC) is the mode of committing such a crime?   There is none, except for the fact that the penalty is higher than the libel punished under the Revised Penal Code (RPC).  




What is libel?  

Libel is a crime that is punished under the Revised Penal Code. The Revised Penal Code penalizing libel has been effective since January 1, 1932, therefore, libel is not a new crime.  


What is Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012?  

Because laws are dynamic and must conform and address to the needs of modernized societies, where more people are adept in social media and other online platforms, a law punishing online libel was passed: Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.


So how is libel committed?

Some important features of libel under the Revised Penal Code are that (a) Libel is a public and malicious imputation of a crime, vice, defect, etc. and (b) It is a crime committed by means of writing.

To prosecute a crime under the Revised Penal Code, all the necessary ingredients of the crime must be proven.

The following are:

(1) There must be a malicious imputation of a crime, vice, defect, or an act or omission, condition, status or circumstance, tending to cause the dishonor, discredit or contempt to a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of the one who is dead. [1]

(2) Libel may be committed by means of writing. [2]

(3) Must be done in public. This means that someone (3rd person), other than the victim (private offended party) was able to read or see or know regarding the libelous material.

(4) Identity of the victim. This means that the victim must be identified as the subject of the libelous matter, that his reputation is the one targeted.


So what were provided under the Cybercrime Prevention Act (R.A. 10175)?

This law makes libel as defined in Sec. 4(c)(4) as punishable by one degree higher than that what is provided under the Revised Penal Code. [3] Libel is one of the content-related offenses that is committed through use of computer or other similar means (law foreseeing the possible inventions related to computers). [4]

Therefore, when you post libelous statements on facebook, and all the necessary ingredients of libel are present, you may be prosecuted  under the CYBERCRIME PREVENTION ACT, imposing a HIGHER PENALTY. 

In other words, libel is penalized under the Revised Penal Code, but, when libel is committed online, then the perpetrator suffers a higher penalty. 

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