Libel Law under Revised Penal Code is unconstitutional, too



Libel Law under Revised Penal Code
is unconstitutional, too


By BERTENI "TOTO" CATALUÑA CAUSING
Author, Simplified Libel Law in the Philippines


However, in view of the fact that it has been raised by petitioner L. Harry Roque that the present libel law is unconstitutional, the instant petitioners seek leave of court to expound on this and admit the same as part of the memorandum of ALAM, ET AL.

ALAM, ET AL are fully supporting the arguments of petitioner Roque that the Libel Law as defined in the Revised Penal Code is unconstitutional.

To the mind of ALAM, ET AL, libel law under the Revised Penal Code is unconstitutional because jurisprudence is now well-entrenched in defining Actual Malice as founded on the falsity of the imputation.

To be clear, Actual Malice is defined as knowingly publishing a defamatory false imputation or publishing a defamatory imputation with reckless disregard of the falsity thereof.

This means that no matter the existence of hatred, motive of vengeance, ill will, specks and spites, there will never be malice if it is proven that the defamatory imputation is after all true.

It will be totally inconsistent to say there was malice when a defamatory imputation is after all true.

And it will also be revolting to logic if we base actual malice determination on the finding of falsity then do another standard of giving presumed malice based on ill motives.

As stated above, there is no actual malice if the defamatory imputation concerned is proven true even if the accused had motives of vengeance or envy or gain against the subject matter of the imputation.

As such, this Actual Malice doctrine has destroyed completely Article 354 of the Revised Penal Code.

Article 354 states that every defamatory imputation, even if true, is presumed malicious and that it can be exempt from this presumption only by an existence of Good Intention and Justifiable Motives (GIJUMO), or the existence of legal, social and moral duty in private communications, or that the matter is a true report that has no remarks or comments or opinions and the report is about what happened in an official proceeding.

To make it clear, let Art. 354 be quoted:

Art. 354. Requirement for 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:
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.

If the measure of existence of Actual Malice is founded on falsity of a defamatory imputation at issue, it is immaterial whether there was or there was no good intention and justifiable motive.  And if the defamatory imputation is true, then it is not libel even if there is no good intention and justifiable motive.

In the same vein, if the defamatory imputation is true it does not become libellous just because there was no legal, social and moral duty that can be seen in making that private communication.

Also, if the imputation is true it does not matter that the true report happened to have been annotated with opinions or was made as the bases of inferred remarks.

Now, it is dare said that if actual malice is founded on falsity, it means that presumed malice must also be founded on presumed falsity of the imputation.

As shown above, it is very clear that Article 354 of the RPC is totally inconsistent with the Actual Malice doctrine.

Now, it is argued that Article 354 is the heart and soul of all provisions of the libel law in the RPC.  If the heart and soul is null, it follows that the other parts of the whole body of libel is also null.

Then, it is a doctrine that what the Supreme Court has said in a case forms part of the law of the land, even if it runs counter to the express provision of a law.  It is because, even without express declaration of nullity of a provision in a law, the ruling in that case constitutes an act of interpretation that is the official function of the Highest Tribunal and that any provision that is inconsistent with the ruling is deemed voided.

Many cases of libel have been decided by the Supreme Court applying the Actual Malice Doctrine, among the last of which is Guingging vs Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 128959, September 30, 2005.

Therefore, except for Article 360 that merely defines venue of the trial, Libel Law defined in the Revised Penal Code, from Article 353 to Article 362, is unconstitutional.
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