Saturday, October 4, 2014

Prosecution's failure to prove that facts used are false: No libel

Prosecution's failure to prove that
facts used are false: No libel


Claudio Daquer Jr. (left) and his counsel Atty. Berteni "Toto" Cataluña Causing juxtaposed against an image of Underground River of Puerto Princesa.


IF the prosecution failed to prove that the facts used by the writer in making scathing opinions, the writer cannot be convicted of libel.

This is the gist of the final arguments I wrote in the Memorandum I submitted to the Supreme Court in compliance with its order in giving due course to the petition of Alab ng Mamamahayag (ALAM) and Hukuman ng Mamamayan Movement, Inc. (HMMI) on behalf of Puerto Princesa City newsman columnist Claudio Daquer Jr.

Daquer was convicted by the RTC there because he wrote in his column "Nitpicks" that the city sports official, Anrie Grande, was "kuto na nais maging kalabaw," "mokong", "gago" and "ahas."

The Statement of the Case I wrote in the memorandum sums up the facts and the question of whether or not Daquer committed libel.

I am blogging this not for the purpose of influencing the Supreme Court.  In fact, no amount of publication can influence the thinking of the men and women of robe regarded as the finest jurists in the country.  I am blogging this because I want the public to be educated about libel and because this is a public interest.

In the Statement of the Case, I wrote the following:


          The instant action is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court raising only questions of laws, the most important of which is whether or not the Court of Appeals was correct in applying the “reckless malice test” to rule that the accused-petitioner is guilty because he failed to cross-check his facts serving as the basis of his opinions despite the fact that the prosecution failed to submit proof that the facts were false.


            In the attempt to make it clear, let the main thrust of this petition be restated.   Was it legally correct for the CA to conclude that the accused-petitioner is guilty upon the following established ultimate facts:


1.     The petitioner wrote and caused to be published two articles of his opinion column entitled “NIT PICKS” in a local weekly newspaper in Puerto Princesa;


2.     In those two opinion articles, the petitioner concluded that the offended party, Puerto Princesa City sports official of Anrie Grande, was a “kuto na nais maging kalabaw”, “mokong”, “gago” and “ahas”;


3.     The facts which the accused-petitioner presented in that two opinion articles that from which the accused-petitioner inferred these opinions are as follows:


                                                                          i.      that Grande bullied Vice-Mayor Vicky de Guzman, Councilor Al Go and used the local press club to try to wrest the top role or control in sports affairs in the city;

                                                                        ii.      that Grande boasted he held the local media by the neck;

                                                                      iii.      that Grande wanted to dictate who to vote in a press club election;

                                                                      iv.      that Grande wanted to be a “regular” member of the local press club and not just as an “associate” member;

                                                                        v.      that Grande projected himself to show that all what he was doing had the blessings of then mayor Edward S. Hagedorn, etc;


4.     During the trial at the RTC of Palawan and Puerto Princesa, Branch 47, Mr. Grande did not deny these facts used by the accused as borne by the Decision of the RTC a quo;


5.     Mr. Grande did not present any document or any other form of evidence to disprove the facts written by the accused-petitioner in those two opinion articles;


6.     During the defense turn, the accused-petitioner testified that he attempted to reach out to Mr. Grande to take the latter’s side on the facts and issues yet to be written by the accused-petitioner but Mr. Grande avoided his efforts and ducked away from him; and

7.     Mr. Grande and the prosecution did not present rebuttal evidence and the trial of these two libel cases were submitted for decision.

The RTC a quo convicted the accused-petitioner as guilty on two counts of libel, upon the conclusion that he failed to cross-check the facts he used in making those opinions that Mr. Grande was “kuto na nais na maging kalabaw,” “mokong”, “gago” and “ahas.”


Further, the RTC a quo used the second opinion article as basis in concluding that the accused-petitioner had malice against.  This second opinion article is actually the basis of the second libel case.  So that it is again a question of law whether it was correct for the RTC a quo to use the second libel case as basis to find the accused-petitioner guilty in the first libel case.  Both libel cases were tried jointly.



The Court of Appeals upheld all the rulings of the RTC a quo.


From these premises, I argued that there was no libel because the opinions "kuto na nais na maging kalabaw," "mokong", "gago" and "ahas" were fair as inferred from the facts used by writer Claudio Daquer Jr. and that the facts he used were not proved as false by the prosecution.

I also argued that the "reckless malice test" cannot apply in this case but the "falsity malice test."

I defined "reckless malice test" as a state where the writer published a damaging imputation with reckless disregard of the truth or falsity of that imputation, as when the imputation presents itself as something that is unbelievable on its face yet the writer did not verify whether this imputation was false or true.

I defined "falsity malice test" as a state where the writer knew of the falsity of the damaging imputation yet he proceeded in publishing the same.

 In the instant case, the facts used by the writer as narrated in the Statement of the Case were not disproved because the prosecution failed to present evidence showing they were false.  So that I argued that if they were not proved as false, then it is reasonable that these facts are presumed as true.

And if the writer, Daquer, based his opinions of "kuto", "mokong", "gago" and "ahas" on these facts presumed as true, then there is no libel as commanded by the Doctrine of Fair Comments established by the Supreme Court of the Philippines in the case of "Arturo Borjal vs Court of Appeals, et al," GR No. 126466, promulgated on January 14, 1999.  

Should the reader wish to read in full the arguments I wrote under the sub-head "The Discussion", it is posted below:


           In sum, the Court of Appeals erred in applying the Actual Malice law.  Instead of using the “falsity malice test”, the Court of Appeals used the “reckless malice test.”


            Before proceeding, let it be pointed out that there is no dispute that the subject matters of the instant libel cases are the two opinion columns of the petitioner.


            There is also no dispute that the petitioner made opinions about the offended party that the latter is called by the former as “kuto”, “mokong”, “gago” and “ahas.”


            There is also no dispute that the petitioner made these opinions as his conclusions from the facts he presented in the two opinion articles.


            There is also no dispute that the Decision of the RTC a quo does not state that the offended party or the prosecution did not deny the facts written by the petitioner in his two opinion articles, which facts were used by the petitioner as the bases of his scathing opinions of the offended party.


            So that it is incorrect for the Court of Appeals to state that Mr. Grande “categorically denied” the facts written in those two opinion articles.


            Nevertheless, what is important is that the prosecution did not submit any documentary or object evidence to disprove the facts written and used by the petitioner in arriving at his scathing opinions of the offended party.


            So that the general arguments of the petitioner for his acquittal in this case are as follows:


1.     It is the doctrine of Fair Comments Law enunciated in Borjal vs Court of Appeals, Borjal vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 126466, January 14, 1999, that applies in this case;


2.     It is the prosecution that had the burden of proving that the facts written and used by the petitioner in his two column articles;


3.     The “falsity malice test” must be the one that should be used in gauging whether there was actual malice on the part of the petitioner, and not the “reckless malice test” used by the Court of Appeals; and


4.     If the “falsity malice test” was used, the finding of the CA should be there was no actual malice on the part of the petitioner and hence he should be acquitted.
           

Before proceeding furhter, let the pertinent ruling of Borjal be quoted here, to wit:

To reiterate, fair commentaries on matters of public interest are privileged and constitute a valid defense in an action for libel or slander.  The doctrine of fair comment means that while in general every discreditable imputation publicly made is deemed false, because every man is presumed innocent until his guilt is judicially proved, and every false imputation is deemed malicious, nevertheless, when the discreditable imputation is directed against a public person in his public capacity, it is not necessarily actionable.   In order that such discreditable imputation to a public official may be actionable, it must either be a false allegation of fact or a comment based on a false supposition.   If the comment is an expression of opinion, based on established facts, then it is immaterial that the opinion happens to be mistaken, as long as it might reasonably be inferred from the facts.
XXX                                    XXX                                    XXX
But even assuming ex-gratia argumenti that private respondent, despite the position he occupied in the FNCLT, would not qualify as a public figure, it does not necessarily follow that he could not validly be the subject of a public comment even if he was not a public official or at least a public figure, for he could be, as long as he was involved in a public issue.    If a matter is a subject of public or general interest, it cannot suddenly become less so merely because a private individual is involved or because in some sense the individual did not voluntarily choose to become involved.   The public’s primary interest is in the event; the public focus is on the conduct of the participant and the content, effect and significance of the conduct, not the participant's prior anonymity or notoriety.


            Now, it is established that the published facts were neither challenged nor denied by the offended party.  So that these are now reasonable to be presumed as true.  


More specifically, the facts of bullying of other officials, particularly Vice-Mayor Vicky De Guzman and Councilor Al Go as recited by the petitioner in his columns as having been committed by the offended party was neither challenged nor denied.   There was also no evidence submitted to disprove these.

           
The petitioner also wrote in his columns that the offended party was claiming to have the blessings of then Mayor Edward Hagedorn, that the offended party boasted that he held the local media by the neck, that the offended party was an “associate” member of the local press club who wanted to be a “regular” member but not qualified, that the offended party tried to dictate the press members as to who should be chosen as the club officers, that the offended party tried to hide under the skirt of the local media club, etc.  THESE were not denied by the offended party and not one documentary or object evidence was submitted to disprove these facts written by the petitioner.


So that it is now reasonable to conclude that all these facts narrated by the petitioner in his opinion column articles are true.


Also, the offended party admitted that he was the sports director of the City of Puerto Princesa.


            It is also reasonable to conclude that all the matters discussed by the petitioner were for public interest in the City of Puerto Princesa.


            There is also no dispute that the ascriptions of “kuto”, “gago”, “mokong” and “ahas” are all opinions of the petitioner in so far as the offended party is concerned.


            And there is also no dispute that these ascriptions are not unreasonable based on the facts used by the petitioner.


            There is therefore no doubt that the instant cases must fall under the ambit of the Fair Comments Law established by Borjal.


            In other words, these opinions are ones merely expressed by the use semantics.


            Anyway, if the semantics were only written in English, he might not felt damage to his person.  But they were written in Tagalog that can be understood and interpreted by an elementary grader, and this won the purpose of the appellant that his writing can be consumed by the public, by the young and old, for it was of public interest, for public information and for public good.


              The opinion articles were written clearly depicting a noble purpose to inform the public that there existed a public official who acted abusively in the performance of his official functions, and these abusive acts are clealy understood as if seen by two naked eyes when they were written by the use of semantics, and that public official should be removed from the City Hall if he refused to change his negative ways.


            In fact, with pure purpose to balance the information gathered by the appellant, he sought the presence of the plaintiff and asked him for clarification, but he maintained his silence, likely admitting that it was true that he bullied other officials of the city and that he let them feel that his actions were with the blessing of Hagedorn.  This was neither denied nor rebutted by the offended party. 


It is stressed that the offended party did not deny or rebut this claim of the petitioner that he sought out the offended party and that the offended party just kept silent on the issues.


            With this, can the offended party now blame the petitioner who preferred the use of sematics to draw in crystal clear an insect who wanted to be an animal with horns but likely hiding behind hairs with his silence?


            He cannot be blamed.


            It is a hornbook rule in journalism that a news article should be written for the reading public to best inform them, that the use of the words can be clearly understood by them.   The same is true in the writing of opinions. 


Here, the petitioner expressed the best form of expression for the understanding of the reading public by the use of semantics that indeed caught the ego of the offended party.


            It is the offended party who cried libel against the petitioner because what were written were allegedly unverified information. 


But how can these pieces of information be verified from the offended party when he refused to answer questions asked of him by the petitioner?


            It was unfair for the offended party!


            It is disgusting to rule that the published articles were made with malice when in the first place the side of the plaintiff was sought by the appellant before the publication of the alleged libelous articles.


            Indeed, there was no malice when the wisdom of the plaintiff was sought before the articles were written and published, but he refused.


            Further, there was no malice in the writings of the appellant as what were published were based on facts and and the comments were fairly inferred from those facts.
 

            In qualifiedly claiming the doctrine of fair comments and privileged communication, it should be understood by its application as established by Borjal vs. Court of Appeals.


            For the fair comments doctrine to apply, the writing should be: (1) based on facts serving as premises of the inferences or opinions or comments that are reasonably true at the time of the publication even if the stated facts turned out false later;  (2) the opinions or comments were fairly inferred from these facts; and (3) the matters involved are of public interest.  It does not matter if the libel complainant were a private person.


Now, let it begin from the hornbook rule that it is the prosecution that has the burden of proof in every criminal proceeding.   Only after the prosecution has discharged its duties that the accused has the obligation to present counter-evidence.


So that if the prosecution in these cases did not submit any proof that the facts used by the petitioner were false, then there should be no obligation on the part of the petitioner to prove that the facts he wrote were true.


But what happened in these cases was that the RTC a quo and the Court of Appeals wanted the petitioner to prove the truth of the facts he wrote.


In effect, the Court of Appeals and the RTC a quo REVERSED the order of presentation of proofs in this criminal proceeding.  So that these lower courts wanted now the petitioner to present proofs that he verified the facts he wrote.  And because the petitioner did not make verifications other than confronting the offended party for the latter’s side, the petitioner was found by these courts as guilty.


It is illogical to require the petitioner to present proofs that he cross-checked his facts when the accusers never even bothered to present proofs that these facts were false.


So that there is no dispute that the CA erred terribly.


Now, the comments made by the petitioner are reasonably fair.  This is because it does not follow that just because the comments were scathing they automatically become unfair.   The basis of saying fairnes is whether the comments were fairly inferred from the facts used as the premises.


Additionally, there is no presumed malice when it concerns opinions that criticized a public officer like the private complainant if we base it on the doctrine of US vs Bustos.


In the case of the United States vs. Felipe Bustos, at al., G.R. No. L-12592, March 8, 1918, it was stressed that a public official should not be thin-skinned to scathing words:


The interest of society and the maintenance of good government demand a full discussion of public affairs. Completely liberty to comment on the conduct (it does not distinguish whether the conduct should be official or not) of public men is a scalpel in the case of free speech. The sharp incision of its probe relieves the abscesses of officialdom. Men in public life may suffer under a hostile and an unjust accusation; the wound can be assuaged with the balm of a clear conscience. A public officer must not be too thin-skinned with reference to comment upon his official acts. Only thus can the intelligence and the dignity of the individual be exalted.  Of course, criticism does not authorize defamation. Nevertheless, as the individual is less than the State, so must expected criticism be born for the common good.   Rising superior to any official or set of officials, to the Chief of Executive, to the Legislature, to the Judiciary — to any or all the agencies of Government — public opinion should be the constant source of liberty and democracy. (See the well considered cases of Wason vs. Walter, 4 L. R. 4 Q. B., 73; Seymour vs. Butterworth, 3F. and F., 372; The Queen vs. Sir R. Carden, 5 Q. B. D., 1)



If this ruling on US vs. Bustos is closely examined, it shows that ANY CRITICISIM ON THE CONDUCT OF THE PUBLIC MEN IS ABSOLUTELY PRIVILEGED.  It does not require that the facts upon the opinions are based must be true.  As such, even if the facts relied on are false, any public official cannot complain.  The moment a public official enters a public office and swears his oath, he is presumed to know that all criticisms are sure to come on his conduct while he occupies the office.


So that even if President P-Noy has been published as “Abnoy” when there is no evidence of psychological examination on the soundness of his mind, President Aquino cannot be allowed to succeed in his libel complaint.


If Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has been labelled as the most corrupt election cheater or the biggest thief in the Office of the Presidency, she cannot have a cause of action for libel.   That is, even if the critiques did not have evidence to support the correctness of the criticisms.


The wisdom behind the Bustos doctrine is that public opinion should rise superior than any official or set of officials, as Bustos says: “Rising superior to any official or set of officials, to the Chief of Executive, to the Legislature, to the Judiciary — to any or all the agencies of Government — public opinion should be the constant source of liberty and democracy.”


Another wisdom of the Bustos doctrine is FULL DISCUSSIONS OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS IS INDISPENSABLE to in the interest of the society and the maintenance of good government.


Another wisdom of the Bustos doctrine is that IT DEMANDS COMPLETE LIBERTY TO COMMENT ON THE CONDUCT OF PUBLIC MEN.   And it does distinguish what kind of conduct, official or just related to his office directly or indirectly, including acts that may not be official functions but affect the honor and the service of the office being occupied.  After all, Bustos makes it clear that  “men in public life may suffer under a hostile and an unjust accusation; the wound can be assuaged with the balm of a clear conscience.”


Bustos also proclaims that an individual official is less than the state.  And it also proclaims that an individual official is less than the criticism that is more likely for the common good or the interest of the State absent any clear and convincing evidence to the contrary.   Summoning the doctrine of pro reo, if there is a doubt whether a criticism is for the common good, it must be resolved in favor of the accused that the criticisim concerned should be ruled as for the common good.



‘Falsity malice’ test



            Now, there is need to addres the specific issues stated above.


Was the Court of Appeals correct in applying the “reckless disregard malice” test instead of the “falsity malice” test?


            We beg to answer, “NO!”


            First, the Court of Appeals did not justify why it should reject the “falsity malice” test and prefer outright the “reckless disregard” malice test.


            The Court of Appeals ought to explain.


            It has to explain that it rejected the Doctrine of In Dubio Pro Reo of applying the doubt in favor of the accused. 


So that if there was a doubt what to apply, it should have resolved in favor of the accused.  Now, the fact that the Court of Appeals failed to explain to reject the “falsity malice” test in applying the bigger concept of Actual Malice Test, it clearly erred, nothing more, nothing less.


            If only the Court of Appeals applied the “falsity malice” test of the Actual Malice Doctrine, it could have found for the petitioner.


            Let it be analyzed.


            If we choose the “falsity malice” test to find whether there was actual malice, the following is the test:


1.     Were the facts relied on for the comments false?

2.     Did the accused knew the falsity of the facts before publishing?

3.     Did the accused proceed in publishing despite that prior knowledge of the falsity of the facts to support the opinions?


If the answers in all these tests are “yes” as proven by evidence, then the accused is guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

           
            In the instant case, THERE IS NO EVIDENCE BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT THAT WAS PRESENTED TO DISPROVE THE FACTS UPON WHICH THE COMMENTS WERE BASED.  The most the offended party did was to allege that those facts were false.  He did not present evidence to disprove them.  With this alone, the instant two cases for libel must have been dismissed and the petitioner acquitted.


            NOW, even assuming without admitting that there was evidence beyond reasonable doubt to disprove the facts used by the petitioner, still the offended party has to prove that the petitioner knew beforehand that these facts were false before publishing them.    Unfortunate for the offended party, he did not show proof that the petitioner knew the falsity beforehand.  On this other score, the petitioner should have been acquitted.


            Since it was actually published, discussion on this point is not necessary.



‘Reckless disregard malice’ test



            Let us now discuss the application of the Court of Appeals of the “reckless disregard” malice test.


            Under this test, the following as to be inquired into:

1.     Were the imputations unbelievable at first impression if judged on the basis of the circumstances of the offended party?


2.     Did the author fail to make reasonably-sufficient diligence to verify the truth or falsity of the imputations?


3.     Did the author publish the same imputations either as a straight news or as bases for opinions?


Applying this on the cases at bar, we proceed as discussed hereunder.


As to the first question, absent any guide yet pronounced by the Supreme Court, an inquiry will still be made to know whether the imputations against the offended City sports official were unbelievable.


If the City Sports Official were a Pope or a priest or a church minister or Islam’s imam, those facts used by the petitioner are without doubt unbelievable that he should make further verifications to determine the falsity or truth.


If the City Sports Official were a Justice of the Supreme Court or of the Court of Appeals or of the Sandiganbayan or of the Court of Tax Appeals, or were just a trial judge, still there would be no issue that those facts used by the petitioner were unbelievable that without doubt there should be verifications to determine their falisty or truth.


If the City Sports Official were just like other department heads of the City of Puerto Princesa, then the situation is different because the probablity is high that the imputations were indeed done as office politics is but normal in any executive office.  With this, there must be no more need for verification.


So that it is now very clear that the Court of Appeals erred in measuring the need for verification for falsity or truth on the basis of the perceived bitterness, uninhibittedness, wildness, and robustness of the words used in the opinions.  The yardstick should not be the words used for opinions but the circumstances of the persons subject of the imputations


If there is still any doubt whether it was unbelievable, as if it was stupid to believe in the first impression of the facts, then this shall be resolved in favor of the accused.



Proofs of circumstances of offended party, prosecution’s burden



However, the function of determining the circumstances of the person to whom an imputation was ascribed must be proved by the offended party in obedience to the duty that those who accuse shall prove their accusations.  


In this case, the most that was established by the offended party was his position as city sports director and nothing more. 


He did not prove his moral track record. 


He did not prove his achievements while in office as a sports official or in other offices.  


He did not show his performance evaluation reports while in office.  


He did not show awards received in office as an outstanding official.


            So that the Court of Appeals had no right to presume that the offended City Sports Official had that stature that all those facts recited by the petitioner in his writings were unbelievable to have been done by him, so that it would require for the petitioner to make more verificationss to determine the truth or falsity of the facts used by the petitioner in coming out with his opinions.


            Ergo, if actual malice has not been proved beyond reasonable doubt by the use of “falsity malice” test and by the “reckless disregard malice” test, then there is no libel.


No justification to use ‘reckless disregard malice’ test



            Nevertheless, it is still posited by the petitioner that it is a big error for the Court of Appeals to use the “reckless malice” standard when there was no justification given to justify the same.


            For one, the circumstances availing did not show that the City Sports Official was regarded as a saint or at least less than a saint to be unbelievable to have done those acts imputed by the petitioners as having been done by the offended party.


            For another, the offended party did not present proofs that he was of a stature that would compel the petitioner to need first some verification on the truth or falsity of the imputations.


            For more, the offended party did not go beyond alleging that the imputations were not true. He merely contented himself with “vehement” denials.


            So that it can even be said that there is nary a reason for the Court of Appeals to resort to the “reckless disregard” standard.



No obligation for accused to prove truths of imputations



It was a big error for the Court of Appeals to rule that the petitioner must be convicted because the petitioner did not submit proofs to prove the truth of the contents of his articles.


To begin with, the obligation to prove the crime beyond reasonable doubt lies in the prosecution.


The prosecution must prove first the falsity of the allegations in the articles in question because before the trial begins it cannot be said whether the assertions of facts in the articles are true or false.


It is revolting against the great principle of the presumption of innocence to require the accused to prove the truth of the facts he used in forming his opinions.


Next, the accused has the right to remain silent.  As such, his silence cannot be deemed as admission of allegations against him as long as these allegationss are not founded on documents or object evidence.  It is different if it were a civil or an administrative proceeding.


So that no matter the amount of vehemence by the offended party in denying the truth of the facts used in forming the opinions, the silence of the accused thereon after choosing not to submit proofs against the vehement assertions cannot ripen the assertions into truth.


That is simply contrary to the Constitutional command that only a proof beyond reasonable doubt can overcome the presumption of innocence.



CA not correct to use the second article to prove actual malice



Another error of the Court of Appeals was when it used the second article for which the accused was charged and convicted to prove further the evidence of actual malice.


First, this is so because the second article is the subject of the second libel case.  Such that it must be treated as distinct from the first.


Second, the US vs Montalvo case (G.R. No. L-10077, February 26, 1915) used by the Court of Appeals pertained to the article that was published against the justice of the peace after the libel case was filed.


In this case, there was no more article that was published against the offended party after the filing of the two counts of libel.


Thus, the error of the Court of Appeals is apparent.


CA incorrect in disregarding US vs Bustos

           
The Court of Appeals is wrong in disregarding the doctrine of US vs. Bustos announcing that a public official must not be onion-skinned and that no matter how uninhibited, how robust or how wild that the criticisms or opinions sailed to the wild yonder these opinions thrown against a public official like the offended party here are not liable for libel.


            To this, Borjal vs Court of Appeals that cited US vs Bustos in justifying that it was not actionable for Philippine Star columnist Art Borjal to write opinios that were robust, wild and uninhibited.


            As discussed and argued above, it is argued that OPINIONS AGAINST PUBLIC OFFICIALS ARE ABSOLUTELY PROTECTED.


            The disquisitions above are adopted as part of this discussion.


Proposed answers to questions


1. WHEN SHOULD “FALSITY MALICE” TEST APPLY AS AGAINST “RECKLESS DISREGARD MALICE” TEST?


As a general rule, the falsity malice standard should be used always in determining actual malice.


2. WHEN SHOULD “RECKLESS MALICE” TEST APPLY AS AGAINST “FALSITY MALICE” TEST?


On exceptional cases, when circumstances of the persons defamed warrant, as in the person was like a saint or little lesser than saint, it is the only time that impuations that present at first impression need further verification.


3. WHAT ARE THE ESSENTIAL REQUISITES IN ORDER TO APPLY THE “RECKLESS DISREGARD MALICE” TEST?


            Taken from the discussions above, the essential requisites must be: (a) that the circumstances of the person defamed must be in high stature before the community; and (b) proof of that stature.


4. HOW MUCH DEGREE OF UNBELIEVABILITY MUST THERE BE IN THE FACTS RELIED ON BY THE AUTHOR OR PUBLISHER IN ORDER TO CONSTITUTE “RECKLESS DISREGARD MALICE” IF THE AUTHOR OR PUBLISHER OF A QUESTIONED ITEM DID NOT MAKE SOME “VERIFICATION”?


            It depends on the circumstances of the offended party.


5. HOW MUCH DEGREE OF VERIFICATION SHOULD BE DONE BY THE AUTHOR OR PUBLISHER IN THE EVENT THAT THE FACTS RELIED ON FOR THE OPINIONS PUBLISHED WERE CONSIDERED TO BE ONES THAT REQUIRE VERIFICATION?

            Reasonable degree required by the circumstances of the stature of the person defamed.

6. WILL “FALSITY MALICE” TEST NOT APPLY TO THE INSTANT CASE?

It is obvious, that for failure to prove the exceptional character of the offended party, the general rule of “falsity malice” test should apply.


7. WILL “RECKLESS DISREGARD MALICE” TEST APPLY TO THE INSTANT CASE?


Reckless disregard, as obviously proven above, does not apply to the instant casse.
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