Definition Of Libel/Defamation


1. That there must be an imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstance;
2. That the imputation must be made publicly;
3. That it must be malicious;
4. That the imputation must be directed at a natural or juridical person, or one who is dead;
5. That the imputation must tend to cause the dishonor, discredit or contempt of the person defamed.

Libel is a public and malicious imputation of a crime, or a vice or defect, real or imaginary or any act, commission, condition, status or circumstances tending to cause the dishonor, discredit or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead.

Kinds of malice:
   (a) malice in law – that which should be proved, or
   (b) malice in fact – that which may be taken for granted due to the grossness of the imputation.

Defamation is the proper term for libel as used in Article 353

Defamation: may be libel or slander

No distinction between calumny, insult, and libel: all kinds of attack against honor and reputation is punished.

Malice is presumed to exist in injurious publications.

Publication is the communication of the defamatory matter to some third person/s.

Person libeled must be identified. But the publication need not refer by name to the libeled party. If not named it must be shown that the description of the person referred to in the defamatory publication was sufficiently clear so that at least a 3rd person would have identified the offended party.

It is essential that the victim be identifiable, although it is not necessary that he be named.

Meaning of writer immaterial

Defamatory remarks directed at a group of persons are not actionable unless the statements are all embracing or sufficiently specific for each victim to be identifiable.

There are as many counts of libel as there are persons defamed.

To presume publication, there must be a reasonable probability that the alleged libelous matter was thereby exposed to be read or seen by 3rd persons.

In libel, the false accusation need not be made under oath. Perjury requires that the false accusation is made under oath

Seditious libel is punished under Article 142

Criteria to determine whether statements are defamatory:
1. Words are calculated to induce the hearers to suppose and understand that the person against whom they are uttered were guilty of certain offenses, or are sufficient to impeach their honesty, virtue or reputation, or to hold the person up to public ridicule; and (US v O’Connel)

2. Words are construed not only as to the expression used but also with respect to the whole scope and apparent object of the writer. (People vs. Encarnacion)

There is no crime if the defamatory imputation is not published, meaning, it is not communicated to a third person.

People v. Velasco (2000)
DOCTRINE OF FAIR COMMENT: Fair commentaries on matters of public and interest are privileged constitute a valid defense in an action for libel or slander.

In order that a 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.

Ayer Productions v. Capulong (1988)
PUBLIC FIGURE – one who, by his accomplishments, fame, mode of living, OR by adopting a profession or calling which gives the public a legitimate interest in his doings, his affairs and
his character, has become a “public personage”

Borjal v. CA (1999)
For a statement to be considered malicious, it must be shown that it was written or published with the knowledge that they are false OR in reckless disregard of WON they were false

RECKLESS DISREGARD – the defendant entertains serious doubt as to the truth of the publication, OR that he possesses a high degree of awareness of their probable falsity

To avoid self-censorship that would necessarily accompany strict liability for erroneous statements, rules governing liability for injury to reputation are required to allow an adequate margin of error by protecting some inaccuracies.