Using Privileged Communication As a Defense To Libel

Libel is defined by Art. 252 of the Revised Penal Code as a public and malicious imputation of a crime, or 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.

Unlike slander, a person is liable for the crime of libel by means of printing, writing, engraving, or radio and other similar means. These days, media has been instrumental to the widespread of information or sometimes, misinformation. Be it in politics, business, health and whatnot, it plays a huge role in influencing people especially during the 2016 Presidential Election. While most people already know who to root for, a small fraction of voters were still undecided. In this case, they rely heavily on the information they obtain from radio, television and even social media. 

Under Art. 355, libel by means of writings or similar means. — A libel committed by means of writing, printing, lithography, engraving, radio, phonograph, painting, theatrical exhibition, cinematographic exhibition, or any similar means, shall be punished by prisión correccional in its minimum and medium periods or a fine ranging from 200 to 6,000 pesos, or both, in addition to the civil action which may be brought by the offended party.

Election was also a time for mudslinging and because of this, some decided voters were not yet immune to persuasion. Public figures who want to protect their reputation bring matters to court. Media men who are accused of libel will often use Doctrine of Absolute Privileged Communication as a defense to libel. It is interesting to note that this defense needs to meet the requirement of publicity. 

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.

Pinoy Attorney

Written by : Pinoy Attorney