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Did you know Online Libel has been around since 2001?

It looks like the biggest issue of a lot of people with the Anti-Cybercrime Law (R.A. 10175) is the online defamation or online libel provisions. This is because everyone on Facebook or Twitter can now be held liable for their posts.

Contrary to what a lot of people think, the provision on online libel did not came into effect with the Anti-Cybercrime Law.

The Electronic Commerce Act of 2000 outlined that electronic evidence may be admissible in court.

The Rules on Electronic Evidence shall apply to cases pending after their effectivity. These Rules shall take effect on the first day of August 2001 following their publication before the 20th of July in two newspapers of general circulation in the Philippines.

Not just FB posts or a tweet but audio or video as well:

Audio, photographic and video evidence of events, acts or transactions shall be admissible provided is shall be shown, presented or displayed to the court and shall be identified, explained or authenticated by the person who made the recording or by some other person competent to testify on the accuracy thereof.

That law has now made the Revised Penal Code under Article 355 on Libel applicable to the use of internet.

Art. 355. Libel means by 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 prision 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.

The one on “or any similar means” may include Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. An example of a huge online libel case was filed back in October 18, 2005 by the Yuchengco Group vs. the planholders of PEP plans regarding statements they posted on pepcoalition.com and pacificnoplan.blogspot.com.

The first libel case because of Facebook was filed in 2009 by Dr. Vicky Belo against writer-lawyer-activist Atty. Argee Guevarra {source}. The case was later dismissed.

As a side note, this author was also sued for online libel in 2006.

What the Anti-Cybercrime Law did was to clearly outline what online libel is and basically doubled the penalties.


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Avatar for Abe Olandres

Abe is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of YugaTech with over 20 years of experience in the technology industry. He is one of the pioneers of blogging in the country and considered by many as the Father of Tech Blogging in the Philippines. He is also a technology consultant, a tech columnist with several national publications, resource speaker and mentor/advisor to several start-up companies.

13 Responses

  1. Avatar for Fred Fred says:

    Is giving out an opinion through an article online may constitute libel?

  2. Avatar for Jon Jon says:

    Thanks for this article Abe! Indeed, the law is going in the opposite direction (in contrast to decriminalizing it) by doubling the penalties.

  3. Avatar for fiendlyguy fiendlyguy says:

    yuga, for the benefit of those who may be facing ridiculous criminal charges for online libel, i’ll expound a bit:

    screenshots, forum posts, soft copies of TOS, etc. are admissible in criminal cases. BUT, it should not be so easy to offer or present them as electronic evidence in a criminal case.

    A blogger/journalist’s defense counsel can insist that such evidence cannot be offered under the e-commerce law or the rule on electronic evidence in a criminal case (because the rule on electronic evidence is not meant to govern criminal cases- it is meant to govern civil and commercial actions).

    Instead, all electronic evidence in a criminal case must be authenticated under the stricter parameters of the rules of court- I.E., the persons who produced the screenshots, created or captured the preserved posts, must testify as to how exactly they did it, and show clearly that they were never tampered during the entire chain of custody. Defense counsel can even insist that the technology used to produce such evidence must be demonstrated to the court’s satisfaction before such evidence is even admitted as part of the case records.

    If there is a possibility of tampering or a gap in the chain of custody, the defense can argue that the evidence should be suppressed. However, objections to evidence must be timely made. Otherwise, the person on trial loses the right to object.

    I hope this is helpful to all bloggers and journalists who may come across this post! more power to you, yuga.

  4. Avatar for Janette Toral Janette Toral says:

    Thank you Abe for sharing this. Also noted that first Internet libel case happened in 2001.

  5. Avatar for friendlyguy friendlyguy says:

    FYI: The rule on electronic evidence doesn’t govern criminal cases. it is applicable in civil actions, administrative, and quasi-judicial proceedings (see sec. 2 of the rule, A.M. 01-701-SC). The practical effect is that electronic documents, when used as evidence in criminal proceedings (such as those for online libel), must still be authenticated as provided in the Rules of Court – this makes it harder to simply offer screenshots of facebook posts or tweets as evidence.

    • Avatar for Abe Olandres Abe Olandres says:

      Not in my case back in 2006. There were a lot of forum post screenshots, WHOIS screenshots, soft copies of TOS, etc.

    • Avatar for B.I.A. B.I.A. says:

      Actually, AM 01-7-01 HAS been amended to make it applicable to criminal cases. Unfortunately, the resolution amending it is ALSO docketed as AM 01-7-01, so more often than not, a search for this amendment will bring up the original, unamended version.

  6. Avatar for Ambo Ambo says:

    Eto na ang pag asa ni Carabuena para rumesbak..LOL.

  7. Avatar for flynster flynster says:

    So if you are a witness to a crime or an injustice (think of the man humiliating/berating the MMDA cop gone viral) and you caught it on video and you post it, you can get sued for it and end up in jail for life for showing the world how cruel some people are and witnessing injustice. Obviously, this is damaging to them (even if they are at a wrong) but to get back at you for posting it they’re going to sue you and you end up in jail. Are you protected in some way for this?

  8. Avatar for RedSimba RedSimba says:

    ‘The more things change, the more they remain the same’
    – Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr

  9. Avatar for Yoyo Yoyo says:

    The more laws, the more holes, the more ways criminals and corrupt politicians can escape.

  10. Avatar for roiji roiji says:

    sa dami ng batas, nakakalimutan na yung iba.. XD

  11. Avatar for B.I.A. B.I.A. says:

    That’s not all. One of the criticisms of the cybercrime law is that it specifically criminalizes online libel. As a special law, it is mala prohibitum, meaning, it is punishable regardless of your intent.

    Such that, under the old law, if you were in good faith (i.e. publishing a hard hitting expose), or it was the truth (i.e. a lawmaker really did just translate a speech from English to Filipino) you could be in the clear.

    Under the new law however, that defense would not be available to you.

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