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Amalia Muhlach aka Amalia Fuentes vs. Bianca Gonzales & Annabelle Rama on internet libel
This case was dismissed on preliminary investigation stage on both substantive and jurisdictional grounds. It is effective only as to the parties. Upon petition of the losing party, it may be reviewed by the DOJ Secretary – if any such petition is filed. A fiscal’s resolution is not jurisprudence or case law; it is one prosecutor’s action on a pending complaint; you could say it is his/her legal opinion.
So… on jurisdictional grounds, the fiscal said (as reported by pep.ph): “there is no such thing as Internet libel under RPC [Revised Penal Code]. Article 355 of the RPC is very specific that libel can only be committed by means of writing, printing, lithography, engraving, radio, phonograph, painting, theatrical exhibition, cinematographic exhibition or any similar means. In 1932, when RPC became a law, there was no computer yet, much less modes of communication via the Internet. They were only introduced recently.” “Legislature therefore could not have intended to include Internet communications as a means of committing libel when it codified the criminal statutes in 1932. Although lately a Cybercrime Law was enacted, the acts attributed to Bianca and Annabelle as allegedly constituting the crime of libel took place before the enactment of the said law.”
On substantive grounds, the fiscal said: “(I)t (the article ) was a fair and true report of Bianca’s interview of Annabelle.xxx (S)he (Annabelle Rama) was just recounting past event/s in her and husband’s Eddie’s life during the interview. If ever, she revealed events in their life that involved Amalia, that was but part of the narration.”
What is my opinion?
Here’s a snippet, it’s not the entire opinion. In certain instances, fiscals have given due course to complaints based on internet libel and have filed criminal cases upon them. Some prosecutors have entertained them, some have not.
Such that you have one case in the Supreme Court on venue, on where not to file a complaint of internet libel; the venue of where the article was “printed and first published”, if in cyberspace, cannot be construed to mean where the offended party first viewed or accessed it (complainant’s argument) because this would allow the complainant to harass the respondent. (It leads to a ridiculous situation where the offended party could say, oh I opened my laptop in Batanes on a business trip and that’s where I saw the blog site so I will file my case there).
So… that’s the state of Philippine jurisprudence on the matter. It however shows that the Supreme Court never shirked from construing antiquated provisions of the Revised Penal Code in a commonsensical fashion and in the context of prevailing technological realities.