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CENON R.

TEVES, Petitioner, - versus - PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES and


DANILO R. BONGALON, August 2011

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DECISION

PEREZ, J.:
This Petition for Review seeks the reversal of the 21 January 2009 decision [1] of the Court
of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR No. 31125 affirming in toto the decision of the Regional Trial
Court (RTC), Branch 20, Malolos City in Criminal Case No. 2070-M-2006. The RTC
decision[2] found petitioner Cenon R. Teves guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of
Bigamy penalized under Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code.
THE FACTS
On 26 November 1992, a marriage was solemnized between Cenon Teves (Cenon) and
Thelma Jaime-Teves (Thelma) at the Metropolitan Trial Court of Muntinlupa City, Metro Manila. [3]
After the marriage, Thelma left to work abroad. She would only come home to the
Philippines for vacations. While on a vacation in 2002, she was informed that her husband had
contracted marriage with a certain Edita Calderon (Edita). To verify the information, she went to
the National Statistics Office and secured a copy of the Certificate of Marriage [4] indicating that her
husband and Edita contracted marriage on 10 December 2001 at the Divine Trust Consulting
Services, Malhacan, Meycauayan, Bulacan.
On 13 February 2006, Danilo Bongalon, uncle of Thelma, filed before the Office of the
Provincial Prosecutor of Malolos City, Bulacan a complaint [5] accusing petitioner of committing
bigamy.
Petitioner was charged on 8 June 2006 with bigamy defined and penalized under Article
349 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, in an Information [6] which reads:

That on or about the 10th day of December, 2001 up to the present, in the
municipality of Meycauayan, province of Bulacan, Philippines, and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said Cenon R. Teves being previously united
in lawful marriage on November 26, 1992 with Thelma B. Jaime and without the said
marriage having legally dissolved, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and
feloniously contract a second marriage with one Edita T. Calderon, who knowing of
the criminal design of accused Cenon R. Teves to marry her and in concurrence
thereof, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously cooperate in the
execution of the offense by marrying Cenon R. Teves, knowing fully well of the
existence of the marriage of the latter with Thelma B. Jaime.

During the pendency of the criminal case for bigamy, the Regional Trial Court , Branch 130,
Caloocan City, rendered a decision [7] dated 4 May 2006 declaring the marriage of petitioner and
Thelma null and void on the ground that Thelma is physically incapacitated to comply with her
essential marital obligations pursuant to Article 36 of the Family Code. Said decision became final
by virtue of a Certification of Finality[8] issued on 27 June 2006.

On 15 August 2007, the trial court rendered its assailed decision, the dispositive portion of
which reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered finding
the accused Cenon R. Teves, also known as Cenon Avelino R. Teves, guilty
beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Bigamy penalized under Article 349 of the
Revised Penal Code, as charged in the Information dated June 8, 2006. Pursuant
to the provisions of the Indeterminate Sentence Law, he is hereby sentenced to
suffer the penalty of imprisonment of four (4) years, two (2) months and one (1) day
of prision correccional, as minimum, to six (6) years and one (1) day of prision
mayor, as maximum.[9]

Refusing to accept such verdict, petitioner appealed the decision before the Court of
Appeals contending that the court a quo erred in not ruling that his criminal action or liability had
already been extinguished. He also claimed that the trial court erred in finding him guilty of
Bigamy despite the defective Information filed by the prosecution. [10]
On 21 January 2009, the CA promulgated its decision, the dispositive portion of which
reads:
WHEREFORE, the appeal is DISMISSED and the Decision dated August
15, 2007 in Criminal Case No. 2070-M-2006 is AFFIRMED in TOTO. [11]
On 11 February 2009, petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration of the decision. [12] This
however, was denied by the CA in a resolution issued on 2 July 2009. [13]
Hence, this petition.
Petitioner claims that since his previous marriage was declared null and void, there is in
effect no marriage at all, and thus, there is no bigamy to speak of. [14] He differentiates a previous
valid or voidable marriage from a marriage null and void ab initio, and posits that the former
requires a judicial dissolution before one can validly contract a second marriage but a void
marriage, for the same purpose, need not be judicially determined.
Petitioner further contends that the ruling of the Court in Mercado v. Tan[15] is inapplicable in
his case because in the Mercado case the prosecution for bigamy was initiated before the
declaration of nullity of marriage was filed. In petitioners case, the first marriage had already
been legally dissolved at the time the bigamy case was filed in court.
We find no reason to disturb the findings of the CA. There is nothing in the law that would
sustain petitioners contention.
Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code states:
The penalty of prision mayor shall be imposed upon any person who shall
contract a second or subsequent marriage before the former marriage has been
legally dissolved, or before the absent spouse has been declared presumptively
dead by means of a judgment rendered in the proper proceedings.
The elements of this crime are as follows:
1.
2.

That the offender has been legally married;


That the marriage has not been legally dissolved or, in case his or her
spouse is absent, the absent spouse could not yet be presumed dead
according to the Civil Code;

3.
4.

That he contracts a second or subsequent marriage; and


That the second or subsequent marriage has all the essential requisites
for validity.[16]

The instant case has all the elements of the crime of bigamy. Thus, the CA was correct in
affirming the conviction of petitioner.
Petitioner was legally married to Thelma on 26 November 1992 at the Metropolitan Trial
Court of Muntinlupa City. He contracted a second or subsequent marriage with Edita on 10
December 2001 in Meycauayan, Bulacan. At the time of his second marriage with Edita, his
marriage with Thelma was legally subsisting. It is noted that the finality of the decision declaring
the nullity of his first marriage with Thelma was only on 27 June 2006 or about five (5) years after
his second marriage to Edita. Finally, the second or subsequent marriage of petitioner with Edita
has all the essential requisites for validity. Petitioner has in fact not disputed the validity of such
subsequent marriage.[17]
It is evident therefore that petitioner has committed the crime charged. His contention that
he cannot be charged with bigamy in view of the declaration of nullity of his first marriage is bereft
of merit. The Family Code has settled once and for all the conflicting jurisprudence on the
matter. A declaration of the absolute nullity of a marriage is now explicitly required either as a
cause of action or a ground for defense. Where the absolute nullity of a previous marriage is
sought to be invoked for purposes of contracting a second marriage, the sole basis acceptable in
law for said projected marriage to be free from legal infirmity is a final judgment declaring the
previous marriage void.[18]
The Family Law Revision Committee and the Civil Code Revision Committee which drafted
what is now the Family Code of the Philippines took the position that parties to a marriage should
not be allowed to assume that their marriage is void even if such be the fact but must first secure
a judicial declaration of the nullity of their marriage before they can be allowed to marry again. [19]
In fact, the requirement for a declaration of absolute nullity of a marriage is also for the
protection of the spouse who, believing that his or her marriage is illegal and void, marries
again. With the judicial declaration of the nullity of his or her marriage, the person who marries
again cannot be charged with bigamy.[20]
In numerous cases,[21] this Court has consistently held that a judicial declaration of nullity is
required before a valid subsequent marriage can be contracted; or else, what transpires is a
bigamous marriage, reprehensible and immoral.
If petitioners contention would be allowed, a person who commits bigamy can simply
evade prosecution by immediately filing a petition for the declaration of nullity of his earlier
marriage and hope that a favorable decision is rendered therein before anyone institutes a
complaint against him. We note that in petitioners case the complaint was filed before the first
marriage was declared a nullity. It was only the filing of the Information that was overtaken by the
declaration of nullity of his first marriage. Following petitioners argument, even assuming that a
complaint has been instituted, such as in this case, the offender can still escape liability provided
that a decision nullifying his earlier marriage precedes the filing of the Information in court. Such
cannot be allowed. To do so would make the crime of bigamy dependent upon the ability or
inability of the Office of the Public Prosecutor to immediately act on complaints and eventually file
Informations in court. Plainly, petitioners strained reading of the law is against its simple letter.
Settled is the rule that criminal culpability attaches to the offender upon the commission of
the offense, and from that instant, liability appends to him until extinguished as provided by law,

and that the time of filing of the criminal complaint (or Information, in proper cases) is material
only for determining prescription.[22] The crime of bigamy was committed by petitioner on 10
December 2001 when he contracted a second marriage with Edita. The finality on 27 June 2006
of the judicial declaration of the nullity of his previous marriage to Thelma cannot be made to
retroact to the date of the bigamous marriage.
WHEREFORE, the instant petition for review is DENIED and the assailed Decision dated
21 January 2009 of the Court of Appeals is AFFIRMED in toto.
Costs against petitioner.
SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 181089

October 22, 2012

MERLINDA CIPRIANO MONTAES, Complainant,


vs.
LOURDES TAJOLOSA CIPRIANO, Respondent.
DECISION
PERALTA, J.:
For our resolution is a petition for review on certiorari which seeks to annul the Order 1 dated
September 24, 2007 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of San Pedro, Laguna, Branch 31, issued
in Criminal Case No. 4990-SPL which dismissed the lnformation for Bigamy filed against
respondent Lourdes Tajolosa Cipriano. Also assailed is the RTC Resolution 2 dated January 2,
2008 denying the motion for reconsideration.
On April 8, 1976, respondent married Socrates Flores (Socrates) in Lezo, Aklan. 3 On January 24,
1983, during the subsistence of the said marriage, respondent married Silverio V. Cipriano
(Silverio) in San Pedro, Laguna.4 In 2001, respondent filed with the RTC of Muntinlupa, Branch
256, a Petition for the Annulment of her marriage with Socrates on the ground of the latters
psychological incapacity as defined under Article 36 of the Family Code, which was docketed as
Civil Case No. 01-204. On July 18, 2003, the RTC of Muntinlupa, Branch 256, rendered an
Amended Decision5 declaring the marriage of respondent with Socrates null and void. Said
decision became final and executory on October 13, 2003. 6
On May 14, 2004, petitioner Merlinda Cipriano Montaez, Silverios daughter from the first
marriage, filed with the Municipal Trial Court of San Pedro, Laguna, a Complaint 7 for Bigamy
against respondent, which was docketed as Criminal Case No. 41972. Attached to the complaint
was an Affidavit8 (Malayang Sinumpaang Salaysay) dated August 23, 2004, thumb-marked and
signed by Silverio,9 which alleged, among others, that respondent failed to reveal to Silverio that
she was still married to Socrates. On November 17, 2004, an Information 10 for Bigamy was filed
against respondent with the RTC of San Pedro, Laguna, Branch 31. The case was docketed as
Criminal Case No. 4990-SPL. The Information reads:
That on or about January 24, 1983, in the Municipality of San Pedro, Province of Laguna,
Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused did then and
there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously contract a second or subsequent marriage with one
SILVERIO CIPRIANO VINALON while her first marriage with SOCRATES FLORES has not been
judicially dissolved by proper judicial authorities.11
On July 24, 2007 and before her arraignment, respondent, through counsel, filed a Motion to
Quash Information (and Dismissal of the Criminal Complaint)12 alleging that her marriage with
Socrates had already been declared void ab initio in 2003, thus, there was no more marriage to
speak of prior to her marriage to Silverio on January 24, 1983; that the basic element of the crime

of bigamy, i.e., two valid marriages, is therefore wanting. She also claimed that since the second
marriage was held in 1983, the crime of bigamy had already prescribed. The prosecution filed its
Comment13 arguing that the crime of bigamy had already been consummated when respondent
filed her petition for declaration of nullity; that the law punishes the act of contracting a second
marriage which appears to be valid, while the first marriage is still subsisting and has not yet been
annulled or declared void by the court.
In its Order14 dated August 3, 2007, the RTC denied the motion. It found respondent's argument
that with the declaration of nullity of her first marriage, there was no more first marriage to speak
of and thus the element of two valid marriages in bigamy was absent, to have been laid to rest by
our ruling in Mercado v. Tan15 where we held:
In the instant case, petitioner contracted a second marriage although there was yet no judicial
declaration of nullity of his first marriage. In fact, he instituted the Petition to have the first
marriage declared void only after complainant had filed a letter-complaint charging him with
bigamy. For contracting a second marriage while the first is still subsisting, he committed the acts
punishable under Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code.
That he subsequently obtained a judicial declaration of the nullity of the first marriage was
immaterial. To repeat, the crime had already been consummated by then. x x x 16
As to respondent's claim that the action had already prescribed, the RTC found that while the
second marriage indeed took place in 1983, or more than the 15-year prescriptive period for the
crime of bigamy, the commission of the crime was only discovered on November 17, 2004, which
should be the reckoning period, hence, prescription has not yet set in.
Respondent filed a Motion for Reconsideration17 claiming that the Mercado ruling was not
applicable, since respondent contracted her first marriage in 1976, i.e., before the Family Code;
that the petition for annulment was granted and became final before the criminal complaint for
bigamy was filed; and, that Article 40 of the Family Code cannot be given any retroactive effect
because this will impair her right to remarry without need of securing a declaration of nullity of a
completely void prior marriage.
On September 24, 2007, the RTC issued its assailed Order,18 the dispositive portion of which
reads:
Wherefore, the Order of August 3, 2007 is reconsidered and set aside. Let a new one be entered
quashing the information. Accordingly, let the instant case be DISMISSED.
SO ORDERED.
In so ruling, the RTC said that at the time the accused had contracted a second marriage on
January 24, 1983, i.e., before the effectivity of the Family Code, the existing law did not require a
judicial declaration of absolute nullity as a condition precedent to contracting a subsequent
marriage; that jurisprudence before the Family Code was ambivalent on the issue of the need of
prior judicial declaration of absolute nullity of the first marriage. The RTC found that both
marriages of respondent took place before the effectivity of the Family Code, thus, considering
the unsettled state of jurisprudence on the need for a prior declaration of absolute nullity of
marriage before commencing a second marriage and the principle that laws should be interpreted
liberally in favor of the accused, it declared that the absence of a judicial declaration of nullity
should not prejudice the accused whose second marriage was declared once and for all valid with
the annulment of her first marriage by the RTC of Muntinlupa City in 2003.
Dissatisfied, a Motion for Reconsideration was filed by the prosecution, but opposed by
respondent. In a Resolution dated January 2, 2008, the RTC denied the same ruling, among
others, that the judicial declaration of nullity of respondent's marriage is tantamount to a mere
declaration or confirmation that said marriage never existed at all, and for this reason, her act in
contracting a second marriage cannot be considered criminal.
Aggrieved, petitioner directly filed the present petition with us raising the following issues:

I. Whether the judicial nullity of a first marriage prior to the enactment of the Family Code and the
pronouncement in Wiegel vs. Sempio-Diy on the ground of psychological incapacity is a valid
defense for a charge of bigamy for entering into a second marriage prior to the enactment of the
Family Code and the pronouncement in Wiegel vs. Sempio-Diy?
II. Whether the trial court erred in stating that the jurisprudence prior to the enactment of the
Family Code and the pronouncement in Wiegel vs. Sempio-Diy regarding the necessity of
securing a declaration of nullity of the first marriage before entering a second marriage
ambivalent, such that a person was allowed to enter a subsequent marriage without the
annulment of the first without incurring criminal liability.19
Preliminarily, we note that the instant petition assailing the RTC's dismissal of the Information for
bigamy was filed by private complainant and not by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG)
which should represent the government in all judicial proceedings filed before us. 20
Notwithstanding, we will give due course to this petition as we had done in the past. In Antone v.
Beronilla,21 the offended party (private complainant) questioned before the Court of Appeals (CA)
the RTC's dismissal of the Information for bigamy filed against her husband, and the CA
dismissed the petition on the ground, among others, that the petition should have been filed in
behalf of the People of the Philippines by the OSG, being its statutory counsel in all appealed
criminal cases. In a petition filed with us, we said that we had given due course to a number of
actions even when the respective interests of the government were not properly represented by
the OSG and said:
In Labaro v. Panay, this Court dealt with a similar defect in the following manner:
It must, however, be stressed that if the public prosecution is aggrieved by any order ruling of the
trial judge in a criminal case, the OSG, and not the prosecutor, must be the one to question the
order or ruling before us. x x x
Nevertheless, since the challenged order affects the interest of the State or the plaintiff People of
the Philippines, we opted not to dismiss the petition on this technical ground. Instead, we required
the OSG to comment on the petition, as we had done before in some cases. In light of its
Comment, we rule that the OSG has ratified and adopted as its own the instant petition for the
People of the Philippines. (Emphasis supplied)22
Considering that we also required the OSG to file a Comment on the petition, which it did, praying
that the petition be granted in effect, such Comment had ratified the petition filed with us.
As to the merit of the petition, the issue for resolution is whether or not the RTC erred in quashing
the Information for bigamy filed against respondent.
Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code defines and penalizes bigamy as follow:
Art. 349. Bigamy. The penalty of prision mayor shall be imposed upon any person who shall
contract a second or subsequent marriage before the former marriage has been legally dissolved,
or before the absent spouse has been declared presumptively dead by means of a judgment
rendered in the proper proceedings.
The elements of the crime of bigamy are: (a) the offender has been legally married; (b) the
marriage has not been legally dissolved or, in case his or her spouse is absent, the absent
spouse could not yet be presumed dead according to the Civil Code; (c) that he contracts a
second or subsequent marriage; and (d) the second or subsequent marriage has all the essential
requisites for validity. The felony is consummated on the celebration of the second marriage or
subsequent marriage.23 It is essential in the prosecution for bigamy that the alleged second
marriage, having all the essential requirements, would be valid were it not for the subsistence of
the first marriage.24
In this case, it appears that when respondent contracted a second marriage with Silverio in 1983,
her first marriage with Socrates celebrated in 1976 was still subsisting as the same had not yet
been annulled or declared void by a competent authority. Thus, all the elements of bigamy were

alleged in the Information. In her Motion to Quash the Information, she alleged, among others,
that:
xxxx
2. The records of this case would bear out that accused's marriage with said Socrates
Flores was declared void ab initio on 14 April 2003 by Branch 256 of the Regional Trial
Court of Muntinlupa City. The said decision was never appealed, and became final and
executory shortly thereafter.
3. In other words, before the filing of the Information in this case, her marriage with Mr.
Flores had already been declared void from the beginning.
4. There was therefore no marriage prior to 24 January 1983 to speak of. In other words,
there was only one marriage.
5. The basic element of the crime of bigamy, that is, two valid marriages, is therefore
wanting.25
Clearly, the annulment of respondent's first marriage on the ground of psychological incapacity
was declared only in 2003. The question now is whether the declaration of nullity of respondent's
first marriage justifies the dismissal of the Information for bigamy filed against her.
We rule in the negative.
In Mercado v. Tan,26 we ruled that the subsequent judicial declaration of the nullity of the first
marriage was immaterial, because prior to the declaration of nullity, the crime of bigamy had
already been consummated. And by contracting a second marriage while the first was still
subsisting, the accused committed the acts punishable under Article 349 of the Revised Penal
Code.
In Abunado v. People,27 we held that what is required for the charge of bigamy to prosper is that
the first marriage be subsisting at the time the second marriage is contracted. 28 Even if the
accused eventually obtained a declaration that his first marriage was void ab initio, the point is,
both the first and the second marriage were subsisting before the first marriage was annulled. 29
In Tenebro v. CA,30 we declared that although the judicial declaration of the nullity of a marriage
on the ground of psychological incapacity retroacts to the date of the celebration of the marriage
insofar as the vinculum between the spouses is concerned, it is significant to note that said
marriage is not without legal effects. Among these effects is that children conceived or born
before the judgment of absolute nullity of the marriage shall be considered legitimate. There is,
therefore, a recognition written into the law itself that such a marriage, although void ab initio,
may still produce legal consequences. Among these legal consequences is incurring criminal
liability for bigamy. To hold otherwise would render the States penal laws on bigamy completely
nugatory, and allow individuals to deliberately ensure that each marital contract be flawed in
some manner, and to thus escape the consequences of contracting multiple marriages, while
beguiling throngs of hapless women with the promise of futurity and commitment. 31
And in Jarillo v. People,32 applying the foregoing jurisprudence, we affirmed the accused's
conviction for bigamy, ruling that the moment the accused contracted a second marriage without
the previous one having been judicially declared null and void, the crime of bigamy was already
consummated because at the time of the celebration of the second marriage, the accuseds first
marriage which had not yet been declared null and void by a court of competent jurisdiction was
deemed valid and subsisting.
Here, at the time respondent contracted the second marriage, the first marriage was still
subsisting as it had not yet been legally dissolved. As ruled in the above-mentioned
jurisprudence, the subsequent judicial declaration of nullity of the first marriage would not change
the fact that she contracted the second marriage during the subsistence of the first marriage.
Thus, respondent was properly charged of the crime of bigamy, since the essential elements of
the offense charged were sufficiently alleged.

Respondent claims that Tenebro v. CA33 is not applicable, since the declaration of nullity of the
previous marriage came after the filing of the Information, unlike in this case where the
declaration was rendered before the information was filed. We do not agree. What makes a
person criminally liable for bigamy is when he contracts a second or subsequent marriage during
the subsistence of a valid marriage.
Parties to the marriage should not be permitted to judge for themselves its nullity, for the same
must be submitted to the judgment of competent courts and only when the nullity of the marriage
is so declared can it be held as void, and so long as there is no such declaration the presumption
is that the marriage exists.34 Therefore, he who contracts a second marriage before the judicial
declaration of nullity of the first marriage assumes the risk of being prosecuted for bigamy.35
Anent respondent's contention in her Comment that since her two marriages were contracted
prior to the effectivity of the Family Code, Article 40 of the Family Code cannot be given
retroactive effect because this will impair her right to remarry without need of securing a judicial
declaration of nullity of a completely void marriage.
We are not persuaded.
In Jarillo v. People,36 where the accused, in her motion for reconsideration, argued that since her
marriages were entered into before the effectivity of the Family Code, then the applicable law is
Section 29 of the Marriage Law (Act 3613),37 instead of Article 40 of the Family Code, which
requires a final judgment declaring the previous marriage void before a person may contract a
subsequent marriage. We did not find the argument meritorious and said:
As far back as 1995, in Atienza v. Brillantes, Jr., the Court already made the declaration that
Article 40, which is a rule of procedure, should be applied retroactively because Article 256 of the
Family Code itself provides that said "Code shall have retroactive effect insofar as it does not
prejudice or impair vested or acquired rights." The Court went on to explain, thus:
The fact that procedural statutes may somehow affect the litigants' rights may not preclude their
retroactive application to pending actions. The retroactive application of procedural laws is not
violative of any right of a person who may feel that he is adversely affected. The reason is that as
a general rule, no vested right may attach to, nor arise from, procedural laws.
In Marbella-Bobis v. Bobis, the Court pointed out the danger of not enforcing the provisions of
Article 40 of the Family Code, to wit:
In the case at bar, respondents clear intent is to obtain a judicial declaration nullity of his first
marriage and thereafter to invoke that very same judgment to prevent his prosecution for bigamy.
He cannot have his cake and eat it too. Otherwise, all that an adventurous bigamist has to do is
disregard Article 40 of the Family Code, contract a subsequent marriage and escape a bigamy
charge by simply claiming that the first marriage is void and that the subsequent marriage is
equally void for lack of a prior judicial declaration of nullity of the first. A party may even enter into
a marriage license and thereafter contract a subsequent marriage without obtaining a declaration
of nullity of the first on the assumption that the first marriage is void. Such scenario would render
nugatory the provision on bigamy.38
WHEREFORE, considering the foregoing, the petition is GRANTED. The Order dated September
24, 2007 and the Resolution dated January 2, 2008 of the Regional Trial Court of San Pedro,
Laguna, Branch 31, issued in Criminal Case No. 4990-SPL, are hereby SET ASIDE. Criminal
Case No. 4990-SPL is ordered REMANDED to the trial court for further proceedings.
SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 118971. September 15, 1999]
RODOLFO R. VASQUEZ, petitioner, vs. COURT OF APPEALS, THE REGIONAL TRIAL
COURT
OF MANILA,
BRANCH
40,
and THE
PEOPLE
OF THE
PHILIPPINES, respondents.

SYNOPSIS
In an information filed in the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Rodolfo R. Vasquez was
charged with libel for allegedly having made false and malicious imputations that Barangay
Chairman Jaime Olmedo was engaged in land grabbing and was involved in illegal gambling and
stealing of chicken at the Tondo Foreshore Area, Tondo Manila. The trial court found Vasquez
guilty of libel as charged. On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed in toto. Hence, this petition.
Even if the defamatory statement is false, no liability can attach if it relates to official conduct,
unless the public official concerned proves that the statement was made with actual malice - that
is, with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whatever it was false or not. In
this case, the prosecution failed to prove not only that the charges made by petitioner were false
but also that petitioner made them with knowledge of their falsity or with reckless disregard of
whether they were false or not.
A rule placing on the accused the burden of showing the truth of allegations of official
misconduct and/or good motives and justifiable ends for making such allegations would, above
all, infringe on the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression. Without free speech and
assembly, discussions of our most abiding concerns as a nation would be stifled.
SYLLABUS
1. REMEDIAL LAW; CRIMINAL PROCEDURE; INFORMATION FOR LIBEL; MUST
GENERALLY SET OUT PARTICULAR DEFAMATORY WORDS VERBATIM AS
PUBLISHED; CASE AT BAR.- While the general rule is that the information must set out the
particular defamatory words verbatim and as published and that a statement of their
substance is insufficient, a defect in this regard may be cured by evidence. In this case, the
article was presented in evidence, but petitioner failed to object to its introduction. Instead,
he engaged in the trial of the entire article, not only of the portions quoted in the information,
and sought to prove it to be true. In doing so, he waived objection based on the defect in the
information. Consequently, he cannot raise this issue at this late stage.
2. CRIMINAL LAW; LIBEL; ELEMENTS.- To find a person guilty of libel under Art. 353 of the
Revised Penal Code, the following elements must be proved: (a) the allegation of a
discreditable act or condition concerning another; (b) publication of the charge; (c) identity of
the person defamed; and (d) existence of malice.
3. ID.; ID.; WHEN IS AN ALLEGATION DEFAMATORY.- An allegation is considered defamatory
if it ascribes to a person the commission of a crime, the possession of a vice or defect, real
or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status or circumstance which tends to dishonor
or discredit or put him in contempt, or which tends to blacken the memory of one who is
dead.
4. ID.; ID.; PUBLICATION; LIBELOUS STATEMENT COMMUNICATED TO A THIRD
PERSON.- There is publication if the material is communicated to a third person. It is not
required that the person defamed has read or heard about the libelous remark. What is
material is that a third person has read or heard the libelous statement, for a mans
reputation is the estimate in which others hold him, not the good opinion which he has of
himself.
5. ID.; ID.; IDENTIFIABILITY.- On the other hand, to satisfy the element of identifiability, it must
be shown that at least a third person or a stranger was able to identify him as the object of
the defamatory statement.
6. ID.; ID.; MALICE; WHEN PRESENT.- Finally, malice or ill will must be present. Art. 354 of the
Revised Penal Code provides: 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 security 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.
7. ID.; ID.; DEFAMATION AGAINST PUBLIC OFFICIAL; ACCUSED SHOULD BE ACQUITTED
WHERE TRUTH OF ALLEGATION PROVED.-Under Art. 361 of the Revised Penal Code, if
the defamatory statement is made against a public official with respect to the discharge of
his official duties and functions and the truth of the allegation is shown, the accused will be
entitled to an acquittal even though he does not prove that the imputation was published with
good motives and for justifiable ends.
8. ID.; ID.; ID.; CASE AT BAR.- In this case, contrary to the findings of the trial court, on which
the Court of Appeals relied, petitioner was able to prove the truth of his charges against
the barangay official. In denouncing the barangay chairman in this case, petitioner and the
other residents of the Tondo Foreshore Area were not only acting in their self-interest but
engaging in the performance of a civic duty to see to it that public duty is discharged
faithfully and well by those on whom such duty is incumbent. The recognition of this right and
duty of every citizen in a democracy is inconsistent with any requirement placing on him the
burden of proving that he acted with good motives and for justifiable ends. For that matter,
even if the defamatory statement is false, no liability can attach if it relates to official conduct,
unless the public official concerned proves that the statement was made with actual malice that is, with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or
not. This is the gist of the ruling in the landmark case of New York Times v. Sullivan, which
this Court has cited with approval in several of its own decisions. This is the rule of actual
malice. In this case, the prosecution failed to prove not only that the charges made by
petitioner were false but also that petitioner made them with knowledge of their falsity or with
reckless disregard of whether they were false or not. As already stated, however, in
accordance with Art. 361, if the defamatory matter either constitutes a crime or concerns the
performance of official duties, and the accused proves the truth of his charge, he should be
acquitted.
9. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW; BILL OF RIGHTS; FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION; EMBRACES
RIGHT TO DENOUNCE OFFICIAL MISCONDUCT.- A rule placing on the accused the
burden of showing the truth of allegations of official misconduct and/or good motives and
justifiable ends for making such allegations would not only be contrary to Art. 361 of the
Revised Penal Code. It would, above all, infringe on the constitutionally guaranteed freedom
of expression. Such a rule would deter citizens from performing their duties as members of a
self-governing community. Without free speech and assembly, discussions of our most
abiding concerns as a nation would be stifled. As Justice Brandeis has said, public
discussion is a political duty and the greatest menace to freedom is an inert people.
DECISION
MENDOZA, J.:
The question for determination in this case is the liability for libel of a citizen who denounces
a barangay official for misconduct in office. The Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 40, found
petitioner guilty and fined him P1,000.00 on the ground that petitioner failed to prove the truth of
the charges and that he was motivated by vengeance in uttering the defamatory statement. On
appeal, the Court of Appeals, in a decision [1] dated February 1, 1995, affirmed. Hence, this
petition for review. The decision appealed from should be reversed.
The facts are not in dispute. Petitioner Rodolfo R. Vasquez is a resident of the Tondo
Foreshore Area. Sometime in April 1986, he and some 37 families from the area went to see
then National Housing Authority (NHA) General Manager Lito Atienza regarding their complaint
against their Barangay Chairman, Jaime Olmedo. After their meeting with Atienza and other NHA
officials, petitioner and his companions were met and interviewed by newspaper reporters at the
NHA compound concerning their complaint. The next day, April 22, 1986, the following news
article[2] appeared in the newspaper Ang Tinig ng Masa:
Nananawagan kahapon kay pangulong Corazon Aquino ang 38 mahihirap na pamilya sa Tondo
Foreshore Area na umanoy inagawan ng lupa ng kanilang barangay chairman sa
pakikipagsabwatan sa ilang pinuno ng National Housing Authority sapul 1980.

Sinabi nila na nakipagsabwatan umano si Chairman Jaime Olmedo ng barangay 66, Zone 6,
Tondo Foreshore Area, sa mga project manager ng NHA upang makamkam ang may 14 na lote
ng lupa sa naturang lugar.
Binanggit ni Rodolfo R. Vasquez, 40, Tagapagsalita ng (mga) pamilyang apektado, na umaabot
lang sa 487.87 metro kuwadrado ang kabuuan ng mga lupa na kinatitirikan ng mga barungbarung ng 38 pamilya.
Naninirahan na kami sa mga lupang nabanggit sapul 1950 at pinatunayan sa mga survey ng
NHA noong nakalipas na taon na may karapatan kami sa mga lupang ito ng pamahalaan, ani
Vasquez.
Pawang lupa ng gobyerno ang mga lupa at ilegal man na patituluhan, nagawa ito ni Olmedo sa
pakikipagsabwatan sa mga project manager at legal officers ng NHA, sabi ni Vasquez.
Sinabi rin ng mga pamilya na protektado ng dating pinuno ng city hall ng Maynila, MHS Minister
Conrado Benitez, at ilang pinuno ng pulisya ang barangay chairman kaya nakalusot ang mga
ginawa nitong katiwalian.
Bukod sa pagkamkam ng mga lupaing gobyerno, kasangkot din umano si Olmedo sa mga ilegal
na pasugalan sa naturang lugar at maging sa mga nakawan ng manok.
Sapin-sapin na ang mga kaso na idinulog namin noong nakalipas na mga taon, pero pinawalang
saysay ang lahat ng iyon, kabilang na ang tangkang pagpatay sa akin kaugnay ng pagrereklamo
sa pangangamkam ng lupa noong 1984, sabi pa ni Vasquez.
Based on the newspaper article, Olmedo filed a complaint for libel against petitioner alleging
that the latters statements cast aspersions on him and damaged his reputation. After conducting
preliminary investigation, the city prosecutor filed the following information in the Regional Trial
Court of Manila, Branch 40:
The undersigned accuses RODOLFO R. VASQUEZ of the crime of libel committed as follows:
That on or about April 22, 1986, in the city of Manila, Philippines, the said accused, with malicious
intent of impeaching the reputation and character of one Jaime Olmedo, chairman of Barangay
66, Zone 6 in Tondo, Manila, and with evident intent of exposing him to public hatred, contempt,
ridicule, did then and there willfully, unlawfully, feloniously and maliciously caused the publication
of an article entitled 38 Pamilya Inagawan ng Lupa in Ang Tinig ng Masa, a daily newspaper
sold to the public and of general circulation in the Philippines in its April 22, 1986 issue, which
portion of the said article reads as follows:
Nananawagan kahapon kay pangulong Corazon Aquino ang 38 mahihirap na pamilya sa Tondo
Foreshore Area na umanoy inagawan ng lupa ng kanilang barangay chairman sa
pakikipagsabwatan sa ilang pinuno ng National Housing Authority sapul 1980.
Sinabi nila na nakipagsabwatan umano si Chairman Jaime Olmedo ng barangay 66, Zone 6,
Tondo Foreshore Area sa mga project manager ng NHA upang makamkam ang may 14 na lote
ng lupa sa naturang lugar.
x x x Pawang lupa ng gobyerno ang mga lupa at ilegal man na patituluhan, nagawa ito ni
Olmedo sa pakikipagsabwatan sa mga project manager at legal officers ng NHA, sabi ni
Vasquez.
Sinabi rin ng mga pamilya na protektado ng dating pinuno ng city hall ng Maynila, MHS Minister
Conrado Benitez, at ilang pinuno ng pulisya ang barangay chairman kaya nakalusot ang mga
ginawa nitong katiwalian.
Bukod sa pagkamkam ng mga lupaing gobyerno, kasangkot din umano si Olmedo sa mga ilegal
na pasugalan sa naturang lugar at maging sa mga nakawan ng manok. x x x

with which statements, the said accused meant and intended to convey, as in fact he did mean
and convey false and malicious imputations that said Jaime Olmedo is engaged in landgrabbing
and involved in illegal gambling and stealing of chickens at the Tondo Foreshore Area, Tondo,
Manila, which statements, as he well knew, were entirely false and malicious, offensive and
derogatory to the good name, character and reputation of said Jaime Olmedo, thereby tending to
impeach, besmirch and destroy the honor, character and reputation of Jaime Olmedo, as in fact,
the latter was exposed to dishonor, discredit, public hatred, contempt and ridicule.
Contrary to law.
Upon being arraigned, petitioner entered a plea of not guilty, whereupon the case was
tried. The prosecution presented Barangay Chairman Olmedo and his neighbor, Florentina
Calayag, as witnesses. On the other hand, the defense presented Ciriaco Cabuhat, Nicasio
Agustin, Estrelita Felix, Fernando Rodriguez all residents of the Tondo Foreshore Area and
petitioner as its witnesses.
On May 28, 1992, the trial court rendered judgment finding petitioner guilty of libel and
sentencing him to pay a fine of P1,000.00. On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed in
toto. Hence, this petition for review. Petitioner contends that
I. THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN AFFIRMING THE DECISION OF THE TRIAL
COURT PINPOINTING PETITIONER AS THE SOURCE OF THE ALLEGED
LIBELOUS ARTICLE.
II. THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN AFFIRMING THE DECISION OF THE TRIAL
COURT THAT PETITIONER IMPUTED THE QUESTIONED ACTS TO
COMPLAINANT.
III.

THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN AFFIRMING THE DECISION OF THE


TRIAL COURT THAT THE ALLEGED IMPUTATIONS WERE MADE MALICIOUSLY.

IV.

THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN AFFIRMING THE DECISION OF THE


TRIAL COURT WHICH FAILED TO APPRECIATE PETITIONERS DEFENSE OF
TRUTH.

V. THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN AFFIRMING THE DECISION OF THE TRIAL


COURT THAT ALL THE ELEMENTS OF LIBEL WERE PROVEN.
We will deal with these contentions in the order in which they are made.
First. Petitioner claims he was unfairly singled out as the source of the statements in the
article when any member of the 38 complainant-families could have been the source of the
alleged libelous statements.[3] The reference is to the following portion of the decision of the Court
of Appeals:
. . . In his sworn statement, appellant admitted he was the source of the libelous article (Exh.
B). He affirmed this fact when he testified in open court as follows: That his allegation on the act
of landgrabbing by Olmedo was based on the alleged report and pronouncements of the NHA
representatives (p. 5, tsn, Oct. 18, 1989); that said allegations were made by him before the local
press people in the pursuit of fairness and truthfulness and not in bad faith (pp. 8-9, id.); that the
only inaccurate account in the published article of Ang Tinig ng Masa is the reference to the
487.87 sq.m. lot, on which Olmedos residence now stands, attributed by the reporter as the lot
currently occupied by appellants and his fellow complainants (pp. 4-5, tsn, Nov. 15, 1989; pp. 4-5,
tsn, January 15, 1990); and that after the interview, he never expected that his statement would
be the cause of the much-publicized libelous article (pp. 4-6, tsn, Nov. 15, 1989). [4]
It is true petitioner did not directly admit that he was the source of the statements in the
questioned article. What he said in his sworn statement[5] was that the contents of the article are
true in almost all respects, thus:

9. Tama ang nakalathala sa pahayagang Ang Masa maliban na lang sa tinutukoy na


ako at ang mga kasamahang maralitang taga-lungsod ay nakatira sa humigit
kumulang 487.87 square meters sapagkat ang nabanggit na 487.87 square meters
ay siyang kinatitirikan ng bahay ni Barangay Chairman Olmedo kung saan nakaloob
ang anim na lote - isang paglabag sa batas o regulasyon ng NHA;
10. Ang ginawa kong pahayag na nailathala sa Ang Masa ay sanhi ng aking nais na
maging mabuting mamamayan at upang maituwid ang mga katiwaliang nagaganap
sa Tondo Foreshore Area kung saan ako at sampu ng aking mga kasamang
maralitang taga-lungsod ay apektado at naaapi.
This was likewise what he stated in his testimony in court both on direct [6] and on crossexamination.[7] However, by claiming that what he had told the reporter was made by him in the
performance of a civic duty, petitioner in effect admitted authorship of the article and not only of
the statements attributed to him therein, to wit:
Pawang lupa ng gobyerno ang mga lupa at ilegal man na patituluhan, nagawa ito ni Olmedo sa
pakikipagsabwatan sa mga project manager at legal officers ng NHA, sabi ni Vasquez.
. . . .
Sapin-sapin na ang mga kaso na idinulog namin noong nakalipas na mga taon, pero pinawalang
saysay ang lahat ng iyon, kabilang na ang tangkang pagpatay sa akin kaugnay ng pagrereklamo
sa pangangamkam ng lupa noong 1984, sabi pa ni Vasquez.
Petitioner cannot claim to have been the source of only a few statements in the article in
question and point to the other parties as the source of the rest, when he admits that he was
correctly identified as the spokesperson of the families during the interview.
Second. Petitioner points out that the information did not set out the entire news article as
published. In fact, the second statement attributed to petitioner was not included in the
information. But, while the general rule is that the information must set out the particular
defamatory words verbatim and as published and that a statement of their substance is
insufficient,[8] United States v. Eguia, 38 Phil. 857 (1918).8 a defect in this regard may be cured by
evidence.[9] In this case, the article was presented in evidence, but petitioner failed to object to its
introduction. Instead, he engaged in the trial of the entire article, not only of the portions quoted
in the information, and sought to prove it to be true. In doing so, he waived objection based on
the defect in the information. Consequently, he cannot raise this issue at this late stage. [10]
Third. On the main issue whether petitioner is guilty of libel, petitioner contends that what he
said was true and was made with good motives and for justifiable ends.
To find a person guilty of libel under Art. 353 of the Revised Penal Code, the following
elements must be proved: (a) the allegation of a discreditable act or condition concerning
another; (b) publication of the charge; (c) identity of the person defamed; and (d) existence of
malice.[11]
An allegation is considered defamatory if it ascribes to a person the commission of a crime,
the possession of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status or
circumstance which tends to dishonor or discredit or put him in contempt, or which tends to
blacken the memory of one who is dead.[12]
There is publication if the material is communicated to a third person. [13] It is not required that
the person defamed has read or heard about the libelous remark. What is material is that a third
person has read or heard the libelous statement, for a mans reputation is the estimate in which
others hold him, not the good opinion which he has of himself. [14]
On the other hand, to satisfy the element of identifiability, it must be shown that at least a
third person or a stranger was able to identify him as the object of the defamatory statement. [15]
Finally, malice or ill will must be present. Art. 354 of the Revised Penal Code provides:

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 security 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.
In this case, there is no doubt that the first three elements are present. The statements that
Olmedo, through connivance with NHA officials, was able to obtain title to several lots in the area
and that he was involved in a number of illegal activities (attempted murder, gambling and theft of
fighting cocks) were clearly defamatory. There is no merit in his contention that landgrabbing,
as charged in the information, has a technical meaning in law.[16] Such act is so alleged and
proven in this case in the popular sense in which it is understood by ordinary people. As held
in United States v. Sotto:[17]
. . . [F]or the purpose of determining the meaning of any publication alleged to be libelous that
construction must be adopted which will give to the matter such a meaning as is natural and
obvious in the plain and ordinary sense in which the public would naturally understand what was
uttered. The published matter alleged to be libelous must be construed as a whole. In applying
these rules to the language of an alleged libel, the court will disregard any subtle or ingenious
explanation offered by the publisher on being called to account. The whole question being the
effect the publication had upon the minds of the readers, and they not having been assisted by
the offered explanation in reading the article, it comes too late to have the effect of removing the
sting, if any there be, from the words used in the publication.
Nor is there any doubt that the defamatory remarks referred to complainant and were
published. Petitioner caused the publication of the defamatory remarks when he made the
statements to the reporters who interviewed him. [18]
The question is whether from the fact that the statements were defamatory, malice can be
presumed so that it was incumbent upon petitioner to overcome such presumption. Under Art.
361 of the Revised Penal Code, if the defamatory statement is made against a public official with
respect to the discharge of his official duties and functions and the truth of the allegation is
shown, the accused will be entitled to an acquittal even though he does not prove that the
imputation was published with good motives and for justifiable ends. [19]
In this case, contrary to the findings of the trial court, on which the Court of Appeals relied,
petitioner was able to prove the truth of his charges against the barangay official. His allegation
that, through connivance with NHA officials, complainant was able to obtain title to several lots at
the Tondo Foreshore Area was based on the letter [20] of NHA Inspector General Hermogenes
Fernandez to petitioners counsel which reads:
09 August 1983
Atty. Rene V. Sarmiento
Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG)
55 Third Street
New Manila, Quezon City
Dear Atty. Sarmiento:
In connection with your request that you be furnished with a copy of the results of the
investigation regarding the complaints of some Tondo residents against Chairman Jaime Olmedo,

we are providing you a summary of the findings based on the investigation conducted by our
Office which are as follows:
1. Based on the subdivision plan of Block 260, SB 8, Area III, Jaime Olmedos present structure
is constructed on six lots which were awarded before by the defunct Land Tenure Administration
to different persons as follows:
Lot 4 - Juana Buenaventura - 79.76 sq. m.
Lot 6 - Servando Simbulan

- 48.50 sq. m.

Lot 7 - Alfredo Vasquez

- 78.07 sq. m.

Lot 8 - Martin Gallardo

- 78.13 sq. m.

Lot 9 - Daniel Bayan

- 70.87 sq. m.

Lot 1 - Fortunato de Jesus

- 85.08 sq. m. (OIT No. 7800)

The above-mentioned lots were not yet titled, except for Lot 1. Fortunato de Jesus sold the said
lot to a certain Jovita Bercasi, a sister-in-law of Jaime Olmedo. The other remaining lots were
either sold to Mr. Olmedo and/or to his immediate relatives.
Lot 14 is also titled in the name of Mariano Bercasi, father-in-law of Jaime Olmedo, with an area
of 47.40 sq. m.
The lot assigned to Chairman Olmedo has a total area of 487.87 sq. m.
2. Block 261, SB 8, Area III
Lot No. 7 is titled in the name of Jaime Olmedo, consisting an area of 151.67 sq. m. A four-door
apartment owned by Mr. Olmedo is being rented to uncensused residents.
3. Block 262, SB 8, Area III
Lot No. 13 is allocated to Delfin Olmedo, nephew of Jaime Olmedo, but this lot is not yet titled.
4. Block 256, SB 5, Area III
Victoria Olmedo, uncensused, is a daughter of Jaime Olmedo. Her structure is erected on a nontitled lot. The adjacent lot is titled in the name of Victoria. It was issued OCT No. 10217 with an
area of 202.23 sq. m. Inside this compound is another structure owned and occupied by Amelia
Dofredo, a censused houseowner. The titled lot of Victoria now has an area of 338.20 sq. m.
For your information.
(s/t) HERMOGENES C. FERNANDEZ
Inspector General
Public Assistance & Action Office
In addition, petitioner acted on the basis of two memoranda, [21] both dated November 29, 1983, of
then NHA General Manager Gaudencio Tobias recommending the filing of administrative charges
against the NHA officials responsible for the alleged irregular consolidation of lots [in Tondo to
Jaime and Victoria Olmedo.]
With regard to the other imputations made by petitioner against complainant, it must be
noted that what petitioner stated was that various charges (for attempted murder against
petitioner, gambling, theft of fighting cocks) had been filed by the residents against their barangay

chairman but these had all been dismissed. Petitioner was able to show that Olmedos
involvement in the theft of fighting cocks was the subject of an affidavit-complaint, [22] dated
October 19, 1983, signed by Fernando Rodriguez and Ben Lareza, former barangay tanods of
Barangay 66, Zone 6, Tondo. Likewise, petitioner presented a resolution,[23] dated March 10,
1988, of the Office of the Special Prosecutor in TBP-87-03694, stating that charges of
malversation and corrupt practices had been filed against Olmedo and nine (9) other barangay
officials but the same were dismissed. Indeed, the prosecutions own evidence bears out
petitioners statements. The prosecution presented the resolution [24]in TBP Case No. 84-01854
dismissing the charge of attempted murder filed by petitioner against Jaime Olmedo and his sonin-law, Jaime Reyes. The allegation concerning this matter is thus true.
It was error for the trial court to hold that petitioner only tried to prove that the complainant
[barangay chairman] is guilty of the crimes alluded to; accused, however, has not proven that the
complainant committed the crimes. For that is not what petitioner said as reported in the Ang
Tinig ng Masa. The fact that charges had been filed against the barangay official, not the truth of
such charges, was the issue.
In denouncing the barangay chairman in this case, petitioner and the other residents of the
Tondo Foreshore Area were not only acting in their self-interest but engaging in the performance
of a civic duty to see to it that public duty is discharged faithfully and well by those on whom such
duty is incumbent. The recognition of this right and duty of every citizen in a democracy is
inconsistent with any requirement placing on him the burden of proving that he acted with good
motives and for justifiable ends.
For that matter, even if the defamatory statement is false, no liability can attach if it relates to
official conduct, unless the public official concerned proves that the statement was made with
actual malice that is, with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it
was false or not. This is the gist of the ruling in the landmark case of New York Times v. Sullivan,
[25]
which this Court has cited with approval in several of its own decisions. [26] This is the rule of
actual malice. In this case, the prosecution failed to prove not only that the charges made by
petitioner were false but also that petitioner made them with knowledge of their falsity or with
reckless disregard of whether they were false or not.
A rule placing on the accused the burden of showing the truth of allegations of official
misconduct and/or good motives and justifiable ends for making such allegations would not only
be contrary to Art. 361 of the Revised Penal Code. It would, above all, infringe on the
constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression. Such a rule would deter citizens from
performing their duties as members of a self- governing community. Without free speech and
assembly, discussions of our most abiding concerns as a nation would be stifled. As Justice
Brandeis has said, public discussion is a political duty and the greatest menace to freedom is
an inert people.[27]
Complainant contends that petitioner was actuated by vengeful political motive rather than
by his firm conviction that he and his fellow residents had been deprived of a property right
because of acts attributable to their barangay chairman. The Court of Appeals, sustaining
complainants contention, held:
That the said imputations were malicious may be inferred from the facts that appellant and
complainant are enemies, hence, accused was motivated by vengeance in uttering said
defamatory statements and that accused is a leader of Ciriaco Cabuhat who was defeated by
complainant when they ran for the position of barangay captain. . . . [28]
As already stated, however, in accordance with Art. 361, if the defamatory matter either
constitutes a crime or concerns the performance of official duties, and the accused proves the
truth of his charge, he should be acquitted.[29]
Instead of the claim that petitioner was politically motivated in making the charges against
complainant, it would appear that complainant filed this case to harass petitioner. Art. 360 of the
Revised Penal Code provides:
Persons responsible.Any person who shall publish, exhibit, or cause the publication or
exhibition of any defamation in writing or by similar means, shall be responsible for the same.

The author or editor of a book or pamphlet, or the editor or business manager of a daily
newspaper, magazine or serial publication, shall be responsible for the defamations contained
therein to the same extent as if he were the author thereof. . . .
Yet, in this case, neither the reporter, editor, nor the publisher of the newspaper was charged
in court. What was said in an analogous case[30] may be applied mutatis mutandis to the case at
bar:
It is curious that the ones most obviously responsible for the publication of the allegedly offensive
news report, namely, the editorial staff and the periodical itself, were not at all impleaded. The
charge was leveled against the petitioner and, curiouser still, his clients who have nothing to do
with the editorial policies of the newspaper. There is here a manifest effort to persecute and
intimidate the petitioner for his temerity in accusing the ASAC agents who apparently enjoyed
special privilegesand perhaps also immunitiesduring those oppressive times. The noninclusion of the periodicals was a transparent hypocrisy, an ostensibly pious if not at all
convincing pretense of respect for freedom of expression that was in fact one of the most
desecrated liberties during the past despotism.[31]
WHEREFORE, the decision of the Court of Appeals is REVERSED and the petitioner is
ACQUITTED of the crime charged.
SO ORDERED.

[G.R. Nos. 118757 & 121571. October 19, 2004]


ROBERTO BRILLANTE, petitioner, vs. COURT OF APPEALS and THE PEOPLE OF THE
PHILIPPINES,respondents.
DECISION
TINGA, J.:
Good name in man and woman, dear my Lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls:
Who steals my purse steals trash; tis
Something, nothing;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.
- Shakespeare: Othello, III, iii, 155.
Every man has a right to build, keep and be favored with a good name. This right is
protected by law with the recognition of slander and libel as actionable wrongs, whether as
criminal offenses or tortious conduct.
In these consolidated petitions for review on certiorari, [1] petitioner Roberto Brillante
(Brillante), also known as Bobby Brillante, questions his convictions for libel for writing and
causing to be published in 1988 an open letter addressed to then President of the Republic of the
Philippines Corazon C. Aquino discussing the alleged participation of Atty. Jejomar Binay (Binay),
then the OIC Mayor[2] and a candidate for the position of Mayor in the Municipality (now City) of
Makati, and Dr. Nemesio Prudente (Prudente), then President of the Polytechnic University of the

Philippines, in an assassination plot against Augusto Syjuco (Syjuco), another candidate for
Mayor of Makati at that time.
On January 7, 1988, Brillante, then a candidate for the position of Councilor in Makati, held a
press conference at the Makati Sports Club which was attended by some 50 journalists. In the
course of the press conference, Brillante accused Binay of plotting the assassination of Syjuco.
He further accused Binay of terrorism, intimidation and harassment of the Makati electorate.
Brillante also circulated among the journalists copies of an open letter to President Aquino which
discussed in detail his charges against Binay.[3]
Several journalists who attended the press conference wrote news articles about the same.
Angel Gonong, a writer for thePeoples Journal, wrote a news article entitled Binay Accused of
Plotting Slays of Rivals. It was cleared for publication by Max Buan, Jr. (Buan), and Luis Camino
(Camino), Editor-in-Chief and News Editor, respectively, of the Peoples Journal. Gloria
Hernandez (Hernandez) wrote a similar article entitled Binay Slay Plan on Syjuco which was
cleared for publication by Augusto Villanueva (Villanueva) and Virgilio Manuel (Manuel), Editor-inChief and News Editor, respectively, of the News Today.[4]
The open letter was subsequently published under the title Plea to Cory--Save Makati in
newspapers such as the Peoples Journal, Balita, Malaya and Philippine Daily Inquirer.[5] The
pertinent portions of the open letter read:
4. We have received reports that Atty. Binay and his group are plotting the assassination of Mr.
Augusto Bobby Syjuco, now frontrunner in the Makati mayoralty race.
These reports are:
1. On December 14, 1987, Atty. Binay and Dr. Nemesio Prudente, president of the Polytechnic
University of the Philippines (PUP), met at Puerto Azul in Cavite with, among others, a
Commander Luming, a Major Rafael Nieva, and a commander Francis Baloloy. Subject of the
meeting was Winning the Election at all Costs.
xxx xxx

xxx

3. On December 17, 1987, Dr. Prudente, Atty. Binay and others including some unidentified
government officials discussed operation Dirty Fingers after the ASEAN Summit Meeting. The
operation involves terrorism, the use of public school teachers, the threat to kill or hurt political
ward and precinct leaders not supporting or opposed to Atty. Binay, and to use these as samples
to show rivals that his group is capable of doing so, the planting of his squads in places close to
potential targets, the mobilization of marshals who will bring firearms and to ferry hitmen to
target points. The marshals will also be used as pointers and to shelter the hitmen after
accomplishing or performing their missions.
xxx

xxx

xxx

4. On December 8, 1987, a certain Emilio Anecito, tagged as a hitman in the group of Dr.
Prudente, has been specifically assigned to assassinate Mr. Syjuco, Aniceto has been described
as Iranian mestizo looking, about five (5) feet in height, fair complexioned curly haired, sporting a
mustache, and fairly built bodily. He is said to be a silent person and supposedly has a perfect
score in hit missions assigned to him.
xxx

xxx

xxx

5. On December 10, 1987, it was reported that Major Rafael Nieva had been assigned to work
with Mr. Aniceto, Nievas background report is that he:
xxx

xxx

xxx

c. Was hired by Dr. Prudente as security officer and personal bodyguard.

d. Is a notorious killer used by the PUP forces and only his employer can control or
stop him.[6]
As a result of the publication of the open letter, Binay filed with the Makati fiscals office four
complaints for libel against Brillante, as the author of the letter; Gonong, Buan and Camino for
writing and publishing the news article on Brillantes accusations against him in the Peoples
Journal;[7] Hernandez, Villanueva and Manuel for writing and publishing a similar news article in
the News Today;[8] and for publishing the open letter, Buan and Camino of the Peoples Journal;
[9]
and Arcadio A. Sison (Sison) as President of A. Sison and Associates, an advertising agency.[10]
Francisco Baloloy (Baloloy), who was identified in the open letter as among the persons who
attended the meeting organized by Binay and Prudente to plan the assassination of Syjuco,
likewise filed a criminal complaint for libel against Brillante, Domingo Quimlat (Quimlat), Publisher
and Editor-in-Chief of Balita, and Sison as President of A. Sison and Associates.[11]
Subsequently, five Informations for libel against Brillante were filed with the Regional Trial
Court (RTC) of Makati.
Similarly, on January 15, 1988, Prudente filed four complaints for libel against Brillante and
the editors and publishers of the newspapers where the open letter was published. On January
16, 1989, four Informations for libel were filed against Brillante and several co-accused with the
RTC of Manila. Brillantes co-accused in these cases were: (i) Buan, Editor-in-Chief of
thePeoples Journal;[12] (ii) Amado P. Macasaet (Macasaet), Publisher, and Noel Albano (Albano),
Editor, of the Malaya;[13] (iii) Sison, Public Relations Officer and Federico D. Pascual (Pascual),
Publisher and Executive Editor of the Philippine Daily Inquirer;[14] and (iv) Sison, Public Relations
Officer and Quimlat, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Balita.[15]
Buan was not included in the trial of the cases in the RTC-Manila because he eluded arrest
and was not arraigned. The charges against Pascual and Quimlat were dropped upon motion of
the Assistant Prosecutor. The charges against Macasaet and Albano were also eventually
dismissed upon motion of the prosecution. Only Brillante and Sison remained as accused. [16]Both
pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.
On January 25, 1993, the RTC-Manila acquitted Sison but found Brillante guilty of libel on
four counts. The dispositive portion of the trial courts Decision in the consolidated cases reads:
WHEREFORE, judgment is rendered pronouncing accused Bobby Brillante, also known as
Roberto Brillante, guilty beyond reasonable doubt on four (4) counts, as author or writer, of LIBEL
defined under Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code and penalized under Article 355 of the same
code, and sentencing him in each count to the indeterminate penalty of FOUR (4) MONTHS
of arresto mayor, as minimum, to TWO (2) YEARS of prision mayor, as maximum, and to pay a
fine of P2,000.00 with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency at the rate of ONE (1) DAY
for every P8.00 that he is unable to pay, but which subsidiary imprisonment shall not exceed
EIGHT (8) months.
Accused Bobby Brillante is ordered to pay the private offended party, Dr. Nemesio Prudente, the
total sum of P1,000,000.00 in these four (4) cases for moral damages which the latter suffered.
Accused Arcadio Sison is acquitted in the two cases against him, his guilt of the charges against
him not having been established beyond reasonable [doubt].
Two-third (2/3) of the costs is assessed against accused Bobby Brillante while the remaining onethird (1/3) is charged de oficio.[17]
Subsequently, Brillante appealed the Decision of the RTC-Manila to the Court of Appeals.
Brillante contended that when the Informations in Criminal Cases No. 89-69614 to 17 were
filed by the prosecutor on January 16, 1989, the offense had already prescribed because more
than one year had elapsed since the publication of the open letter on January 10, 11 and 12,
1988. He also averred that the open letter which he wrote and caused to be published was not
defamatory and was without malice. Brillante also claimed that the publication is considered
[18]

privileged communication. Finally, he argued that he is entitled to equal protection of the laws
and should be acquitted of the offenses charged like his co-accused. [19]
On September 27, 1994, the Court of Appeals promulgated its Decision in CA-G.R. No.
14475 affirming the decision of the RTC-Manila. The appellate court held that the offense of libel
had not yet prescribed because the one-year prescription period should be reckoned from the
time that the private complainant Prudente filed his complaint with the fiscals office on January
15, 1988 and not when the Informations were filed by the prosecutor on January 16, 1989. The
Court of Appeals added that under Section 1, Rule 110, which took effect during the pendency of
the cases against Brillante, the institution of the complaint before the fiscals office or the courts
for preliminary investigation interrupts the prescriptive period of the offense charged. It held that
being a procedural rule, Section 1, Rule 110, applies to the cases against Brillante. [20]
The Court of Appeals further held that the RTC-Manila did not err in finding that Brillante had
committed libel against Prudente. It explained that the open letter, when read in its entirety, gives
the impression that Prudente is part of a purported criminal conspiracy to kill Syjuco. According
to the appellate court, the open letter is a malicious defamation which produced in the minds of
the readers Brillantes intent and purpose to injure the reputation of Prudente, thereby exposing
him to public hatred, contempt and ridicule. [21] The Court of Appeals rejected Brillantes argument
that the open letter may be considered privileged communication because the evidence does not
show that Brillante wrote and published it out of a legal, moral or social duty.[22]
The appellate court also debunked Brillantes allegation that he was denied the equal
protection of the laws because while the charges against his co-accused were dropped, those
against him were not. According to the appellate court, he and his co-accused are not similarly
situated because he was convicted of libel upon a finding that there existed evidence beyond
reasonable doubt to sustain his conviction. In contrast, the charges against his co-accused were
dismissed and their guilt was not proven beyond reasonable doubt. [23]
Brillantes contention that his conviction for libel on four counts gave rise to double jeopardy
because under our jurisdiction protection against double jeopardy may be invoked only for the
same offense or identical offenses was also overruled by the appellate court. It held that each
and every publication of the same libel constitutes a separate distinct offense and the charge for
one instance of publication shall not bar a charge for subsequent and separate publications. [24]
Brillante filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the decision of the Court of Appeals, but the
motion was denied in aResolution dated January 19, 1995.[25]
In the meantime, Brillante was likewise convicted for libel on five counts by the RTC-Makati
in Criminal Cases Nos. 88-1410, 88-1411, 88-1412, 88-3060 and 89-721. The dispositive portion
of the Decision dated March 22, 1993 of the RTC-Makati reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered as follows:
1.
In Criminal Cases Nos. 88-1410, 88-1411, 88-1412, 88-3060 and 89-721, finding accused
Bobby Brillante, also known as Roberto Brillante, GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the
offense of libel charged in each of these five (5) cases, and sentencing him in each of the cases
to suffer imprisonment of FOUR (4) MONTHS of arresto mayor, as minimum, to TWO (2)
YEARS prision correccional, as maximum, and to pay fine, likewise in each of these (5) cases, of
Four Thousand (P4,000.00) Pesos, Philippine Currency, with subsidiary imprisonment in case of
insolvency pursuant to Article 39, paragraph 1, of the Revised Penal Code.
2.
As to moral damages, said accused is also ordered to pay complainant, Jejomar C. Binay,
the sum of One Million Pesos (P1,000,000.00), Philippine Currency, in all the four (4) charges
(Crim. Cases Nos. 88-410, 88-1411, 88-1412 and 89-721), considering the latters professional
and political standing in society, he being a lawyer and former Governor of the Metro Manila
Commission as well as director of various government agencies.
3.
As to moral damages, said accused is also ordered to pay complainant, Francisco Baloloy,
the sum of Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00), Philippine Currency, in Criminal Case No. 883060.

4.
In Criminal Cases Nos. 88-1410 and 88-1412, ACQUITTING accused Max Buan, Jr., Angel
Gonong and Louie Camino, of the two charges against them on the ground that their guilt has not
been proven beyond reasonable doubt.
5.
In Criminal Case No. 88-1411 (except for accused Brillante) ordering the same ARCHIVED
on the ground that the other accused herein, Gloria Hernandez, Augusto Villanueva and Virgilio
Manuel, have not been brought to the jurisdiction of this Court; let alias warrant issue for their
arrest.
6.
In Criminal Cases Nos. 88-3060 and 89-721, likewise ordering the same ARCHIVED ONLY
WITH RESPECT TO accused Arcadio Sison, who has not been brought to the jurisdiction of this
Court; let alias warrant issue for his arrest.
7.
In all these cases, ordering accused Bobby Brillante, also known as Roberto Brillante, to
pay the proportionate costs.
SO ORDERED.[26]
Brillante appealed the Decision of the RTC-Makati to the Court of Appeals, [27] raising
essentially the same arguments in his appeal in CA-G.R. CR No. 14475.
On February 28, 1995, the Court of Appeals rendered its Decision in CA-G.R. CR No. 15174
affirming the decision of the RTC-Makati. It held that the filing of the complaint before the fiscals
office interrupts the period of prescription because Article 91 of the Revised Penal Code did not
make any distinction whether the complaint is filed in court for preliminary investigation or for trial
on the merits, because the filing of the complaint for preliminary investigation is the initial step of
criminal proceedings. It added that it would be unfair to deprive the injured party of the right to
obtain vindication on account of delays which are not within his control. [28]
The appellate court also ruled that the open letter cannot be considered privileged
communication because it contains libelous matter and was circulated to the public. Citing U.S.
v. Galeza,[29] it held that while it is the right and duty of a citizen to file a complaint regarding a
misconduct on the part of a public official, such complaint must be addressed solely to the
officials having jurisdiction to inquire into the charges.[30]
Lastly, the Court of Appeals sustained the trial courts observation that unlike Brillante, his
co-accused editors and publishers could not be held liable for libel because the news reports
regarding the January 7, 1988 press conference which were published in their respective
newspapers sufficiently informed the readers that the reference to Binays involvement in the
assassination plot were allegations made by Brillante during the press conference and that said
allegations were reported for the sole purpose of informing the public of the news regarding the
candidates adverted to in the report.[31]
Brillante filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the appellate courts decision, but the motion
was denied in a Resolutiondated August 17, 1995.[32]
Thereafter, Brillante filed the present Petitions for Review on March 13, 1995 in G.R. No.
118757 and on October 10, 1995 in G.R. No. 121571. In G.R. No. 118757, he raises the following
arguments:
I
THE OFFENSE OF LIBEL CHARGED IN THE INFORMATION (sic) HAD ALREADY
PRESCRIBED WHEN THE SAID INFORMATION (sic) WAS FILED.
II
HE IS NOT GUILTY OF LIBEL HE IS CHARGED WITH, BECAUSE THE LETTER HE CAUSED
TO BE PUBLISHED WAS WRITTEN AND PUBLISHED WITHOUT ANY MALICE [N]OR
MALICIOUS INTENT TO MALIGN THE PERSON, HONOR AND REPUTATION OF THE
COMPLAINANT [PRUDENTE/BINAY] BUT SOLELY FOR THE JUSTIFIED AND HONEST

PURPOSE OF BRINGING TO THE ATTENTION OF ALL AUTHORITIES CONCERNED THE


REPORTS THEREIN MENTIONED FOR APPROPRIATE ACTION. WHERE THERE IS NO
MALICE, THERE IS NO LIBEL.
III
IN TRUTH, PUBLICLY KNOWN PARAMILITARY ACTIVITIES OF COMPLAINANT, DR.
NEMESIO PRUDENTE, ALREADY IN OPERATION LONG BEFORE JANUARY 12, 1988,
INDICATE THAT HE WAS NOT INCAPABLE OF NOURISHING VIOLENT INTENTIONS
AGAINST THE POLITICAL OPPONENTS OF MAYOR BINAY.
IV
MOREOVER, CONSIDERING THAT THE MATTER REFERRED TO IN THE LETTER
INDUBITABLY RELATES TO THE ELECTION CAMPAIGN THEN GOING ON AS WELL AS THE
PARTICIPATION OF PETITIONER AND COMPLAINANT THEREIN, WHATEVER IS
CONTAINED IN SAID LETTER CAN AT MOST BE NO MORE THAN A POLITICAL LIBEL,
WHICH IS NOT PUNISHABLE.
WE EARNESTLY URGE THAT THIS PROPOSITION BE ENUNCIATED AS A FUNDAMENTAL
PRINCIPLE IN THE LAW ON LIBEL.
V
IN THE REMOTE POSSIBILITY THAT THIS HONORABLE COURT MAY PERCEIVE ANY
CRIMINAL LIBEL IN THIS CASE, THE PENALTY IMPOSED UPON PETITIONER IS CRUEL
AND EXCESSIVE, PARTICULARLY, AS TO THE AMOUNT OF DAMAGES AWARDED TO
COMPLAINANT.[33]
In G.R. No. 121571, he makes the following assignments of error:
I
THE OFFENSE HAD PRESCRIBED
II
THE PUBLICATION WAS A PRIVILEGED COMMUNICATION
III
THE PUBLICATION WAS MADE WITHOUT MALICE
IV
IT MAY, AT MOST, ALSO BE CONSIDERED A POLITICAL LIBEL WHICH IS NOT PUNISHABLE
V
THE DECISION VIOLATES PETITIONERS RIGHT TO EQUAL PROTECTION OF THE LAWS
VI
THE PENALTY IS CRUEL AND EXCESSIVE[34]
With respect to the issue of prescription, Brillante anchors his claim on the Courts ruling
in People v. Tayco[35] that the prescriptive period of a crime is interrupted only upon the filing of the
complaint in court and not the filing thereof with the fiscals office. According to Brillante, the
ruling in People v. Olarte[36] did not modify the doctrine in Tayco because in Olarte, the Court
referred to a complaint filed in court, not in the fiscals office. The ruling in Francisco v. Court

of Appeals[37] that a complaint filed with the fiscals office also interrupts the prescriptive period of
a criminal offense allegedly cannot overturn the ruling inOlarte because the latter was decided by
the Court En Banc while Francisco was decided by a mere division of the Court.[38]
It is further asserted by Brillante that the rule in the 1985 Rules on Criminal Procedure that
the filing of the criminal complaint with the fiscals office interrupts the prescriptive period, cannot
be applied retroactively to the cases against him because it impairs his vested right to have the
cases against him dismissed on the ground of prescription. [39] In addition, he claims that Section
6(b), Rule 3 of the 1985 Rules on Criminal Procedure which states that [t]he pendency of a
petition for suspension of the criminal action still undergoing preliminary investigation in the
fiscals office shall interrupt the prescriptive period for filing the corresponding complaint of
information supports his position that prior to the amendment of the Rules on Criminal Procedure
in 1985, the prevailing rule was that only the filing of the complaint or information in court tolls the
prescriptive period for a criminal offense.[40]
Brillante denies that he is liable for libel for causing to be published his open letter
implicating Binay, Prudente and their associates in a planned assassination of Syjuco as well as
election-related terrorism, and in uttering remarks against Binay and his associates during the
January 7, 1988 press conference. According to Brillante, his statements and utterances were
privileged communication because he made them public out of a legal, moral and social duty to
safeguard the sanctity of the elections to be held on January 18, 1988, and to avoid the
unnecessary loss of life.[41] Since his statements were privileged communication, malice cannot
be presumed from them.[42] Brillante adds that at the time he made the statements, he honestly
believed that they were true. Citing an American case, Bays v. Hunt,[43] he contends that where
there is an honest belief in the truth of the charges made, and the publication is in good faith, one
is not responsible even for publishing an untruth. [44]
It is further asserted by Brillante that since Binay, the subject of the allegedly defamatory
statements is a public figure, his (Brillantes) comments affecting Binays reputation is
constitutionally protected speech.[45]
Brillante also urges the Court to reverse his convictions, reasoning that at most, what he
may have committed is political libel which should exempt him form criminal liability, considering
that election campaigns can become very heated and candidates from rival camps often make
charges and countercharges which are offensive to the name, honor and prestige of their
opponents. He contends that statements made by a candidate against his rivals, although
derogatory, are for the purpose of convincing the electorate to prevent suspicious characters from
holding public office. In essence, he posits the view that political libel should be deemed
constitutionally protected speech.[46]
Brillante likewise argues that the multiple publication rule, i.e., that each publication
constitutes one offense of libel, should not have been applied to him, considering the factual
background of the open letter and the statements uttered by him during the press conference. [47]
Anent the issue of equal protection, Brillante contends that he should have been acquitted
like his co-accused Angel Gonong who wrote the news article in the Peoples Journal regarding
the January 7, 1988 press conference and Buan and Camino who were the editors of that
publication.[48]
The Solicitor General filed a Comment on each of the petitions.
The Solicitor General insists that the one-year prescriptive period for libel should be
reckoned from the date of filing of the complaints with the office of the prosecutor as clarified by
the Court in Olarte and Francisco and as stated in the 1985 Rules on Criminal Procedure, as
amended in 1988, which applies to the complaints filed against Brillante as of October 1988. [49]
On the issue of libel, the Solicitor General insists that Brillantes statements in the open letter
clearly impute upon Prudente and Binay a criminal conspiracy to assassinate Syjuco. [50] The
Solicitor General also maintains that contrary to Brillantes claims, the open letter cannot be
considered privileged communication because it was published without justifiable motives and it
was circulated for the information of the general public instead of addressing the letter solely to
the authorities who had the power to curb the dangers alleged by Brillante in the letter.[51]

The Solicitor General disagrees with Brillantes contention that his statements are
constitutionally protected because they are criticisms of official conduct and deal with public
figures. According to the Solicitor General, the record shows that Brillante did not have enough
basis to pass off his accusations as true considering that he admitted to relying on unnamed
intelligence sources.[52]
It is also argued by the Solicitor General that Brillantes statements cannot be exempt from
criminal liability on the ground that such statements were political libel. Brillantes claim, the
Solicitor General asserts, has no basis in law or jurisprudence. [53]
With respect to the issue of equal protection, the Solicitor General avers that Brillante cannot
be acquitted like his co-accused publishers, editors and writers because their alleged participation
in the commission of the libel are different from Brillante who is the author of the libelous
statements. The writers of the news reports were only narrating what took place during the
January 7, 1988 press conference, and wrote the news articles to inform the public of Brillantes
statements. In the case of the editors and publishers who published the open letter, they
indicated in their respective publications that the open letter was a paid advertisement. The
publication of the news reports in the newspapers was also done to inform the public of what
transpired during the January 7, 1988 press conference. [54]
The Solicitor General further argues that the penalty imposed upon Brillante is not excessive
but is in accordance with law, which considers one publication of a libelous statement as a distinct
offense from another publication of the same statement. [55]
Thus, the Solicitor General prays that Brillantes petitions be denied. [56]
Brillante thereafter filed a Reply to each of the Solicitor Generals Comments. The replies
reiterate Brillantes arguments in his petitions.[57]
The Court is tasked to resolve the following issues: (1) whether the offense of libel had
already prescribed when theInformations were filed with the RTC-Manila and RTC-Makati; (2)
whether Brillante is guilty beyond reasonable doubt of libel; (3) whether Brillante was denied the
equal protection of the laws; and (4) whether the penalty imposed upon him is excessive.
Save for the issue on the amount of moral damages, there is no merit in the petitions.
With respect to the issue of prescription, the fourth paragraph of Article 90 of the Revised
Penal Code provides that the crime of libel or other similar offenses shall prescribe in one year.
In determining when the one-year prescriptive period should be reckoned, reference must be
made to Article 91 of the same code which sets forth the rule on the computation of prescriptive
periods of offenses:
Computation of prescription of offenses.The period of prescription shall commence to run from
the day on which the crime is discovered by the offended party, the authorities, or their agents,
and shall be interrupted by the filing of the complaint or information, and shall commence to run
again when such proceedings terminate without the accused being convicted or acquitted, or are
unjustifiably stopped for any reason not imputable to him.
The aforequoted provision expressly states that prescriptive period shall be interrupted by
the filing of the complaint or information. The meaning of the phrase shall be interrupted by the
filing of the complaint or information in Article 91 has been settled in the landmark case
of People v. Olarte,[58] where the Court settled divergent views as to the effect of filing a complaint
with the Municipal Trial Court for purposes of preliminary investigation on the prescriptive period
of the offense. The Court therein held that the filing of the complaint for purposes of preliminary
investigation interrupts the period of prescription of criminal responsibility. It explained thus:
the filing of the complaint with the Municipal Court, even if it be merely for purposes of
preliminary examination or investigation, should, and does, interrupt the period of prescription of
the criminal responsibility, even if the court where the complaint or information is filed can not try
the case on its merits. Several reasons buttress this conclusion: first, the text of Article 91 of the
Revised Penal Code, in declaring that the period of prescription shall be interrupted by the filing

of the complaint or information without distinguishing whether the complaint is filed in the court
for preliminary examination or investigation merely, or for action on the merits. Second, even if
the court where the complaint or information is filed may only proceed to investigate the case, its
actuations already represent the initial step of the proceedings against the offender. Third, it is
unjust to deprive the injured party the right to obtain vindication on account of delays that are not
under his control. All that the victim of the offense may do on his part to initiate the prosecution is
to file the requisite complaint.
And it is no argument that Article 91 also expresses that the interrupted prescription shall
commence to run again when such proceedings terminate without the accused being convicted or
acquitted, thereby indicating that the court in which the complaint or information is filed must
have the power to convict or acquit the accused. Precisely, the trial on the merits usually
terminates in conviction or acquittal, not otherwise. But it is in the court conducting a preliminary
investigation where the proceedings may terminate without conviction or acquittal, if the court
should discharge the accused because no prima facie case had been shown.[59]
Thereafter, the Court in Francisco v. Court of Appeals [60] clarified that the filing of the
complaint with the fiscals office also suspends the running of the prescriptive period of a crime:
As is a well-known fact, like the proceedings in the court conducting a preliminary investigation, a
proceeding in the Fiscal's Office may terminate without conviction or acquittal.
As Justice Claudio Teehankee has observed:
To the writer's mind, these reasons logically call with equal force, for the express overruling also
of the doctrine in People vs. Tayco, 73 Phil. 509, (1941) that the filing of a complaint or denuncia
by the offended party with the City Fiscal's Office which is required by law to conduct the
preliminary investigation does not interrupt the period of prescription. In chartered cities, criminal
prosecution is generally initiated by the filing of the complaint or denuncia with the city fiscal for
preliminary investigation. In the case of provincial fiscals, besides being empowered like
municipal judges to conduct preliminary investigations, they may even reverse actions of
municipal judges with respect to charges triable by Courts of First instance . . .. [61]
There is no conflict in the pronouncements of the Court in Olarte and Francisco as Brillante
erroneously suggests. Olartelaid down the doctrine that a complaint filed for purposes of
preliminary investigation tolls the running of the prescriptive period of a criminal offense. The
criminal complaint for libel in that case was filed, for the purpose of preliminary investigation, with
the Justice of the Peace Court in Pozorrubio, Pangasinan. Hence, in setting the doctrine, the
Court referred to the filing of the complaint in the Municipal Court. [62] The question of whether the
doctrine laid down in Olarte also applies to criminal complaints filed with the prosecutors office
was settled in Francisco. Specifically, the Court in Francisco amplified the Olartedoctrine when it
categorically ruled that the filing of a complaint with the fiscals office suspends the running of the
prescriptive period of a criminal offense.
Thus, the Court of Appeals committed no reversible error in ruling that the offense of libel
had not yet prescribed when the informations against Brillante and his co-accused were filed in
the RTC-Manila and RTC-Makati.
Neither did the appellate court err in sustaining Brillantes conviction for libel.
Libel is defined under Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code as a public and malicious
imputation of a crime, or of 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.
To be liable for libel, the following elements must be shown to exist: (a) the allegation of a
discreditable act or condition concerning another; (b) publication of the charge; (c) identity of the
person defamed; and (d) existence of malice.[63]
There could be no dispute as to the existence of the first three elements of libel in the cases
at bar.

An allegation made by a person against another is considered defamatory if it ascribes to the


latter the commission of a crime; the possession of a vice or defect, whether real or imaginary; or
any act, omission, condition, status or circumstance which tends to dishonor or discredit or put
him in contempt, or which tends to blacken the memory of one who is dead. [64]Brillantes
statements during the January 7, 1988 press conference and in the open letter explicitly referred
to reprehensible acts allegedly committed by Binay, Prudente and their associates, such as the
use of goons to threaten Binays opponents in the election and the plotting of Syjucos
assassination.
The element of publication was likewise established. There is publication if the defamatory
material is communicated to a third person, i.e., a person other than the person to whom the
defamatory statement refers.[65] In the cases at bar, it was proven that Brillante uttered defamatory
statements during the press conference attended by some fifty journalists and caused the open
letter to be published in several newspapers, namely, News Today, Peoples Journal, Balita,
Malaya and Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Further, Brillante himself admitted that he named Binay, Prudente and their associates as
the persons who participated in the planning of the election-related terrorism and the
assassination of Syjuco not only in his open letter but also during the press conference.
Thus, the determination of Brillantes culpability for libel hinges on the question of whether
his statements were made with malice.
Malice is a term used to indicate the fact that the offender is prompted by personal ill-will or
spite and speaks not in response to duty, but merely to injure the reputation of the person
defamed; it implies an intention to do ulterior and unjustifiable harm. [66] It is present when it is
shown that the author of the libelous remarks made such remarks with knowledge that it was
false or with reckless disregard as to the truth or falsity thereof. [67]
Article 354 of the Revised Penal Code states, as a general rule, that every defamatory
imputation is presumed to be malicious, even if true, if no good intention and justifiable motive is
shown.[68]
As an exception to the rule, the presumption of malice is done away with when the
defamatory imputation qualifies as privileged communication. [69]
Privileged communication may either be absolutely privileged or conditionally privileged.
The Court in Orfanel v. People of the Philippines[70] differentiated absolutely privileged
communication from conditionally privileged communication in this manner:
A communication is said to be absolutely privileged when it is not actionable, even if its
author acted in bad faith. This class includes statements made by members of Congress in the
discharge of their functions as such, official communications made by public officers in the
performance of their duties, and allegations or statements made by the parties or their counsel in
their pleadings or motions or during the hearing of judicial proceedings, as well as the answers
given by witnesses in reply to questions propounded to them, in the course of said proceedings,
provided that said allegations or statements are relevant to the issues, and the answers are
responsive or pertinent to the questions propounded to said witnesses. Upon the other
hand, conditionally or qualifiedly privileged communications are those which, although
containing defamatory imputations, would not be actionable unless made with malice or bad faith.
[71]
(Emphasis supplied.)
Conditionally or qualifiedly privileged communications are those mentioned in, Article 354 of
the Revised Penal Code, to wit:
1. A private communication made by a 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 act performed by public officers in the
exercise of their functions.[72]
Brillante claims that he wrote the open letter and uttered the statement complained of during
the January 7, 1988 press conference out of a social duty to disclose to all concerned the
dangers to which he and his fellow candidate Syjuco were exposed in view of the concerted
actions of Binay and Prudente.[73] In effect, he argues that his defamatory statements and
utterances fall under Article 354, No. 1 and are in the nature of privileged communication; hence,
malice cannot be presumed but must be established beyond reasonable doubt.
The Court is not convinced.
In order to prove that a statement falls within the purview of a qualifiedly privileged
communication under Article 354, No. 1, the following requisites must concur: (1) the person who
made the communication had a legal, moral, or social duty to make the communication, or at
least, had an interest to protect, which interest may either be his own or of the one to whom it is
made; (2) the communication is addressed to an officer or a board, or superior, having some
interest or duty in the matter, and who has the power to furnish the protection sought; and (3) the
statements in the communication are made in good faith and without malice. [74]
With respect to the first requisite, the Court in U.S. v. Caete[75] clarified that the interest
sought to be protected by the person making the communication need not be his own, but may
refer to an interest shared by the other members of society.
It may therefore be argued that Brillantes statements, which according to him were made in
order to protect himself and Syjuco as Binays rivals in the 1988 elections, as well as to protect
the electorate from possible acts of terrorism by Binay, Prudente and their associates and from
casting their votes for undeserving candidates, satisfy the first requisite.
However, as the Solicitor General noted, Brillantes statements were based merely on
unconfirmed intelligence reports. His belief in such intelligence reports hardly justifies the
publication of such serious imputations against his political rivals. As a journalist and as a
candidate for public office, Brillante should have known that it is necessary to further verify the
truth or at least the reliability of the intelligence reports before making them public. His hasty
publication thereof negates the existence of good faith and justifiable motives.
The pronouncement of the Court in U.S. v. Galeza[76] is enlightening:
Every communication is privileged which is made in good faith with a view to obtain redress for
some injury received or to prevent or punish some public abuse. The privilege should not be
abused. If such communication be made maliciously and without probable cause, the pretense
under which it is made, instead of furnishing a defense, will aggravate the case of the defendant.
And a party will be taken to have acted maliciously if he eagerly seizes on some slight and
frivolous matter, and without any inquiry into the merits, without even satisfying himself that the
account of the matter that has reached him is correct, hastily concludes that a great public
scandal has been brought to light which calls for the immediate intervention of the people.
(Citations omitted.)[77]
It is, however, the absence of the second element of a privileged communication that
unequivocally negates the characterization of Brillantes statements as privileged
communication. The law requires that for a defamatory imputation made out of a legal, moral or
social duty to be privileged, such statement must be communicated only to the person or persons
who have some interest or duty in the matter alleged, and who have the power to furnish the
protection sought by the author of the statement.
In the cases at bar, although the open letter was primarily addressed to then President
Aquino, the communication thereof was not limited to her alone. It was also published in several
newspapers of general circulation and was thus made known to the general public. Even if the
interest sought to be protected belongs not just to Brillante but to the public in general, certainly,
the general public does not have the power to remedy the alleged dangers sought to be
prevented by Brillante in publishing the open letter or in uttering similar statements during the

January 7, 1988 press conference. Brillante employed the shotgun approach to disseminate the
information which essentially destroyed the reputations of the complainants. His lack of
selectivity is indicative of malice and is anathema to his claim of privileged communication.
In Daez v. Court of Appeals,[78] Daez was charged with libel for publishing a letter which
accused the Mayor of Meycauayan, Bulacan of corruption. The letter addressed to the Mayor was
sent not only to him but also to the Municipal Court, Municipal Council and Chief of Police of
Meycauayan, Bulacan. Daez contended therein that he was not guilty of libel because he was
not motivated by malice or ill-will in publishing the letter, but rather, he did it out of good intentions
and a social duty to bring about reforms in the administration of the municipal government of
Meycauayan, Bulacan. The Court affirmed his conviction for libel and held:
The goodness of the intention is not always sufficient by itself to justify the publication of an
injurious fact; thus the goodness of the end is not a sufficient motive to warrant the employment
of illicit means to obtain it. The existence of justifiable motives is a question which has to be
decided by taking into consideration not only the intention of the author of the publication but all
the other circumstances of each particular case. A communication made bona fide upon any
subject matter in which the party communicating has an interest, or in reference to which he has
a duty, is privileged, if made to a person having a corresponding interest or duty, although it
contained criminatory matter which without this privilege would be slanderous and actionable.
However, a written letter containing libelous matter cannot be classified as privileged when it is
published and circulated among the public.As a rule, it is the right and duty of a citizen to make
a complaint of any misconduct on the part of public officials, which comes to his notice, to those
charged with supervision over them. Such a communication is qualifiedly privileged and the
author is not guilty of libel. The rule on privilege, however, imposes an additional requirement.
Such complaints should be addressed solely to some official having jurisdiction to inquire into the
charges, or power to redress the grievance or has some duty to perform or interest in connection
therewith. In the instant case, none of the persons to whom the letter was sent, was vested with
the power of supervision over the mayor or the authority to investigate the charges made against
the latter. (Citations omitted.)[79]
Thus, the Court agrees with the finding of the Court of Appeals that the statements made by
Brillante during the press conference and in the open letter do not qualify as privileged
communication.
Indeed, the purpose of affording protection to privileged communication is to permit all
interested persons or citizens with grievances to freely communicate, with immunity, to the
persons who could furnish the protection asked for. However, to shield such privilege from
abuse, the law itself requires at all times that such petitions or communications shall be made in
good faith or with justifiable motives. If it is established that the communication was made
maliciously or to persons who could not furnish the protection sought, then the author thereof
cannot seek protection under the law.[80] As was explained by the Court inCaete:
The plainest principles of natural right and sound public policy require that the utmost possible
freedom should be accorded every citizen to complain to the supervising, removing and
appointing authorities of the misconduct of the public officials with whom he comes into contact,
and like considerations make it equally proper that members of a religious organization should
enjoy equal freedom in bringing to the attention of the church authorities the misbehavior of their
spiritual leaders or of fellow-members. Manifestly, the right must be exercised in good faith, and
may not with impunity be made the occasion for the venting of private spite. It is subject to the
limitation and restriction that such complaints must be made to a functionary having authority to
redress the evils complained of; that they must be made in good faith and that they must not be
actuated by malice.[81]
The Court in Lu Chu Sing v. Lu Tiong Gui[82] clarified that the fact that a communication is
privileged does not mean that it is not actionable; the privileged character of the communication
simply does away with the presumption of malice, and the plaintiff has to prove the fact of malice
in such case.
However, since the open letter and the statements uttered by Brillante during the January 7,
1988 press conference are defamatory and do not qualify as conditionally privileged

communication, malice is presumed and need not be proven separately from the existence of the
defamatory statement.[83]
Considering that all the elements of libel are present in the cases against Brillante, the Court
finds that no reversible error was committed by the Court of Appeals in affirming his convictions
by the RTC-Manila and RTC-Makati.
Neither does the Court find any basis in law to uphold Brillantes proposition that his
statements made during the January 7, 1988 press conference and those in his open letter
constitute political libel and should thus be exempt from liability. Unfounded and malicious
statements made by one against another in the course of an election campaign, or by reason of
differences in political views are not per se constitutionally protected speech. Our laws on
defamation[84] provide for sanctions against unjustified and malicious injury to a persons
reputation and honor. Although wider latitude is given to defamatory utterances against public
officials in connection with or relevant to their performance of official duties, [85] or against public
figures in relation to matters of public interest involving them, [86] such defamatory utterances do
not automatically fall within the ambit of constitutionally protected speech. If the utterances are
false, malicious or unrelated to a public officers performance of his duties, the same may give
rise to criminal and civil liability.
With respect to the third issue, the Court agrees with the appellate court that Brillantes right
to equal protection of the laws was not violated when he was convicted of libel while his coaccused were acquitted.
The equal protection clause is not absolute; rather, it permits of reasonable classification. If
the classification is characterized by real and substantial differences, one class may be treated
differently from another.[87] It is sufficient that the law operates equally and uniformly on all
persons under similar circumstances or that all persons are treated in the same manner, the
conditions not being different, both in the privileges conferred and the liabilities imposed. [88]
As mentioned earlier, the cases against some of some of Brillantes co-accused were
dismissed during the pendency of the cases before the trial courts. [89] Still, some of his coaccused remained at large,[90] leaving the trial courts with no option but to archive the case as
against them. Brillantes other co-accused were acquitted since, unlike Brillante, their guilt was
not proven beyond reasonable doubt.[91]
The foregoing clearly shows that Brillante was in a situation different from his co-accused.
The prosecution was able to prove beyond reasonable doubt his liability for libel, as the author of
the open letter and the source of the defamatory statements uttered against Binay, et al. during
the January 7, 1988 press conference.
As such, his conviction for libel was not violative of the equal protection clause.
The Court likewise finds no error on the part of the Court of Appeals in affirming the penalties
imposed upon him by the trial courts of Manila and Makati.
The penalty for libel by means of writing or similar means is 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.[92] It is likewise settled that a single
defamatory statement, if published several times, gives rise to as many offenses as there are
publications. This is the multiple publication rule which is followed in our jurisdiction, as
explained in Soriano v. Intermediate Appellate Court:[93]
We follow the "multiple publication" rule in the Philippines. Thus, in the cases of Montinola D.
Montalvo (34 Phil. 662, [1916]) and United States v. Sotto (36 Phil. 389 [1917]), this Court ruled
that each and every publication of the same libel constitutes a distinct offense. Stated more
succinctly for purposes of ascertaining jurisdiction under Art. 360 of the Revised Penal Code, as
amended, every time the same written matter is communicated such communication is
considered a distinct and separate publication of the libel.
We explained this as follows:

"The common law as to causes of action for tort arising out of a single publication was to the
effect that each communication of a written or printed matter was a distinct and separate
publication of a libel contained therein, giving rise to a separate cause of action. This rule
('multiple publication' rule) is still followed in several American jurisdictions, and seems to be
favored by the American Law Institute. Other jurisdictions have adopted the 'single publication'
rule which originated in New York, under which any single integrated publication, such as one
edition of a newspaper, book, or magazine, or one broadcast, is treated as a unit, giving rise to
only one cause of action, regardless of the number of times it is exposed to different people. . .(50
Am. Jur. 2d 659 cited in Time, Inc. v. Reyes)" (39 SCRA 301, 313 [1971]). [94]
There is therefore no legal basis for Brillantes claim that the penalties imposed upon him are
excessive.
The Court however agrees with Brillante that the awards of moral damages in the two cases
to private complainants Binay, Prudente and Baloloy are excessive considering the
circumstances surrounding the making and the publication of the defamatory statements.
Accordingly, the award of moral damages in favor of private complainant Prudente is reduced to a
total of Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (P500,000.00) in Criminal Cases No. 89-69614, 89-69615,
89-69616 and 89-69617; and the award of moral damages to private complainant Binay is
reduced to Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (P500,000.00) in Criminal Cases No. 88-1410, 881411, 88-1412 and 89-721. The award of moral damages to private complainant Baloloy in
Criminal Case No. 88-3060 is likewise reduced to Twenty Five Thousand Pesos (P25,000.00).
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the petitions are GRANTED in part.
The Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 14475 is AFFIRMED with the
MODIFICATION that the award of moral damages to private complainant Dr. Nemesio Prudente
in Criminal Cases No. 89-69614, 89-69615, 89-69616 is reduced to Five Hundred Thousand
Pesos (P500,000.00). The Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA G.R. CR No. 15174 is likewise
AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that the award of moral damages to private complainants
Atty. Jejomar Binay and Francisco Baloloy is reduced to Five Hundred Thousand Pesos
(P500,000.00) in Criminal Cases No. 88-1410, 88-1411, 88-1412 and 89-721, and Twenty Five
Thousand Pesos (P25,000.00) in Criminal Case No. 88-3060, respectively.
SO ORDERED.

[G.R. No. 120715. March 29, 1996]


FERNANDO SAZON y RAMOS, petitioner, vs. HON. COURT OF APPEALS and PEOPLE OF
THE PHILIPPINES, respondents.
DECISION
HERMOSISIMA, JR., J.:
Before us is a petition for review on certiorari to set aside the decision of the Court of
Appeals (Special Third Division) in CA-G.R. C.R. No. 13777 which affirmed the decision of the
Regional Trial Court, Branch 161 of Pasig City, in Criminal Case No. 58939, convicting the
petitioner of the crime of libel.
The relevant antecedents are not disputed.
Petitioner Fernando Sazon and private complainant Abdon Reyes were both residents of the
PML Homes in East Drive, Parang Marikina, Metro Manila. They were likewise members of the
PML-Parang Bagong Lipunan Community Association, Inc. (PML-BLCA), an association of
homeowners of PML Homes. The association had a monthly newsletter, the PML-Homemaker, of
which the petitioner was the editor.

On December 11, 1983, the PML-BLCA held an election for the members of its board of
directors. Among those who ran in the election were the private complainant and the petitioner.
The petitioner was elected as a director. He was likewise elected by the new board as president
of the homeowners association. The private complainant lost in said election.
Unable to accept defeat, the private complainant, on January 16, 1984, wrote a letter to the
Estate Management Office of the Home Financing Corporation (EMO-HFC) protesting the
election of the petitioner as a director and president of the homeowners association. He alleged
that the election was a nullity because of: (1) the lack of authority of the petitioner to call for such
an election; (2) the absence of a quorum; and (3) lack of the required notice to the homeowners. On January 18, 1984, the private complainant wrote his co-homeowners explaining to them
his election protest and urging them not to recognize the petitioner and the other members who
won in the election.
Meanwhile, in response to the election protest, the EMO-HFC ordered the PML-BLCA to
conduct a referendum to be supervised by the EMO-HFC. The private complainant then notified
his co-homeowners about this development and requested them to attend a general meeting with
the representatives of the EMO-HFC which was to be held before the referendum.
Soon after the general meeting, several copies of a leaflet called the PML Scoop were
received by the homeowners. The leaflet was entitled Supalpal si Sazon, obviously referring to
the affirmative action taken by the EMO-HFC in connection with the private respondents election
protest. At about the same time, the phrase Sazon, nasaan ang pondo ng simbahan? was seen
boldly written on the walls near the entrance gate of the subdivision. There was no proof,
however, as to who was responsible for these writings.
Thinking that only private complainant was capable of these acts, petitioner Sazon started
writing, publishing, and circulating newsletters to his co-homeowners, culminating in the
appearance in the February 10, 1984 issue of the PML-Homemakers of the following article:
USAPAN NG BOARD v. ABDON NAG-COLLAPSE SA ESTATE MANAGEMENT OFFICE
Dala ng mahigpit na pakiusap ng Estate Management Office (EMO) na gawin ang lahat na
nararapat upang magkaroon ng katahimikan at pagkakaisa ang mga tiga PML Homes, ang Board
Secretary, Mr. Pacis at President F.R. Sazon ay nagpaunlak na pagbigyan ang kahilingan ng
ating kasama na si Abdon Reyes.
Ang kahilingan: Anyayahan ang EMO-HFC na magconduct ng Plebiscite or Referendum para sa
possibility ng isa pang halalan ng Board of Directors.
Sa meeting na dinaluhan ni Abdon Reyes na nagdala ng isang cameraman at may kasamang
pagyayabang at kaunting panggolpe de gulat (na tila baga puro tanga yata ang akala niya sa
mga kausap), ipinipilit pa rin nitong ang Board sa PML Parang ay binubuo pa rin nuong mga
taong inilukluk ng developer na nag 1-2-3.
Halos pag-pupukpukin ng bag ng mga kababaihang nagsisama sa miting ang ating pobreng
super kulit na walang pakialam sa mga taga atin.
Ang mga nagsipagbigay suporta sa Pangulo at Board Secretary ay sina Gng. Cavarosa, Gng.
Triffie Ladisla, Gng. Nitz Rodriguez at Dra. Sazon.
Kung di dahil sa pakiusap nina Messrrs. ABNER PACAIGUE at HOMER AGNOTE, kasama na
ng Board Secretary at Pangulo, malamang ay nagulpi sana ang mandurugas.
Dahil sa patuloy na kabulastugan ni Abdon, ang meeting na ginaganap sa EMO kaninang umaga
ay nag-collapse nang malaman na may ikinalat na liham ang mandurugas, na nagsasabing di
umano ay hindi tutoo ang ibinabalita ng Homemaker na siya ay turned-down sa HFC.
Matagal na po tayong niloloko ng magkasamang Abdon at Evangeline Lopez. Dahil sa tagal ay
alam na tuloy natin kung papaanong maipapatigil ang kanilang kabulastugan.

Sila rin ang mastermind sa paninirang pun sa Pangulo sa pamamagitan ng pag-susulat ng panira
sa mga pader natin. Diumanoy itinatanong daw nila kung saan dinala ang pondo ng simbahan.
Bakit hindi sila tumungo sa kinauukulan: Treasurer, Auditor, at iba pang officials.
UPHELD PO ANG ATING BOARD, ITO AY MABUBUWAG LANG KUNG INYONG NANAISIN.
Mag-iingat po tayo sa panlilinlang ng mga taong gaya ni Abdon at Vangie.
UNITED WE STAND DIVIDED WE FALL LETS UNITE AND FIGHT EVIL!!!
F.

R. SAZON - Editor1

Aggrieved by the aforequoted article, the private complainant initiated the necessary
complaint against the petitioner, and on May 25, 1984, an Information was filed before the trial
court charging the petitioner with libel.
On March 18, 1992, the trial court rendered its decision finding the petitioner guilty of the
crime charged, and accordingly sentenced him, thus:
WHEREFORE, foregoing considered, the accused is found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of
the crime charged and is hereby sentenced to suffer imprisonment of FOUR (4) months and ONE
(1) day of arresto mayor as minimum to TWO (2) years, FOUR (4) months and ONE (1) day
of prision correccional as maximum, with the accessory penalties provided by law, and to pay a
fine of P200.00 in accordance with Art. 353, in relation to Art. 355 of the Revised Penal Code.
With costs against the accused.
SO ORDERED.2
The petitioner appealed said decision to the Court of Appeals. On June 19, 1995, the
appellate court dismissed the appeal and affirmed the decision of the trial court.
Hence, petitioner brought the present action, and in seeking a reversal of the challenged
decision, he claims that the Court of Appeals, erred:
1. x x x IN NOT HOLD1NG THAT THE QUESTIONED ARTICLE (EXHIBIT A) IS IN THE
NATURE OF A PRIVILEGED COMMUNICATION AND HENCE, PROTECTED AND NOT
ACTIONABLE.
2.
x x x IN NOT HOLDING THAT THE WORDS IN CONTROVERSY ARE NOT
DEFAMATORY OF PRIVATE COMPLAINANT AS THEY ARE NON-ACTIONABLE EPITHETS
WRITTEN WITHOUT MALICE.
3. x x x IN NOT HOLD1NG THAT THE QUESTIONED ARTICLE DID NOT CAUSE DAMAGE TO
PRIVATE COMPLAINANTS REPUTATION.
4. GRANTING ARGUENDO THAT ACCUSED-PETITIONERS CONVICTION IS WARRANTED, x
x x IN NOT LIMITING THE PENALTY IMPOSED UPON HIM TO FINE ALONE WITHOUT
IMPRISONMENT x x x.3
In fine, the principal issue posited in this petition is whether or not the questioned article
written by the petitioner is libelous.
We rule in the affirmative.
Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code defines libel in this wise:
ART. 353. Definition of libel. - A libel is a public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of 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, on to blacken the
memory of one who is dead.
For an imputation then to be libelous, the following requisites must concur:
(a) it must be defamatory;
(b) it must be malicious;
(c) it must be given publicity; and
(d) the victim must be identifiable.4
Petitioner concedes the existence of the third and fourth requisites in the case at bench.
Accordingly, only the first and second elements need to be discussed herein.
Petitioner insists that the allegedly offensive words found in the subject article are not
actually defamatory. According to petitioner, the word mandurugas and other words and
phrases used in the questioned article do not impute to private complainant any crime, vice or
defect which would be injurious or damaging to his name and reputation. As far as petitioner is
concerned, the descriptive words and phrases used should be considered as mere epithets which
are a form of non-actionable opinion, because while they may express petitioners strong
emotional feelings of dislike, they do not mean to reflect adversely on private complainants
reputation.
We do not agree. In libel cases, the question is not what the writer of an alleged libel means,
but what the words used by him mean.5 Here, the defamatory character of the words used by the
petitioner are shown by the very recitals thereof in the questioned article. No
evidence aliunde need be adduced to prove it. Petitioner used the following words and phrases
in describing the private complainant: mandurugas, mag-ingat sa panlilinlang, matagal na
tayong niloloko, may kasamang pagyayabang, ang ating pobreng super kulit, patuloy na
kabulastugan, mastermind sa paninirang puri, etc. 6 Jurisprudence has laid down a test to
determine the defamatory character of words used in the following manner, viz:
Words calculated to induce suspicion are sometimes more effective to destroy reputation than
false charges directly made. Ironical and metaphorical language is a favored vehicle for
slander. A charge is sufficient if the words are calculated to induce the hearers to suppose and
understand that the person or persons against whom they were uttered were guilty of certain
offenses, or are sufficient to impeach their honesty, virtue, or reputation, or to hold the person or
persons up to public ridicule. x x x.7
This test was satisfied in the case at bench. Branding private complainant Reyes
mandurugas, et al. most certainly exposed him to public contempt and ridicule. No amount of
sophistical explanation on the part of petitioner can hide, much less erase, the negative
impression already created in the minds of the readers of the libelous material towards private
complainant. Respondent Court of Appeals is, thus, correct in holding that these words and
phrases (mandurugas, et al.) are indisputably defamatory for they impute upon the private
complainant a condition that is dishonorable and shameful, since they tend to describe him as a
swindler and/or a deceiver. (Italics Ours).8
Petitioner also maintains that there was no malice in this case. He argues that the
prosecution failed to present evidence demonstrating that the accused was prompted by personal
ill-will or spite or that he did not act in response to duty but acted merely to cause harm to private
complainant. Consequently, the prosecution failed to discharge its burden of proving malice on
the part of the accused beyond all reasonable doubt.
We are not persuaded. The general rule laid down in Article 354 of the Revised Penal Code
provides that:
Art. 354. Requirement of 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. x x x -

Prescinding from this provision, when the imputation is defamatory, as in this case, the
prosecution need not prove malice on the part of the defendant (malice in fact), for the law
already presumes that the defendants imputation is malicious (malice in law). The burden is on
the side of the defendant to show good intention and justifiable motive in order to overcome the
legal inference of malice. Unfortunately, petitioner miserably failed to discharge this burden in the
case before us.
Petitioner however submits that malice should not be presumed in the instant case, but must
be proved as a fact (malice in fact), since the questioned article is a privileged communication
covered under the two exceptions enumerated under Article 354, viz:
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.
Petitioner avers that he wrote the article not to malign the private complainant, but merely to
correct the misinformation being circulated by Reyes and some quarters within the community
about the petitioner and the association he heads. He did it therefore, in response to some
moral, social or civic duty as he was at that time the President of their homeowners association
and editor of its newsletter. Hence, the article falls under the first exception of Article 354.
The argument has no basis. In Daez v. Court of Appeals9 we held that:
As a rule, it is the right and duty of a citizen to make a complaint of any misconduct on the pant
of public officials, which comes to his notice, to those charged with supervision over them. Such
a communication is qualifiedly privileged and the author is not guilty of libel. The rule on privilege,
however, imposes an additional requirement. Such complaints should be addressed solely to
some official having jurisdiction to inquire into the charges, or power to redress the grievance or
has some duty to perform or interest in connection therewith.
In the instant case, none of the homeowners for whom the newsletter was published was
vested with the power of supervision over the private complainant or the authority to investigate
the charges made against the latter. Moreover, a written letter containing libelous matter cannot
be classified as privileged when it is published and circulated among the public, 10 as what the
petitioner did in this case.
In his final attempt to come under the protective mantle of privileged communication,
petitioner alleges that the subject article likewise constitutes a fair and true report on the
actuations of a public official falling under the second exception of Article 354, since private
complainant was a public relations consultant in the Department of Trade and Industry at the time
the allegedly libelous article was published on February 10, 1984. 11
On this point, the rule is that defamatory remarks and comments on the conduct or acts of
public officers which are related to the discharge of their official duties will not constitute libel if the
defendant proves the truth of the imputation. But any attack upon the private character of the
public officer on matters which are not related to the discharge of their official functions may
constitute libel.12 This is clear by express provision of Article 354, exception number two (2) which
refers to any other act performed by public officers in the exercise of their functions.
A perusal of the petitioners article reveals that it has no reference whatsoever to the
performance of private complainants position as a public relations consultant in the Department
of Trade and Industry. The article attacked solely the private character of the complainant and
delved on matters completely unrelated to his official functions. It cannot therefore fall under the
protective coverage of privileged communication.
However, even assuming, ex gratia argumenti, that petitioners article qualifies under the
category of privileged communication, this does not still negate the presence of malice in the

instant case. It is well to note that the existence of malice in fact may be shown by extrinsic
evidence that the defendant bore a grudge against the offended party, or that there was rivalry or
ill-feeling between them which existed at the date of the publication of the defamatory imputation
or that the defendant had an intention to injure the reputation of the offended party as shown by
the words used and the circumstances attending the publication of the defamatory
imputation.13 The circumstances under which the subject article was published by the petitioner
serve to buttress the inference that petitioner was animated solely by revenge towards the private
complainant on account of the leaflet entitled Supalpal si Sazon, earlier circulated among the
homeowners as well as the writings near the entrance gate of the subdivision, all of which
petitioner believes to be the handiwork of the private complainant. Furthermore, the words used
in the questioned article were mostly uncalled for, strongly sending the message that petitioners
objective was merely to malign and injure the reputation of the private complainant. This is
certainly indicative of malice in fact on the part of the petitioner.
WHEREFORE, the decision of the Court of Appeals is hereby AFFIRMED with the
modification that, in lieu of imprisonment and fine, the penalty to be imposed upon the petitioner
shall be a fine of Three Thousand (P3,000.00) PESOS with subsidiary imprisonment in case of
insolvency.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 72383 November 9, 1988


MARCELO SORIANO, petitioner,
vs.
INTERMEDIATE APPELATE COURT, HON. AUXENCIO DACUYCUY, and HON. FRANCISCO
TANTUICO, JR.respondents.
R. D. Bagatsing & Associates for petitioner.
The Solicitor General for respondents.

GUTIERREZ, JR., J.:


Where is the proper venue of a libel case for the purpose of conferring jurisdiction on a trial court
when the complainant is a public officer?
On complaint of private respondent Francisco S. Tantuico, Jr. the then Chairman of the
Commission on Audit (COA), an information for libel was filed against petitioner Marcelo Soriano
and six (6) others in connection with press releases and articles imputing to Tantuico the
tampering by COA personnel of election returns in the May 14, 1984 Batasan elections at his
residence in Tacloban City and in the COA Regional Office in Palo, Leyte. This election offense
was allegedly committed at Tantuico's behest to assure the victory of certain candidates in the
said Batasan elections. The information which was filed with the Regional Trial Court of Leyte
states:
The undersigned City Fiscal of the City of Tacloban accuses Marcelo B. Soriano,
Bobby de la Cruz, Cesar Villegas Cirilo "Roy" Montojo, Emmanuel "Butch"
Veloso, Valenta U. Quintero and John "Doe", of the crime of Libel, committed as
follows:
That during the period from May 26, 1984 to June 1, 1984, in the City of
Tacloban, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the
above-named accused, conspiring and confederating together and mutually
helping one another, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously,
without justifiable motive and with malicious intent of impeaching the reputation,

honesty and virtue of Commission on Audit Chairman Francisco S. Tantuico, Jr.,


and with the malicious intent of injuring and exposing the latter to public hatred,
contempt and ridicule, published/republished in the "THE GUARDIAN" dated May
26-June 1, 1984, a weekly newspaper/ magazine circulated in Tacloban City and
nationwide, of which accused Marcelo B. Soriano and Bobby de la Cruz are the
Editor Publisher and Associate Editor, respectively, the press release of accused
Cesar G. Villegas written/printed and first circulated/published in Tacloban City
dated May 19, 1984, copy of which is hereto attached as part of this Information,
publicly imputing the crime of falsification of public documents and/or violation of
election laws to said Chairman Francisco S. Tantuico, Jr., publication in the said
newspaper is captioned "IMPEACH TANTUICO CASE LOOMS", quoted verbatim
to wit:
Unido lawyers are studying the filing of impeachment proceedings against
Commission on Audit regional head Francisco Tantuico, Jr. because election
returns were reportedly talled at his COA Regional Office and at his residence.
The tamper hunt trail started when a "sympathetic" COA employee informed ConCon delegate Roy Montejo of the 'new' tally sites.
If you want to raid or to know where the election returns are being changed,
proceed immediately to the Tantuico residence of the Commission on Audit, said
a telephone tip received by Montejo.
Tente U. Quintero former Leyte vice-mayor reported that, with fellow candidates,
Atty. Cesar Villegas and Emmanuel Veloso, all Unido bets for the five-slot
Batasan race in Leyte, Montejo and their supporters went to the Tantuico
residence some 2.5 kms., from the city proper. Having no warrant of arrest (sic)
barred their entry.
At the regional COA office at Candahug Palo, Leyte, around 11 kms., from
Tacloban, they were able to enter and were told to wait for the regional director.
People coming in and out of the conference room attracted their attention. The
open door revealed election returns being opened by persons inside, Identified
later as COA personnel who were "shocked" to see the candidates query that
they were "merely tallying the votes for the five KBL candidates", the personnel
later added that they "did not know" who instructed them to do so.
When the photographer called by one of Mr. Veloso's assistants came, the COA
personnel drifted off one by one; leaving only the conference room, the election
returns and the envelopes ready to be photographed. It was assumed that the
personnel were wary of being photographed with the election returns.
Lack of sufficient basis for comparison led to the uncertainty of the returns being
declared as tampered or not. However, Montejo said that the returns were
supposed to have been with the Provincial Comelec supervisor, Filomeno Azeta,
as the provincial canvassing at the Leyte Provincial Capitol was still in progress
at the time of the raid.
COA Regional Director Sofronio Flores, Jr., upon seeing the three candidates,
tried to explain things. But, Unido supporters said, he failed to answer certain
questions.
The Unido lawyers, meanwhile, started preparing legal charges against the
parties seen guilty wherein said Chairman Francisco S. Tantuico, Jr., is portrayed
in the aforequoted newspaper/magazine publication as directing and/or
orchestrating on or about May 17, 1984 the tampering of the election returns for
the May 14, 1984 elections in Leyte to assure the victory of certain candidates in
said elections, when in truth and in fact he has no knowledge of the alleged

wrongdoing imputed to him as at said time he was in Quezon City holding office
as such Chairman of the Commission on Audit.
Contrary to law. (pp. 24-26, Rollo)
The case was docketed as Criminal Case No. 6136 of the Leyte court. The petitioner filed a
motion to quash the information on the ground of improper venue. The petitioner contended that
the court has no jurisdiction over the offense charged because under Article 360 of the Revised
Penal Code, the libel case should have been filed at Quezon City where Tantuico holds office and
where the publication house of the "Guardian" is located.
The trial court denied the motion in a resolution dated May 16, 1985, the dispositive portion of
which reads:
Wherefore, considering that the libelous article complained contained in a press
release was printed and first published in the City of Tacloban and venue for this
case has been Properly laid in accordance with Article 360 of the Revised Penal
Code, the motion to quash the information herein filed by defendant Marcelo
Soriano is hereby denied. (p. 6, Rollo)
The petitioner then filed a petition for certiorari prohibition with prayer for a writ of preliminary
injunction with the then Intermediate Appellate Court raising the same question of jurisdiction of
the Regional Trial Court of Leyte to hear and decide the libel case on the merits.
The appellate court dismissed the petition in a decision dated September 12, 1985. It held that
the Regional Trial Court of Leyte had jurisdiction over the libel case. The appellate court also
denied a motion for reconsideration. Hence, this petition.
The only issue to be threshed out in the instant petition is whether or not the Regional Trial Court
of Leyte may try the libel case or whether or not it should be tried elsewhere.
The applicable law is Article 360 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No.
1289 and Republic Act No. 4363. It provides:
Persons responsible.Any person who shall publish exhibit or cause the
publication or exhibition of any defamation in writing or by similar means shall be
responsible for the same.
The author or editor of a book or pamphlet, or the editor or business manager of
a daily newspaper, magazine or serial publication, shall be responsible for the
defamations contained therein to the same extent as if he were the author
thereof.
The criminal action and civil action for damages in cases of written defamations
as provided for in this chapter shall be filed simultaneously or separately with the
court of first instance of the province or city where the libelous article is printed
and first published or where any of the offended parties actually resides at the
time of the commission on of the offense: Provided, however, That where one of
the offended parties is a public officer whose office is in the City of Manila at the
time of the commission of the offense, the action shall be filed in the Court of
First Instance of the City of Manila or of the city, or province where the libelous
article is printed and first published, and in case such public officer does not hold
office in the City of Manila, the action shall be filed in the Court of First Instance
of the province or city where he held office at the time of the commission of the
offense or where the libelous article is printed and first published and in case one
of the offended parties is a private individual, the action shad be filed in the Court
of First Instance of the province or city where he actually resides at the time of
the commission of the offense or where the libelous matter is printed and first
published: ...
This Court in Agbayani v. Sayo (89 SCRA 699, [1979]) recapitulated the law as follows:

1. Whether the offended party is a public official or a private person, the criminal
action may be filed in the Court of First Instance of the province or city where the
libelous article is printed and first published.
2. If the offended party is a private individual, the criminal action may also be filed
in the Court of First Instance of the province where he actually resided at the time
of the commission of the offense.
3. If the offended party is a public officer whose office is in Manila at the time of
the commission of the offense, the action may be filed in the Court of First
Instance of Manila.
4. If the offended party is a public officer holding office outside of Manila, the
action may be filed in the Court of First Instance of the province or city where he
held office at the time of the commission of the offense. (at P. 705)
Both the trial court and the appellate court applied the rule that the jurisdiction of a court to try an
offense is determined by the allegations of the complaint or information (People v. Delfin, 2 SCRA
911, [1961]) and since the information alleged that the libelous article was printed and first
published in Tacloban City, the offense should be tried in Leyte. The petition is impressed with
merit.
We follow the "multiple publication" rule in the Philippines. Thus, in the cases of Montinola v.
Montalvo (34 Phil. 662, [1916]) and United States v. Sotto (36 Phil. 389 9171), this Court ruled
that each and every publication of the same libel constitutes a distinct offense. Stated more
succinctly for purposes of ascertaining jurisdiction under Art. 360 of the Revised Penal Code, as
amended, every time the same written matter is communicated such communication is
considered a distinct and separate publication of the libel.
We explained this as follows:
The common law as to causes of action for tort arising out of a single publication
was to the effect that each communication of a written or printed matter was a
distinct and separate publication of a libel contained therein, giving rise to a
separate cause of action. This rule ("multiple publication" rule) is still followed in
several American jurisdictions, and seems to be favored by the American Law
Institute. Other jurisdictions have adopted the "single publication" rule which
originated in New York, under which any single integrated publication, such as
one edition of a newspaper, book, or magazine, or one broadcast, is treated as a
unit, giving rise to only one- of action, regardless of the number of times it is
exposed to different people... (50 Am. Jur. 2d 659 cited in Time, Inc. v. Reyes)
(39 SCRA 301,:313 [1971]).
Petitioner Marcelo B. Soriano was included as one of the accused in the libel case in his capacity
as editor-publisher of the "Guardian." Article 360 of the Revised Penal Code provides that "the
editor or business manager of a daily newspaper, magazine ... shall be responsible for the
defamations contained therein to the same extent as if he were the author thereof." Soriano's
criminal liability, thereof, was based on a press release prepared in Tacloban City and mailed or
delivered to various newspapers. The press release was the basis of the alleged libelous article
contained in the "GUARDIAN." Thus, as far as Soriano is concerned, his criminal liability, if any,
allegedly stemmed from the publication in the May 26-June 1, 1984 issue of the GUARDIAN of an
article captioned "IMPEACH TANTUICO CASE LOOMS" wherein the full text of the press release
prepared by accused Cesar G. Villegas in Tacloban was reproduced. Obviously, as far as
petitioner Marcelo B. Soriano is concerned, the requirement as regards the place where
the libelous article was printed and first published must be construed as referring to the
publication of the press release of accused Cesar Villegas in Soriano's newpaper "THE
GUARDIAN."
The error of the trial court lies in its confusing the publication, whether mimeographed or
otherwise, of a press release by Villegas in Tacloban City with the publication by a Metro Manila
newspaper of that same press release together with various press releases or dispatches from
other parts of the country. For purposes of complying with the jurisdictional requirements of Art.

360 of the Revised Penal Code, the liability of a Manila or Quezon City editor must be deemed as
commencing with the publication of the allegedly libelous material in his newspaper and not with
the typing or mimeographing of press releases by interested persons in different municipalities or
cities, copies of which are sent to metropolitan newspapers for national publication. The
amendments to Art. 360 were intended to free media persons from the intimidating harassment of
libel suits filed in any place where a newspaper happens to be sold or circulated. The purpose
behind the law would be negated or violated if the interpretation made by the trial court and
appellate court is followed.
The May 26-June 1, 1984 issue of THE GUARDIAN shows that the newspaper is published every
Wednesday and Saturday with editorial and business offices located at Room 201, Llames
Building, 694 E. de los Santos Avenue, Cubao, Quezon City. The intended circulation is
nationwide. There is no indication from the records before us, apart from the petitioner's receiving
the press release and publishing it in the GUARDIAN, that he had a hand in its preparation and
distribution from Tacloban City.
As the respondent COA Chairman held office in Quezon City and the offending newspaper is
published in Quezon City, the case should be filed with a Quezon City court.
The Solicitor General, assisted by Assistant Solicitor General Oswaldo D. Agcaoili and Solicitor
Aurora Cortes-Jorge, disagree with the prosecution in this case. He states:
A more circumspect reading of the information, insofar as petitioner Soriano and
co-accused Bobby de la Cruz, Editor Publisher and Associate Editor,
respectively, of The Guardian are concerned, shows that the criminal charges
does not at all state that the libelous article against Tantuico was printed and first
published in Tacloban City. Indeed, what the information merely recites is that
said accused "published/republished in "The Guardian" dated May 26-June 1,
1984, a weekly newspaper/magazine circulated in Tacloban City and nationwide,
of which accused Marcelo B. Soriano and Bobby de la Cruz are the Editor
Publisher and Associate Editor, respectively, ... publicly imputing the crime of
falsification of public documents and/ or violation of election laws to said
Chairman Francisco S. Tantuico, Jr., which publication in the said newspaper is
captioned "IMPEACH TANTUICO CASE LOOMS", quoted verbatim to wit: ...
As a matter of fact, what the crime information does clearly asserts as having
been written / printed and first circulated/published in Tacloban City dated May
19, 1984 was the press release of accused Cesar G. Villegas which the city fiscal
to have likewise contained the malicious imputation against Tantuico. Apparently,
this was made the basis, albeit mistakenly, by the dent trial court in vesting
jurisdiction upon itself over the libel mm against petitioner whose only
involvement in the imputed offense refers to the publication of the
Guardian and not to the press release of the accused Villegas. The error is made
more apparent even from a reading of the information itself which shows that the
Villegas press release was issued on May 19, 1984 which was earlier than the
questioned publication of The Guardian which is dated May 26-June 1, 1984.
Even a recall of a copy of said issue of The Guardian (May 26-June 1, 1984) will
easily yield the fact that said newspaper was printed and first published in
Quezon City where its publishing house is located. As such, the publication in
The Guardian constituted a separate case of action for libel which should have
been filed in Quezon City. It is a settled jurisprudence that each separate
publication of a libel constitutes a distinct crime of libel, although two libelous
publications arose out of the same controversy and even if one was a partial
reiteration of the first. (People v. Vicente Sotto, 36 Phil. 389; Montinola v.
Montalvo, 34 Phil. 662)
The foregoing having failed to evince any finding that the alleged libelous
statements were printed and first published in Tacloban City, but were in fact
printed and first published in Quezon City, and considering the admitted fact that
Tantuico, at the time of the commission of the offense, was a public official whose
office is located in Quezon City, the application of the provisions of Article 360 of

the Revised Penal Code constrain a conclusion that the venue and jurisdiction
over subject criminal case for libel should be lodged not in Tacloban City but in
Quezon City. (pp. 75-77, Rollo)
This decision, in helping or making it easier for media people to meet their occupational hazard of
libel suits, should by no means be viewed as encouraging irresponsible or licentious publications.
Public officers and private individuals who are wronged through an inordinate exercise by
newspapermen or media of freedom of speech and of the press have every right to avail
themselves of the legal remedies for libel. Media cannot hide behind the constitutional guarantee
of a free press to maliciously and recklessly malign the persons and reputations of public or
private figures through the publication of falsehoods or fabrications, the sordid distortion of halftruths, or the playing up of human frailties for no justifiable end but to malign and titillate.
At the same time, the Court should be vigilant against all attempts to harass or persecute an
independent press or to restrain and chill the free expression of opinions. In this case, the intent
of the amendment is to avoid the harassment of media persons through libel suits instituted in
distant or out-of the-way towns by public officers who could more conveniently file cases in their
places of work.
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is hereby GRANTED. The questioned decision and resolution
of the appellate court are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Regional Trial Court of Leyte, Branch
7, Palo, Leyte is DIRECTED TO DISMISS Criminal Case No. 6136 in so far its petitioner Marcelo
Soriano is concerned.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 182855

June 5, 2013

MR. ALEXANDER "LEX" ADONIS, represented by the CENTER FOR MEDIA FREEDOM AND
RESPONSIBILITY (CMFR), through its Executive Director, MRS. MELINDA QUINTOS-DE
JESUS; and the NATIONAL UNION OF JOURNALISTS OF THE PHILIPPINES (NUJP),
through its Chairperson, MR. JOSE TORRES, JR., Petitioners,
vs.
SUPERENTENDENT VENANCIO TESORO, DIRECTOR, DAVAO PRISONS AND PENAL
FARM, PANABO CITY, DIGOS DAVAO DEL NORTE, Respondent.
RESOLUTION
REYES, J.:
This is a Petition for the Issuance of the Writ of Habeas Corpus 1 under Rule 102 of the 1997
Rules of Court filed by petitioner Alexander Adonis (Adonis), praying that the Court directs
respondent Superintendent Venancio Tesoro (respondent), Director of the Davao Prisons and
Penal Farm, to have the body of the former brought before this Court and in the alternative,
praying for the application of the Supreme Court Administrative Circular No. 08-2008, 2which
imposes the penalty of a fine instead of imprisonment in Criminal Case No. 48679-2001. 3
Antecedent Facts
In Criminal Case No. 48679-2001, Adonis was convicted by the Regional Trial Court of Davao
City (RTC), Branch 17 for Libel, filed against him by then Representative Prospero Nograles. He
was sentenced to an indeterminate sentence of five (5) months and one (1) day of arresto mayor
maximum, as minimum penalty, to four (4) years, six (6) months and one (1) day of prision
correccional medium, as maximum penalty.4 He began serving his sentence at the Davao Prisons
and Penal Farm on February 20, 2007.5
A second libel case, docketed as Criminal Case No. 48719-2001 was likewise filed against
Adonis by Jeanette L. Leuterio, pending before the RTC of Davao City, Branch 14. 6

On December 11, 2007, the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP) issued an order for the
Discharge on Parole of seven (7) inmates in various jails in the country, which included Adonis.
The said document was received by the City Parole and Probation Office of Davao on May 2,
2008.7
Meanwhile, on January 25, 2008, this Court issued Administrative Circular No. 08-2008, the
subject of which is the "Guidelines in the Observance of a Rule of Preference in the Imposition of
Penalties in Libel Cases."
In view of these developments, Adonis, on April 18, 2008 filed with the RTC Branch 17 a Motion
to Reopen Case (With Leave of Court),8 praying for his immediate release from detention and for
the modification of his sentence to payment of fine pursuant to the said Circular.
On May 26, 2008, in Criminal Case No. 48719-2001 before the RTC Branch 14, Adonis moved
for his provisional release from detention. The motion was granted by Presiding Judge George
Omelio in open court and he was allowed to post bail in the amount of P5,000.9 Subsequently on
even date and after Adonis filed a cash bond and an undertaking, 10 the trial court issued an Order
directing the Chief of Davao Penal Colony "to release the accused Alexis Adonis unless he is
being held for some other crimes or offenses." 11 On the same date, the said order was served to
the respondent,12 but the release of Adonis was not effected.
On May 30, 2008, Adonis filed the instant petition for the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus
alleging that his liberty was restrained by the respondent for no valid reason. 13
The respondent consequently filed his Comment.14 Adonis then filed on October 27, 2008 an
Urgent Motion to Resolve15 and on November 7, 2008 a Manifestation and Motion, 16 reiterating all
his previous prayers.
On February 11, 2009, the Court received the letter from the respondent, informing the Court that
Adonis had been released from confinement on December 23, 2008 after accepting the
conditions set forth in his parole and with the advise to report to the City Parole and Probation
Officer of Davao.17
The Courts Ruling
The petition is without merit.
The ultimate purpose of the writ of habeas corpus is to relieve a person from unlawful restraint.
The writ exists as a speedy and effectual remedy to relieve persons from unlawful restraint and
as an effective defense of personal freedom. It is issued only for the lone purpose of obtaining
relief for those illegally confined or imprisoned without sufficient legal basis. It is not issued when
the person is in custody because of a judicial process or a valid judgment. 18
Section 4, Rule 102 of the Revised Rules of Court provides when a writ must not be allowed or
discharge authorized, to wit:
SEC. 4. When writ not allowed or discharge authorized. If it appears that the person alleged to
be restrained of his liberty is in the custody of an officer under process issued by a court or judge
or by virtue of a judgment or order of a court of record, and that the court or judge had jurisdiction
to issue the process, render the judgment, or make the order, the writ shall not be allowed; or if
the jurisdiction appears after the writ is allowed, the person shall not be discharged by reason of
any informality or defect in the process, judgment, or order. Nor shall anything in this rule be held
to authorize the discharge of a person charged with or convicted of an offense in the Philippines,
or of a person suffering imprisonment under lawful judgment.
In the instant case, Adonis was convicted for libel by the RTC Branch 17, in Criminal Case No.
48679-2001. Since his detention was by virtue of a final judgment, he is not entitled to the Writ of
Habeas Corpus. He was serving his sentence when the BPP granted him parole, along with six
(6) others, on December 11, 2007.19 While it is true that a convict may be released from prison on
parole when he had served the minimum period of his sentence; the pendency of another criminal
case, however, is a ground for the disqualification of such convict from being released on

parole.20 Notably, at the time he was granted the parole, the second libel case was pending
before the RTC Branch 14.21 In fact, even when the instant petition was filed, Criminal Case No.
48719-01 was still pending. The issuance of the writ under such circumstance was, therefore,
proscribed. There was basis for the respondent to deny his immediate release at that time.
Further, Adonis seeks the retroactive application of Administrative Circular No. 08-2008, citing
Fermin v. People,22where the Court preferred the imposition of the fine rather than imprisonment
under the circumstances of the case. Administrative Circular No. 08-2008, was issued on January
25, 2008 and provides the "guidelines in the observance of a rule of preference in the imposition
of penalties in libel cases." The pertinent portions read as follows:
All courts and judges concerned should henceforth take note of the foregoing rule of preference
set by the Supreme Court on the matter of the imposition of penalties for the crime of libel bearing
in mind the following principles:
1. This Administrative Circular does not remove imprisonment as an alternative penalty
for the crime libel under Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code;
2. The Judges concerned may, in the exercise of sound discretion, and taking into
consideration the peculiar circumstances of each case, determine whether the imposition
of a fame alone would best serve the interests of justice or whether forbearing to impose
imprisonment would depreciate the seriousness of the offense, work violence on the
social order, or otherwise be contrary to the imperative of justice;
3. Should only a fine be imposed and the accused be unable to pay the fine, there is no
legal obstacle to the application of the Revised Penal Code provision on subsidiary
imprisonment.23 (Emphasis ours)
A clear reading of the Administration Circular No. 08-2008 and considering the attendant
circumstances of the case, the benefits of the administrative circular can not be given retroactive
effect in Criminal Case No. 48679-2001. It is too late in the day for Adonis to raise such argument
considering that Criminal Case No. 48679-2001 has already become final and executory; and he
had, in fact, already commenced serving his sentence. Eventually, he was released from
confinement on December 23, 2008 after accepting the conditions of the parole granted to him.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. Nos. L-32836-37 May 3, 1989


DANIEL VICTORIO and EXEQUIEL VICTORIO, petitioners,
vs.
THE HON. COURT OF APPEALS and THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents.
Ellis F. Jacoba and Jose Ma. Abola for petitioners.
The Office of the Solicitor General for respondents.

BIDIN, J.:
This is a petition for review by certiorari of the decision** of the Court of Appeals dated July 27,
1970 in Criminal Cases Nos. 09243 and 09244 entitled "People of the Philippines v. Exequiel
Victorio and Daniel Victoria", affirming the lower court's judgment of conviction of the petitioners
for grave oral defamation with modification of sentence and the appellate court's resolution dated
October 28, 1970 denying herein petitioners' motion for rehearing and/or new trial as well as their

urgent motion for reconsideration filed on October 19, 1970. The dispositive portion of the
appealed decision reads as follows:
IN VIEW HEREOF, with the modification that appellants are sentenced to the
indeterminate penalty of one (1) month and one (1) day of arresto mayor to one
(1) year and one (1) day of prision correccional, the judgment appealed from is
affirmed in all respects with costs." (as amended by the resolution dated August
7, 1970, Rollo, p. 19).
The facts of the case taken from the decision of the Court of Appeals are as follows:
Atty. Vivencio Ruiz, a practising lawyer since 1926, one time Justice of the Peace and member of
the Provincial Board of Nueva Ecija, a professor of law and for sometime president of the Nueva
Ecija Bar Association, has been the attorney of petitioner Exequiel Victorio in certain civil cases
from 1953 until 1963 when petitioner decided to hire the services of another lawyer, Atty. L.
Castillo in place of Atty. Ruiz and his collaborator Judge Alfredo Guiang, then Municipal Judge of
Guimba, Nueva Ecija. Exequiel Victorio and his wife afterwards filed an administrative charge
against Judge Guiang which was assigned to Judge Ramon Avancena, Presiding Judge of the
Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija, for investigation and disbarment proceedings against Atty.
Ruiz, then pending in the Office of the Solicitor General. Petitioner Daniel Victorio is the son of
Exequiel Victoria.
During the hearing of the administrative case on that particular afternoon of January 9, 1964 in
the sala of Judge Avancea, Atty. Castillo, counsel of the Victorios, presented an urgent motion to
disqualify Judge Avancea to hear the administrative case, who apparently taken aback, called
down Atty. Castillo and gave him a lecture, while Atty. Ruiz, as counsel for respondent Judge
Guiang in the administrative case, moved that Atty. Castillo be cited for contempt of court.
After the said hearing and while the two accused were later walking down the corridor leading to
the stairs from the sala of Judge Avancea, the incident that gave rise to the criminal prosecution
for oral defamation took place. Petitioners were overheard by Emiliano Manuzon, a policeman of
Cabanatuan City and one of the witnesses for the prosecution, to have uttered the following
defamatory words:
Daniel: "Kayabang ng putang-inang abogadong Ruiz na iyan,
tunaw naman ang utak, suwapang at estapador."
Exequiel: "Lastog ta ukinnanata abogado Ruiz, suwapang,
estapador, paltogak ta ukinana ta abogado Ruiz, suwapang ken
estapador." (Translated in Tagalog as, Mayabang yang putanginang abogado Ruiz na iyan, babarilin ko ang putang inang iyan,
suwapang at estapador.")
On February 8, 1964, Daniel Victorio and Exequiel Victorio were separately charged with the
crime of Serious Oral Defamation in the City Court of Cabanatuan City, in Identical informations
(Original Record, p. 1) indicting the accused as follows:
That on or about the 9th day of January, 1964, in the City of Cabanatuan,
Republic of the Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court,
the abovenamed accused moved by resentment and hatred which he entertained
against the person of one Vivencio Ruiz, and in order to put him into public
ridicule, discredit, and contempt, did then and there willfully, unlawfully, and
feloniously, and in the the presence of many persons, uttered the following
defamatory words, to wit:
LASTOG TA UKINANATA ABOGADO RUIZ, SWAPANG, ESTAPADOR,
PALTOGAK TA UKINNANATA.1
and other words of similar import to the great embarrassment of said Vivencio
Ruiz.

Contrary to law.
Both accused pleaded not guilty upon arraignment (Original Record, p. 10; p. 4) and the cases
were tried jointly.
After trial, both accused were convicted in a decision of the the City Court dated April 10,
1968,*** the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, the prosecution having proved the guilt of the accused beyond
reasonable doubt, the accused, Exequiel Victoria is hereby found guilty of Grave
Oral Defamation and is hereby sentenced to suffer an imprisonment of SIX (6)
MONTHS & ONE (1) DAY, and the accused Daniel Victorio is hereby sentenced
to suffer an imprisonment of (6) MONTHS and ONE (1) DAY and to pay the costs
proportionately.
SO ORDERED. (Original Record, p. 179).
Their motion for reconsideration and/or modification of judgment (Original Record, p. 181) filed on
the same date was denied in an order of the trial court dated September 25, 1968 (Original
Record, p. 189). On appeal, the Court of Appeals, on October 9, 1968 (Original Record, p. 201)
affirmed the decision of the trial court but modified the penalty to the indeterminate sentence of
one (1) month and one (1) day of arresto mayor as minimum to one (1) year and one (1) day
of prisIon correccional as maximum (Resolution of August 7, 1970; Rollo, p. 19). The motion for
hearing and/or reconsideration filed on October 15, 1970 as well as their urgent motion for
reconsideration filed on October 19, 1970 were denied by the Court of Appeals in its resolution
dated October 28, 1970. Thus, this petition for review by certiorari filed with the Court on
December 18, 1970 (Rollo, P. 9).
On February 11, 1971, the Court resolved to deny the petition for insufficient showing that findings
of facts are unsupported by substantial evidence and for lack of merit (Rollo, p. 43). However, in
its Resolution of April 15, 1971, the Court, considering the grounds of the motion of petitioners for
reconsideration of the resolution of February 11, 1971, resolved to: (a) reconsider said resolution;
and (b) to give due course to the petition for review on certiorari of the decision of the Court of
Appeals (Rollo, p. 56).
On October 15, 1974, counsel for petitioners-appellants filed a motion to dismiss G.R. No. L32836 (Criminal Case No. 9469 of the City Court of Cabanatuan City and CA-G.R. No. 09243-44CR), manifesting that the petitioner-appellant Exequiel Victorio died on April 14, 1974 at Guimba,
Nueva Ecija where he was then residing (Rollo, p. 131). There being no objection interposed by
the Solicitor General in his comment filed with the Court on December 11, 1974, the death of
petitioner-appellant having occurred prior to the rendition of final judgment (Rollo,p. 154), the
Court resolved on December 18, 1974 to dismiss L-32836-37 only insofar as appellant Exequiel
Victorio is concerned (Rollo, p. 157).
The lone assignment of error (Brief for the Petitioners, p. 91), is as follows:
THAT THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN FINDING THAT
THE WORDS UTTERED BY THE PETITIONERS IN CONVERSATION WITH
EACH OTHER AND WHILE IN THE HEAT OF ANGER CONSTITUTE GRAVE
ORAL DEFAMATION INSTEAD OF MERELY LIGHT ORAL DEFAMATION.
In effect, counsel for petitioners abandoned all the assignments of error in the Court of Appeals,
confined himself to only one, and practically admitted that the accused committed the crime
charged although of a lesser degree that of slight oral defamation only, instead of grave oral
defamation.
There is no dispute regarding the main facts that had given rise to the present case. Appellantpetitioner in this instant appeal, does not deny that the accused, on the occasion in question,
uttered the defamatory words alleged in the information. Thus, the sole issue that the Court has
to resolve is whether or not the defamatory words constitute serious oral defamation or simply
slight oral defamation.

The term oral defamation or slander as now understood, has been defined as the speaking of
base and defamatory words which tend to prejudice another in his reputation, office, trade,
business or means of livelihood (33 Am. Jur. 39). Article 358, Revised Penal Code, spells out the
demarcation line, between serious and slight oral defamations, as follows: "Oral defamation shall
be punished by arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum
period, if it is of a serious and insulting nature, otherwise, the penalty shall be arresto menor or a
fine not exceeding 200 pesos." (Balite v. People, 18 SCRA 280 [1966]).
To determine whether the offense committed is serious or slight oral defamation, the Court
adopted the following guidelines:
. . . We are to be guided by a doctrine of ancient respectability that defamatory
words will fall under one or the other, depending upon, as Viada puts it, '...upon
their sense and grammatical meaning judging them separately, but also upon the
special circumstances of the case, antecedents or relationship between the
offended party and the offender, which might tend to prove the intention of the
offender at the time: ... Balite v. People, Ibid., quoting Viada, Codigo Penal,
Quinta edicion, page 494).
Thus, in the same case cited where scurrilous words imputed to the offended party the crime of
estafa, the Court ruled:
The scurrilous words imputed to the offended party the crime estafa. The
language of the indictment strikes deep into the character of the victim; He 'has
sold the union; he 'has swindled the money of the vendees; he 'received bribe
money in the amount of P10,000.00 ... and another P6,000.00'; He 'is engaged in
racketeering and enriching himself with the capitalists'; He 'has spent the funds of
the union for his personal use.'
No amount of sophistry will take these statements out of the compass of grave
oral defamation. They are serious and insulting. No circumstances need to be
shown to upgrade the slander. . . .
In another case where a woman of violent temper hurled offensive and scurrilous epithets
including words imputing unchastity against a respectable married lady and tending to injure the
character of her young daughters, the Court ruled that the crime committed was grave slander:
The language used by the defendant was deliberately applied by her to the
complainant. The words were uttered with evident intent to injure complainant, to
ruin her reputation, and to hold her in public contempt, for the sake of revenge.
One who will thus seek to impute vice or immorality to another, the
consequences of which might gravely prejudice the reputation of the person
insulted, in this instance apparently an honorable and respectable lady and her
young daughters, all prominent in social circles, deserves little judicial sympathy.
Certainly, it is time for the courts to put the stamp of their disapproval on this
practice of vile and loud slander. (U.S. v. Tolosa, 37 Phil. 166 [1917]).
In a case where the accused, a priest, called the offended party a gangster, in the middle of a
sermon, the court affirmed the conviction of the accused for slight slander (People v. Arcand 68
Phil. 601 [1939]). There was no imputation of a crime nor a vice or immorality in said case.
In the instant case, appellant-petitioner admitted having uttered the defamatory words against
Atty. Vivencio Ruiz. Among others he called Atty. Ruiz, "estapador", which attributes to the latter
the crime of estafa, a serious and insulting imputation. As stated by the Court in Balite v.
People, supra, "no amount of sophistry will take these statements out of the compass of grave
oral defamation . . . No circumstances need to be shown to upgrade the slander."
Defamatory words uttered specifically against a lawyer when touching on his profession are
libelous per se. Thus, in Kleeberg v. Sipser (191 NY 845 [1934]), it was held that "where
statements concerning plaintiff in his professional capacity as attorney are susceptible, in their
ordinary meaning, of such construction as would tend to injure him in that capacity, they are

libelous per se and (the) complaint, even in the absence of allegation of special damage, states
cause of action." Oral statements that a certain lawyer is 'unethical,' or a false charge, dealing
with office, trade, occupation, business or profession of a person charged, are slanderous per
se (Kraushaar v. LaVin, 42 N.Y.S. 2d 857 [1943]; Mains v. Whiting 49 NW 559 [1891]; Greenburg
v. De Salvo, 216 So. 2d 638 [1968]).
In Pollard v. Lyon (91 US 225 [1876]), the court there had occasion to divide oral slander, as a
cause of action, into several classes, as follows:
(1) Words falsely spoken of a person which impute to the party the commission of
some criminal offense involving moral turpitude for which the party, if the charge
is true, may be indicted and punished;
(2) Words falsely spoken of a person which impute that the party is infected with
some contagious disease, where, if the charge is true, it would exclude the party
from society;
(3) Defamatory words falsely spoken of a person which impute to the party
unfitness to perform the duties of an office or employment, or the want of integrity
in the discharge of the duties of such office or employment;
(4) Defamatory words falsely spoken of a party which prejudice such party in his
or her profession or trade; and
(5) Defamatory words falsely spoken of a person, which, though not in
themselves actionable, occasion the party special damage."
In the instant case, appellant-petitioner imputed the crime of estafa against a prominent lawyer
one-time Justice of the Peace and member of the Provincial Board of Nueva Ecija, a professor of
law and for sometime a president of the Nueva Ecija Bar Association. As the scurrilous imputation
strikes deep into the character of the victim, no special circumstance need be shown for the
defamatory words uttered to be considered grave oral defamationBalite v. People, supra. In
addition, the fact that the offended party is a lawyer, the totality of such words as "kayabang",
"tunaw ang utak", "swapang at estapador", imputed against him has the import of charging him
with dishonesty or improper practice in the performance of his duties, hence, actionable per se.
Petitioner argues that this Court in People v. Doronila (40 O.G. No. 15, Supp. 11, p. 231 [1941])
and People v. Modesto (40 O.G. No. 15, Supp. 11, p. 128 [1941]) ruled that defamatory words
uttered in the heat of anger could only give rise to slight oral defamation (Rono, p. 13).
We disagree.
An examination of the rulings relied upon by petitioner showed that said cases were decided not
by this Court but by the respondent court. Suffice it to say that said decisions do not bind this
Court.
Nevertheless, the cases adverted to by petitioner would not in any manner help his cause. As
pointed out by the Solicitor General, there was no reason for the petitioner to be angry at the
offended party who was merely performing his duties as a lawyer in defense of his client.
Petitioner's anger was not lawfully caused. (Brief for the Appellee, p. 7). The fact that the
defamatory words were uttered by the petitioner without provocation by private respondent and
taken seriously by the latter, renders inapplicable the cases relied upon by petitioner.
As a matter of fact, the scurrilous remarks were found by the respondent court to have been
uttered in a loud voice, in the presence of at least ten (10) persons, taken seriously by the
offended party and without provocation on his part.
WHEREFORE, the petition is Denied for lack of merit and the appealed decision Affirmed in toto.
SO ORDERED.