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BONIFACIO v RTC of MAKATI

The accused appealed the Makati OCP Resolution to the DoJ Secretary,
FACTS: who reversed the finding of probable cause and directed the withdrawal of
Private respondent Jessie John P. Gimenez filed on behalf of the Yuchengco the Informations for libel. He stated that “internet libel” was non-existent,
Family, before the Makati OCP, 13 counts of libel under Article 355 in thus, the accused could not be charged with libel under Article 353 of the
relation to Article 353 of the RPC against officers of the Parents Enabling RPC.
Parents Coalition, Inc. (PEPCI) and a certain John Doe, the administrator of
www.pepcoalition.com. The petitioners filed a Motion to Quash on the grounds that the Information
failed to vest jurisdiction on the Makati RTC, that internet libel is not
PEPCI was formed by a large group of disgruntled planholders of Pacific covered by Article 353, and that the Information is fatally defective for not
Plans, Inc. (PPI) – a wholly owned subsidiary of Great Pacific Life designating the offense charged and the acts/omissions complained of as
Assurance Corporation, also owned by the Yuchengcos – who had constituting libel. Ultimately, the petitioner maintained that the Information
previously purchased traditional pre-need educational plans but were unable failed to allege a particular place within the trial court’s jurisdiction where
to collect thereon or avail of the benefits filed for corporate rehabilitation the subject article was printed and first published or that the offended
with prayer for suspension of payments before the Makati RTC. PPI was resided in Makati.
unable to honor its obligations regarding the educational pre-need plans, so
PEPCI sought to provide a forum by which the planholders could seek The public respondent quash the information and found that it lacked any
redress (the website). allegations that the offended were actually residing in Makati at the time of
the offense as in fact they listed their address in the complaint-affidavit at
Gimenez alleged that PEPCI also owned www.pacificnoplan.blogspot.com Yuchengco Tower in Binondo.
as well as Yahoo! Group no2pep2010@yahoogroups.com. That upon
accessing the websites, in Makati, on various dates from August 25th to The prosecution moved to reconsider the quashal and insisted that the
October 2nd, 2005, he was appalled to read numerous articles maliciously Information sufficiently conferred jurisdiction on the public respondent,
and recklessly caused to be published by the accused containing highly citing Banal III v Panganiban which stated that the Information need not
derogatory statements and false accusations, attacking the Yuchengco allege verbatim that the libelous publication was “printed and first
Family. One article stated: published.”

“… kinakatakutan kong pagbagsak ng negotiation because it was done The petitioners opposed and argued that since venue is jurisdictional in
prematurely since we had not filed any criminal aspect… What is worse is criminal cases, any defect in an information for libel pertaining to
that Yuchengcos benefited much from the nego… na talagang hindi dapat jurisdiction is not a mere matter of form that may be cured by amendment.
pagtiwalaan ang mga Yuchengco… call for the boycott ng YGC.”
The public respondent granted the prosecution’s motion for reconsideration
The Makati OCP found probable cause to indict the accused and filed 13 and order the public prosecutor to “amend” the Information to cure the
separate Informations charging them with libel, stating, “the 25th day of defect of want of venue.
August 2005 in Makati City… a place within the jurisdiction of the
Honorable Court, the above-named accused… hold the legal title to… The prosecution moved to admit the Amended Information, which read, “...
www.pepcoalition.com… published an article imputing a vice or defect to confederating together with John Does, whose true names, identities and
the complainant and caused to be composed, posted, and published in the present whereabouts are still unknown and all of them mutually helping and
said website www.pepcoalition.com and injurious and defamatory aiding one another… in the said website www.pepcoalition.com, a website
article…”
accessible in Makati City… which was first published and accessed by the means of out-of-town libel suits (complaints filed in remote municipal
private complainant in Makati City.” courts).

The petitioners moved to quash the Amended Information which, they If the circumstances as to where the libel was printed and first published are
alleged, still failed to vest jurisdiction upon the public respondent. It failed used by the offended as basis for the venue, the Information must allege
to allege that the libelous articles wer “printed and first published” by the with particularity where he defamatory article was printed and first
accused in Makati. They argued that the prosecution erroneously laid the published as evidence or supported by the address of their editorial or
venu of the case in the place where the offended party accessed the internet- business office. This pre-condition is necessary to forestall any inclination
published article. to harass.
The public respondent found the Amended Information to be sufficient in
form. Although, the same measure cannot be expected when it pertains to
defamatory material appearing on a website, as there would be no way of
ISSUE: determining the situs of its printing and first publication. To credit
Whether or not the grave abuse attended the public respondent’s admission Gimenez’s premise of equating his first access to the article on the website
of the Amended Information? YES, there was grave abuse. in Makati with “printing and first publication” would spawn the very ills
that the amendment to Article 360 sought to prevent. It would be very
RULING: chaotic if the website’s author or wirter could be sued for libel anywhere in
Venue is jurisdictional in criminal actions and that the place where the the Philippines that the private complainant may have allegedly accessed it.
crime was done determines not only the venue of the action but constitutes
an essential element of jurisdiction. This principle has even greater import If the Court ruled that the Amended Information sufficiently vested
when it comes to libel, given that Article 360 of the RPC provides for the jurisdiction in the courts Makati simply because the article was accessed
possible venues for the institution of the criminal and civil aspects of such therein would allow libel suits to be filed in other locations where the said
cases. website is likewise accessed or capable of being accessed.

The venue of libel cases where the complainant is a private individual is Chavez held that these limitations on libel actions by private persons are
limited to either of two places: where the complainant actually resides at hardly onerous. They still alow such people to file the complaint in their
the time of the offense or where the alleged defamatory article was printed respective places of residence, in which situation there is no need to embark
and first published. In this case, the Amended Information opted to lay the on a quest to determine with precision where the libelous matter was printed
venue by availing of the second one. It stated that the offending article “was and first published.
first published and accessed… in Makati.” It considered the phrase to be
equivalent to the requisite allegation of printing and first publication.

Although, the insufficiency of the allegations in the Amended Information


to vest jurisdiction in Makati is pronounced upon examining the reason for
the amendment to Article 360 by RA 4363. Under the old rule, the
offended could harass the accused in a libel case by laying the venue in a
remote or distant place. RA 4363 was enacted to forestall such harassment,
by stating specific rules as to the venue of the criminal action to prevent the
offended in written defamation cases from inconveniencing the accused by