Love and cyber libel

Dear Atty. Angela,

I recently had a boyfriend and we have been together for only two months. I was so shocked when an officemate friend informed me that there are several posts on Facebook and Twitter circulating where a girl is cursing me, also saying very gross and malicious things like I am a whore and even posting my photos with my boyfriend calling me nasty names. I found out from my boyfriend that this was his ex-girlfriend for three years. I feel so hurt and humiliated with what is happening and this has reached my family, friends and even workmates. I want to take action; can I file cyber libel against her?



Dear Jasmine,

Section 4(c)(4) of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, which punishes the crime of cyber libel, refers to Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code: “(4) Libel. — The unlawful or prohibited acts of libel as defined in Art. 355 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, committed through a computer system or any other similar means which may be devised in the future.”

The following are the elements of cyber libel, based on Section 4(c)(4) of RA 10175, in relation to Articles 353 of the Revised Penal Code:

“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, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead.”

“(F)or an imputation to be libelous, the following requisites must be present: (a) it must be defamatory; (b) it must be malicious; (c) it must be given publicity; and (d) the victim must be identifiable.” (Soriano v. People, G.R. 225010, 21 November 2018)

For a case to constitute cyber libel, the imputation was done through the use of a computer system or any other similar means which may be devised in the future. (Sec. 4(c)(4) of R.A. 10175)
The Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 does not really define cyber libel. It penalizes libel, as defined under the Revised Penal Code, but imposes a higher penalty because of the use of information and communication technologies. The Supreme Court explained this qualifying circumstance arises from the fact that in “using the technology in question, the offender often evades identification and is able to reach far more victims or cause greater harm.”

Based on your narration, if all the foregoing elements of libel and cyber libel have been established upon assessment of the posts made with reference of your identity on Facebook and Twitter, these may constitute as cyber libel against his ex-girlfriend who in bad faith, maliciously posted defamatory information about you.
I hope to have enlightened you on your query.

Atty. Angela Antonio

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