Malicious Facebook posts cost Bohol woman 106,000 pesos in libel case

online libel

A court in Bohol has found a women guilty of the crime of online libel and has sentenced her to pay a fine of 6,000 pesos.

The woman has also been ordered to pay the the offended party 100,000 pesos in moral damages due to her malicious posts.

Judge Jennifer Chavez-Marco, presiding judge of the Regional Trial Court Branch #2 in Tagbilaran City, found Jocelyn Ramada Vallespin guilty beyond a reasonable doubt for her part in the libel case – defined under Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code. 

Many say that the court’s decision on the matter should serve as a warning to others who are careless and abusive of their statements posted online.

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Defamatory statements

In her 13-page decision dated October 31st, Judge Marco noted that the accused, Ramada Vallespin, posted defamatory statements on her Facebook page.

“Accused did not deny the malicious posts written on the wall of her Facebook account nor did she proceed to establish the claim of her counsel during the pre-trial conference that her Facebook account could have been hacked,” the judge said in the decision.

“Libel in the cyberspace can of course stain a person’s image with just one click of the mouse,” the court said. “Scurrilous statements can spread and travel fast across the globe like bad news.”

The court explains: “If the post is made available to the public, meaning to everyone and not only to his friends, anyone on Facebook can react to the posting, clicking any of several buttons of preferences on the program’s screen such as Like, Comment, or Share.”

Court documents show that Vallespin named the aggrieved party, had posted on her Facebook that the complainant had gone insane – claiming several defamatory statements including being a degree holder, bribery by another family member, making false statements about a pregnancy and numerous other fabricated stories.

In the case three witnesses to the testimony of the complainant testified they too saw the posting on their Facebook pages.

The three testified that they were able to read the Facebook ranting of Vallespin, saying Vallespin’s statements were “false and highly defamatory” and were “read by so many people all over the world with words calculated to induce the readers that (complainant) is guilty of certain offenses and such words are sufficient to impeach her honesty, virtue or reputation, or to hold her up to public ridicule.”

Online libel offence

In her decision, Judge Marcos noted that the “accused did not even attempt to present any substantial evidence except for pointing out minor discrepancies in the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses.”

In establishing the fact that there was an existence of malice in the postings of Vallespin, the judge, citing several jurisprudences, said that “there is actual malice or malice in fact when the offender makes the defamatory statement with the knowledge that it is false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.”

Under Article 354 of the Revised Penal Code libel is defined 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.”

Article 354 of the Code states that “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…”

In 2012, President Aquino enacted Republic Act No. 10175, or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. Among the cybercrime offenses included in the original version of the bill are cybersquatting, cybersex, child pornography, identity theft, illegal access to data and libel.

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