XIII-2. Tulfo vs People

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  GR NO. 161032 TULFO VS PEOPLE CASE: LIBEL Erwin Tulfo vs People of the Philippines and Atty. Carlos T. So FACTS: Erwin Tulfo, in his column in Remate, published four articles in different dates regarding one Atty. Carlos “Ding” So of Bureau of Customs Intelligence Unit in South Harbor and his alleged corruption. Subsequently, Atty. So filed a libel case against Tulfo and the editors and president of Remate. In his defense, petitioner Tulfo testified that he did not write the subject articles with malice, that he neither knew Atty. So nor met him before the publication of the articles. He testified that his criticism of a certain Atty. So of the South Harbor was not directed against the complainant, but against a person by the name of Atty. “Ding” So at the South Harbor. Tulfo claimed that it was the practice of certain people to use other people’s names to advance their corrupt practices. He also claimed that his articles had neither discredited nor dishonored the complainant because as per his source in the Bureau of Customs, Atty. So had been promoted. He further testified that he did not do any research on Atty. So before the subject articles, because as a columnist, he had to rely on his source, and that he had several sources in the Bureau of Customs, particularly in the South Harbor. The other co-accused claimed that none of them edited the columns of Tulfo and that it is Tulfo’s responsibility to publish and edit his own work.  The trial court convicted Tulfo and his colleagues in Remate and the same was affirmed by the Court of Appeals hence, the petition wherein Tulfo claims for the first time that the assailed articles are privileged. ISSUE: Whether or not Tulfo and his co-accused are guilty of libel? RULING: Yes, they are guilty of libel with modification that in lieu of imprisonment, the penalty must be imposed on the petitioners. The court ruled that in order that the publication of a report of an official proceeding may be considered privileged under the second paragraph of Article 354 of the RPC, the following conditions must exist: (a) That it is a fair   and true  report of a judicial, legislative, or other official proceedings  which are not  of confidential nature, or of a  statement, report  or  speech  delivered in said proceedings, or of any other act performed by a public officer in the exercise  of his functions; (b) That it is made in good faith;  and  (c) That it is without  any comments or remarks. None of the elements of the second paragraph of Art 354 is present in the articles of Tulfo and his failure to verify the information on which he based his writings he therefore failed to meet the test laid down in “reckless disregard test” as laid down in New York Times vs Sullivan and reiterated in Flor vs People. On the other hand, the editors and the president of Remate were also held liable as laid down in the provision of Article 360 of the RPC which states that  –   Art. 360. 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 Court stated that the provision in the RPC does not provide absence of participation as a defense, but rather plainly and specifically states the responsibility of those involved in publishing newspapers and other periodicals. It is not a matter of whether or not they conspired in preparing and publishing the subject articles, because the law simply so states that they are liable as they were the author.
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