SC issues new decision on jurisdiction of defamation cases
THE Supreme Court has ruled that a public official can file a defamation suit in the Regional Magistrates Court (RTC) where he performed his duties or in the province or city where the defamatory article was printed and published for the first time.
Thus, the SC rejected the petition for review filed by columnist Jerry Yap, editor-in-chief Gloria Galuno and broadcast director Edwin Alcala of Hataw seeking the reversal of the decisions rendered by the Manila RTC and the Court of appeal (CA) who rejected their request. to quash the defamation case filed against them by Senior Police Inspector Rosalino Ibay Jr.
The respondents sought the dismissal of the defamation case on the grounds of Manila’s lack of jurisdiction of the RTC.
They argued that the Manila RTC committed a gross abuse of power when it denied their motion to dismiss on March 9, 2016, which led to their impeachment being filed on April 13, 2016.
On May 6, 2016, the Court of Appeal (CA) upheld the Manila RTC decision, prompting journalists to take the case to the Supreme Court (SC).
The claimants argued before the SC that the Manila RTC lacked jurisdiction to try the case as the information did not indicate why it had been filed with that court.
They pointed out that the Manila RTC had no jurisdiction over the defamation case since Ibay was no longer assigned to Manila, as stated in the alleged defamatory article.
In a 12-page decision written by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, the Court’s Third Division upheld the decisions made by the Manila RTC and the CA.
She held that under Article 360 of the Revised Penal Code and based on her previous judgments, “when the aggrieved person is a public official, he may bring the action for defamation before the Regional Court of first instance of its seat, or in the province or city where the defamatory article was first printed and published.
“Contrary to the plaintiffs’ argument, a public official is not limited to filing a defamation suit in the city or province where he served. Here, it was not a jurisdictional defect if the defendant was still performing his duties in Manila when the articles were published, since the news alleged that the articles were “first printed and published in the city of Manila,” the court said.
The defamation case arose from an article published on October 3, 2014 by the claimants about a notorious drug trafficker in Tondo who had moved back and forth to prison when Ibay was still posted to the area. .
However, Judge Leonen called for the decriminalization of defamation, saying such a legal measure “is of dubious constitutionality” and “remains incompatible with our democratic values”.