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Republic of the Philippines

SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC
G.R. No. L-15905 August 3, 1966
NICANOR T. JIMENEZ, ET AL., plaintiffs and appellants,
vs.
ARTOLOME CAANGANG, defendant and appellee.
Liwag and Vivo and S. Artiaga, Jr. for plaintiffs and appellants.
Jose S. Zafra and Associates and V. M. Fortich Zerda for defendant and appellee.
CONCEPCION, C.J.:
This is an ordinary civil action, originally instituted in the Court of irst !nstance of Ri"al, for the recovery, by
plaintiffs Nicanor T. #i$ene", Carlos #. Albert and #ose %. %u&ban, of several su$s of $oney, by 'ay of
da$ages for the publication of an allegedly libelous letter of defendant Bartolo$e Cabangbang. (pon being
su$$oned, the latter $oved to dis$iss the co$plaint upon the ground that the letter in )uestion is not libelous,
and that, even if 'ere, said letter is a privileged co$$unication. This $otion having been granted by the lo'er
court, plaintiffs interposed the present appeal fro$ the corresponding order of dis$issal.
The issues before us are* +,- 'hether the publication in )uestion is a privileged co$$unication. and, if not, +/-
'hether it is libelous or not.
The first issue ste$s fro$ the fact that, at the ti$e of said publication, defendant 'as a $e$ber of the 0ouse of
Representatives and Chair$an of its Co$$ittee on National 1efense, and that pursuant to the Constitution*
The 2enators and Me$bers of the 0ouse of Representatives shall in all cases e3cept treason, felony, and
breach of the peace, be privileged fro$ arrest during their attendance at the sessions of the Congress,
and in going to and returning fro$ the sa$e. and for any speech or debate therein, they shall not be
)uestioned in any other place. +Article 4!, 2ection ,5.-
The deter$ination of the first issue depends on 'hether or not the afore$entioned publication falls 'ithin the
purvie' of the phrase 6speech or debate therein6 7 that is to say, in Congress 7 used in this provision.
2aid e3pression refers to utterances $ade by Congress$en in the perfor$ance of their official functions, such as
speeches delivered, state$ents $ade, or votes cast in the halls of Congress, 'hile the sa$e is in session, as 'ell
as bills introduced in Congress, 'hether the sa$e is in session or not, and other acts perfor$ed by
Congress$en, either in Congress or outside the pre$ises housing its offices, in the official discharge of their
duties as $e$bers of Congress and of Congressional Co$$ittees duly authori"ed to perfor$ its functions as
such, at the ti$e of the perfor$ance of the acts in )uestion.
,
The publication involved in this case does not belong to this category. According to the co$plaint herein, it 'as
an open letter to the President of the Philippines, dated Nove$ber ,8, ,95:, 'hen Congress presu$ably 'as
not in session, and defendant caused said letter to be published in several ne'spapers of general circulation in
the Philippines, on or about said date. !t is obvious that, in thus causing the co$$unication to be so published,
he 'as not perfor$ing his official duty, either as a $e$ber of Congress or as officer or any Co$$ittee thereof.
0ence, contrary to the finding $ade by 0is 0onor, the trial #udge, said co$$unication is not absolutely
privileged.
;as it libelous, insofar as the plaintiffs herein are concerned< Addressed to the President, the co$$unication
began 'ith the follo'ing paragraph*
!n the light of the recent develop$ents 'hich ho'ever unfortunate had nevertheless involved the Ar$ed
orces of the Philippines and the unfair attac&s against the duly elected $e$bers of Congress of
engaging in intriguing and ru$or=$ongering, allo' $e, >our E3cellency, to address this open letter to
focus public attention to certain vital infor$ation 'hich, under the present circu$stances, ! feel it $y
sole$n duty to our people to e3pose.1wph1.!t
!t has co$e to $y attention that there have been allegedly three operational plans under serious study by
so$e a$bitious AP officers, 'ith the aid of so$e civilian political strategists.
Then, it describes the 6allegedly three +?- operational plans6 referred to in the second paragraph. The first plan
is said to be 6an insidious plan or a $assive political build=up6 of then 2ecretary of National 1efense, #esus
4argas, by propagandi"ing and gla$ori"ing hi$ in such a 'ay as to 6be prepared to beco$e a candidate for
President in ,9@,6. To this end, the 6planners6 are said to 6have adopted the sales=tal& that 2ecretary 4argas is
ACo$$unistsA Public Ene$y No. , in the Philippines.6 Moreover, the P8,BBB,BBB.BB 6intelligence and
psychological 'arfare funds6 of the 1epart$ent of National 1efense, and the 6Peace and A$elioration und6
7 the letter says 7 are 6available to ade)uately finance a political ca$paign6. !t further adds*
!t is reported that the 6Planners6 have under their control the follo'ing* +,- "ol. #icanor Ji$ene% of
#&"A, +/- Lt. "ol. Jose L'()an of #*&, +?- "apt. "arlos Al)ert +,#- of ./0 AF,, +8- Col. idel %la$as
of M!2 +5- %t. Col. #ose Regala of the Psychological ;arfare Cffice, 1N1, and +@- MaDor #ose Reyna of
the Public infor$ation Cffice, 1N1. To insure this control, the 6Planners6 purportedly sent %t. Col. #ob
Mayo, Chief of M!2 to Europe to study and 'hile Mayo 'as in Europe, he 'as relieved by Col. idel
%la$as. They also sent %t. Col. 1eogracias Caballero, Chief of Psychological ;arfare Cffice, 1N1, to
(2A to study and 'hile Caballero 'as in (2A, he 'as relieved by %t. Col. #ose Regala. The 6Planners6
'anted to relieve %t. Col. Ra$on Ealve"on, Chief of C!2 +PC- but failed. 0ence, Ealve"on is
considered a $issing lin& in the intelligence net'or&. &t is, of co'rse, possi)le that the offices $entioned
a)ove are 'nwitting tools of the plan of which the1 $a1 have a)sol'tel1 no (nowledge. +E$phasis ours.-
A$ong the $eans said to be used to carry out the plan the letter lists, under the heading 6other operational
techni)ue the follo'ing*
+a- Continuous spea&ing engage$ents all over the Philippines for 2ecretary 4argas to tal& on
6Co$$unis$6 and Apologetics on civilian supre$acy over the $ilitary.
+b- Articles in $aga"ines, ne's releases, and hundreds of letters 7 6typed in t'o +/- type'riters only6
7 to Editors of $aga"ines and ne'spapers, e3tolling 2ecretary 4argas as the 6hero of de$ocracy in
,95,, ,95?, ,955 and ,95F elections6.
+c- Radio announce$ents e3tolling 4argas and critici"ing the ad$inistration.
+d- 4irtual assu$ption by 4argas of the functions of the Chief of 2taff and an atte$pt to pac& &ey
positions in several branches of the Ar$ed orces 'ith $en belonging to his cli)ue.
+e- !nsidious propaganda and ru$ors spread in such a 'ay as to give the i$pression that they reflect the
feeling of the people or the opposition parties, to under$ine the ad$inistration.
Plan No. !! is said to be a 6coup dAetat6, in connection 'ith 'hich the 6planners6 had gone no further than the
planning stage, although the plan 6see$s to be held in abeyance and subDect to future develop$ents6.
Plan No. !!! is characteri"ed as a $odification of Plan No. !, by trying to assuage the President and the public
'ith a loyalty parade, in connection 'ith 'hich Een. Arellano delivered a speech challenging the authority and
integrity of Congress, in an effort to rally the officers and $en of the AP behind hi$, and gain popular and
civilian support.
The letter in )uestion reco$$ended.* +,- that 2ecretary 4argas be as&ed to resign. +/- that the Ar$ed orces be
divorced absolutely fro$ politics. +?- that the 2ecretary of National 1efense be a civilian, not a professional
$ilitary $an. +8- that no Congress$an be appointed to said office. +5- that Een. Arellano be as&ed to resign or
retire. +@- that the present chiefs of the various intelligence agencies in the Ar$ed orces including the chiefs of
the N!CA, NB!, and other intelligence agencies $entioned else'here in the letter, be reassigned, considering
that 6they 'ere handpic&ed by 2ecretary 4argas and Een. Arellano6, and that, 6$ost probably, they belong to
the 4argas=Arellano cli)ue6. +F- that all $ilitary personnel no' serving civilian offices be returned to the AP,
e3cept those holding positions by provision of la'. +:- that the Regular 1ivision of the AP stationed in %aur,
Nueva EciDa, be dispersed by batallion strength to the various stand=by or training divisions throughout the
country. and +9- that 4argas and Arellano should dis)ualify the$selves fro$ holding or underta&ing an
investigation of the planned coup dAetat6.
;e are satisfied that the letter in )uestion is not sufficient to support plaintiffsA action for da$ages. Although the
letter says that plaintiffs are under the control of the unna$ed persons therein alluded to as 6planners6, and that,
having been handpic&ed by 2ecretary 4argas and Een. Arellano, plaintiffs 6probably belong to the 4argas=
Arellano cli)ue6, it should be noted that defendant, li&e'ise, added that 6it is of course possible6 that plaintiffs
6are un'itting tools of the plan of which the1 $a1 have a)sol'tel1 no (nowledge6. !n other 'ords, the very
docu$ent upon 'hich plaintiffsA action is based e3plicitly indicates that they $ight be a)sol'tel1 'naware of
the alleged operational plans, and that they $ay be $erely un'itting tools of the planners. ;e do not thin& that
this state$ent is derogatory to the plaintiffs, to the point of entitling the$ to recover da$ages, considering that
they are officers of our Ar$ed orces, that as such they are by la', under the control of the 2ecretary of
National 1efense and the Chief of 2taff, and that the letter in )uestion see$s to suggest that the group therein
described as 6planners6 include these t'o +/- high ran&ing officers.
!t is true that the co$plaint alleges that the open letter in )uestion 'as 'ritten by the defendant, &no'ing that it
is false and 'ith the intent to i$peach plaintiffsA reputation, to e3pose the$ to public hatred, conte$pt, dishonor
and ridicule, and to alienate the$ fro$ their associates, but these allegations are $ere conclusions 'hich are
inconsistent 'ith the contents of said letter and can not prevail over the sa$e, it being the very basis of the
co$plaint. Then too, 'hen plaintiffs allege in their co$plaint that said co$$unication is false, they could not
have possibly $eant that they 'ere a'are of the alleged plan to stage a co'p d2etat or that they 'ere &no'ingly
tools of the 6planners6. Again, the afore$entioned passage in the defendantAs letter clearly i$plies that plaintiffs
'ere not a$ong the 6planners6 of said co'p d2etat, for, other'ise, they could not be 6tools6, $uch less,
un'ittingly on their part, of said 6planners6.
;herefore, the order appealed fro$ is hereby affir$ed. !t is so ordered.
3e1es, J.*.L., *arrera, 4i%on, 3egala, Ma(alintal, *eng%on, J.,., Zaldivar, Sanche% and "astro, JJ., conc'r.
!oot"ot#s
,
4era vs. Avelino, FF Phil. ,9/. Tenney vs. Brandhove, ?8, (.2. ?@F. Coffin vs. Coffin, 8 Mass ,.