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Rodolfo Vasquez v Court of Appeals

The 1964 ruling in New York Times v. Sullivan handed down by the United States Supreme
Court has been the barometer used in defamation cases involving public officials in both
jurisdictions. The Philippine case that comes comparably close in circumstances with that of
the New York Times ruling is that of Rodolfo Vasquez versus Court of Appeals. It is
similar to the New York Times v. Sullivan ruling in the sense that the plaintiff is also a public
official (a barangay official).When the barangay official sued for criminal libel (note: New
York Times case was a civil case), the Supreme Court ruled that it was incumbent upon the
prosecution to prove actual malice, and failing such, no liability attached against the
accused.In any event, the Supreme Court took ocassion to apply the New York Times Co. v.
Sullivan standard in this case. Here is the digest of that case: Rodolfo R. Vasquez v. Court
of Appeals G.R. No. 118971 September 15, 1999
Facts: Petitioner Rodolfo R. Vasquez is a resident of the Tondo Foreshore Area. Sometime in
April 1986, he and some 37 families from the area went to see then National Housing
Authority (NHA) General Manager Lito Atienza regarding their complaint against their
Barangay Chairman, Jaime Olmedo, a public official. After their meeting with Atienza and
other NHA officials, petitioner and his companions were met and interviewed by newspaper
reporters at the NHA compound concerning their complaint. The next day, April 22,
1986, the following exerpts of the news article appeared in the newspaper Ang Tinig ng
Masa. In the article, published were supposed allegations by Vasquez that
(1) nakipagsabwatan umano si Chairman Jaime Olmedo upang makamkam ang may 14 na
lote ng lupa; (2) ang mga lupa ay ilegal na patituluhan, nagawa ito ni Olmedo sa
pakikipagsabwatan sa mga project manager at legal officers ng NHA; (3) kasangkot din
umano si Olmedo sa mga ilegal na pasugalan sa naturang lugar at maging sa mga nakawan ng
manok. x x x
Based on the newspaper article, Olmedo filed a complaint for libel against petitioner alleging
that the latters statements cast aspersions on him and damaged his reputation. On May 28, 1992,
the trial court rendered judgment finding petitioner guilty of libel and sentencing him to
pay a fine of P1,000.00. On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed in toto. Hence, this
petition for review.
Issue: Whether or not the actual malice standard in New York Times versus Sullivan is to be
applied in prosecutions for criminal libel.
Held: The standard of actual malice in New York Times versus Sullivan is to be applied in
criminal prosecutions for libel. For that matter, even if the defamatory statement is false, no
liability can attach if it relates to official conduct, unless the public official concerned proves
that the statement was made with actual malice that is, with knowledge that it was false
or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not. In this case, the prosecution failed
to prove not only that the charges made by petitioner were false but also that petitioner
made them with knowledge of their falsity or with reckless disregard of whether they were
false or not. A rule placing on the accused the burden of showing the truth of allegations of
official misconduct and/or good motives and justifiable ends for making such allegations
would not only be contrary to Art. 361 of the Revised Penal Code. It would, above all,
infringe on the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression. Libel was used as a form
of harassment:
Instead of the claim that petitioner was politically motivated in making the charges against
complainant, it would appear that complainant filed this case to harass petitioner. It is
curious that the ones most obviously responsible for the publication of the allegedly
offensive news report, namely, the editorial staff and the periodical itself, were not at all
impleaded. The charge was levelled against the petitioner and, "curiouser" still, his clients
who have nothing to do with the editorial policies of the newspaper.

MTRCB v. ABS-CBN G.R. No. 155282. January 17,2005

Facts: Respondent abs-cbn aired Prosti-tuition, an episode of the TV program The Inside
produced and hosted by respondent Legarda. It depicted female students moonlighting as
prostitutes to enable them to pay for their tuition fees. PWU was named as the school of
some of the students involved and the faade of the PWU building served as the background
of the episode. This caused uproar in the PWU community and they filed a letter-complaint
to the MTRCB.
MTRCB alleged that respondents
(1)Did not submit the inside story to petitioner for review
(2) Exhibited the same without its permission, thus violating sec 7 of PD 1986 and some
sections of MTRCB rules and regulations.
ABS-CBN averred:
(1) The Inside Story is a public affairs program, news documentary and socio-political
editorial, itsairing is protected by the constitutional provision on freedom of expression and
of the press
(2) Petitioners has no power, authority and jurisdiction to impose any form of prior restraint
upon respondents.
After hearing and submission of the parties memoranda, MTRCB investigating committee
ordered the respondents to pay P20,000 for non-submission of the program MTRCB affirmed
the ruling.
Respondents filed a special civil action for certiorari with RTC QC. RTC rendered a decision
in favour of respondents, annulling and setting aside the decision and resolution of the
MTRCB and declaring and decreeing that certain sections of PD 1986 & MTRCB do not cover
the TV program Inside Story, they being a public affairs programs which can be equated
to a newspaper Hence, this petition
Whether the MTRCB has the power or authority to review the Inside Story prior its
exhibition or broadcast by TV.
Held: Sec 3 of PD 1986 enumerates the powers, functions and duties of the board:
Xxx b) to screen, review and examine all motion pictures herein defined, TV programs,
including publicity materials. The court in INC v. CA rules that PD 1986 gives MTRCB the
power to screen, review and examine ALL TV PROGRAMS where the law does not make any
exceptions, courts may not exempt something therefrom, unless there is compelling reason
apparent in the law to justify it. Thus, when the law says all TV programs, the word all
covers all tv programs whether religious, public affairs, news docu, etc
It then follows that since the Inside Story is a TV Program, MTRCB has the power to review
it. The only exemptions from the MTRCBs power to review are those mentioned in Sec 7 of
PD 1986
1) TV programs imprinted or exhibited by Phil govt and/or departments and agencies2)
News reels In a desperate attempt to be exempted, respondents content that Inside Story
falls under the category of newsreels.
MTRCB rules and reg defines newsreels as straight news reporting, as distinguished from
analyses, commentaries, and opinions. Talk shows on a given issue are not considered
newsreels. Clearly, Inside Story is not a newsreel but more of a public affairs program and
within petitioners power of review.
Issue related to Consti law:
Petitioners power to review television programs under Section 3(b) of P. D. No. 1986 does
not amount to prior restraint.
Ratio: It is significant to note that in Iglesia ni Cristo, this Court declared that freedom of
religion has been accorded a preferred status by the framers of our fundamental laws, past
and present, designed to protect the broadest possible liberty of conscience, to allow each
man to believe as his conscience directs x x x.
Yet despite the fact that freedom of religion has been accorded a preferred status, still this
Court, did not exempt the Iglesia ni Cristos religious program from petitioners review
Respondents claim that the showing of The Inside Story is protected by the constitutional
provision on freedom of speech and of the press. However, there has been no declaration at
all by the framers of the Constitution that freedom of expression and of the press has a
preferred status. If this Court, in Iglesia ni Cristo, did not exempt religious programs from
the jurisdiction and review power of petitioner MTRCB, with more reason, there is no
justification to exempt therefrom The Inside Story which, according to respondents, is
protected by the constitutional provision on freedom of expression and of the press, a
freedom bearing no preferred status. The only exceptions from the MTRCBs power of review
are those expressly mentioned in Section 7of P. D. No. 1986, such as (1) television
programs imprinted or exhibited by the Philippine Government and/or its departments and
agencies, and (2) newsreels.