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BorjalvCourtofAppeals301SCRA1January14,1999

Facts: Acivilactionfordamagesbasedonlibelwasfiledbeforethecourt
againstBorjalandSolivenforwritingandpublishingarticlesthatareallegedly
derogatoryandoffensiveagainstFranciscoWenceslao,attackingamongothers
thesolicitationlettershesendtosupportaconferencetobelaunchconcerning
resolving matters on transportation crisis that is tainted with anomalous
activitiesinsometimeSeptember1988.Wenceslaohoweverwasnevernamed
inanyofthearticlesnorwastheconferencehewasorganizing.Thelowercourt
orderedpetitionerstoindemnifytheprivaterespondentfordamageswhichwas
affirmedbytheCourtofAppealsbutreducedthemonetaryaward.Apetition
forreviewwasfiledbeforetheSCcontendingthatprivaterespondentwasnot
sufficientlyidentifiedtobethesubjectofthepublishedarticles.
Issue: Whether or not there are sufficient grounds to constitute guilt of
petitionersforlibel.
Held: In order to maintain a libel suit, it is essential that the victim be
identifiable although it is not necessary that he be named. It is also not
sufficientthattheoffendedpartyrecognizedhimselfasthepersonattackedor
defamed,butitmustbeshownthatatleastathirdpersoncouldidentifyhimas
theobjectofthelibelouspublication.Theserequisiteshavenotbeencomplied
withinthecaseatbar.Theelementofidentifiabilitywasnotmetsinceitwas
Wenceslasowhorevealedhewastheorganizerofsaidconferenceandhadhe
notdonesothepublicwouldnothaveknown.
Theconceptofprivilegedcommunicationsisimplicitinthefreedomofthe
press and that privileged communications must be protective of public
opinion.Fair commentaries on matters of public interest are privileged and
constituteavaliddefenseinanactionforlibelorslander.Thedoctrineoffair
comment meansthatwhileingeneraleverydiscreditableimputationpublicly
madeisdeemedfalse,becauseeverymanispresumedinnocentuntilhisguiltis
judiciallyproved,andeveryfalseimputationisdeemedmalicious,nevertheless,
when the discreditable imputation is directed against a public person in his
publiccapacity,itisnotnecessarilyactionable.Inorderthatsuchdiscreditable
imputation to a public official may be actionable, it must either be a false
allegationoffactoracommentbasedonafalsesupposition.Ifthecommentis
anexpressionofopinion,basedonestablishedfacts,thenitisimmaterialthat

theopinionhappenstobemistaken,aslongasitmightreasonablybeinferred
fromthefacts.
The questioned article dealt with matters of public interest as the declared
objectiveoftheconference,thecompositionofitsmembersandparticipants,
andthemannerbywhichitwasintendedtobefundednodoubtlendtoits
activitiesasbeinggenuinelyimbuedwithpublicinterest.Respondentisalso
deemedtobeapublicfigureandevenotherwiseisinvolvedinapublicissue.
Thecourtheldthatfreedomofexpressionisconstitutionallyguaranteedand
protectedwiththereminderamongmediamemberstopracticehighestethical
standardsintheexercisethereof.

Aprivilegedcommunicationmaybeeither:
1.Absolutelyprivilegedcommunication thosewhicharenotactionable
even ifthe authorhas acted in badfaith. An example is foundinSec. 11,
Art.VI,ofthe1987ConstitutionwhichexemptsamemberofCongressfrom
liabilityforanyspeechordebateintheCongressorinanyCommitteethereof.
2. Qualifiedly privileged communications those containing defamatory
imputationsarenotactionableunlessfoundtohavebeenmadewithoutgood
intentionjustifiablemotive.Tothisgenrebelong"privatecommunications"and
"fairandtruereportwithoutanycommentsorremarks."