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SOTTO v.

RUIZ
March 18, 1921 | Malcolm, J. | Mandamus | Judicial Review of
Administrative Decisions
SUMMARY: Ruiz, the director of posts barred the mailing of copies of a
weekly periodical called the independent for allegedly containing libelous
materials. The prohibition by Ruiz was accompanied by an advise from the
Attorney-General. SC ruled that the barring was clearly wrong. The material
was no libelous per se, it also held that the squid following the questioned
material is no more than attempted humor and would not be taken by the
reading public.
DOCTRINE: The courls of law will not interfere with the decision of an
administrative agency UNLESS clearly of opinion that it was wrong.
FACTS:
1. Petitioner is the proprietor of the weekly periodical, The Independent.
The respondent was the Acting Director of the Bureau of Posts. The
Director refused to forward a copy of The Independent on the ground that it
contained libelous matter, according to Sec 1954 of the Admin Code,
among other things, no written or printed matter and photographs of an
obscene, lewd, lascivious , filthy, indecent, or libelous character, shall be
deposited in, or carried by, the mails of the Philippine islands. The authority
to determine what mail matter is obscene, lewd, filthy or libelous is under
the power of the Director of posts.
2. Now petitioner filed a mandamus to compel the director to forward the
controversial copy.
3. The Director has refused thrice, after consultation with the law officer of
the government which advised that the consideration of the materials as
libelous was justified, to distribute the copies because it contains printed
message on a postal card consisting of a supposed telegram from one
official in Cebu to another in Manila, as defamatory or libelous, and as
matter that should be debarred from the mails.
4. The use of the mails by private persons is in the nature of a privilege
which can be regulated in order to avoid its abuse. Persons possess no
absolute right to this privilege. On the other hand, exclusion of newspapers

and other publications from the mails, is extremely delicate and can only be
justified where the statute is unequivocably applicable to the supposed
objectionable publication. The exclusion of any publication shall not be
made to interfere with the freedom of the press or with other fundamental
rights of the people. In order for there to be due process of law, the action of
the Director of Posts must be subject to revision by the courts in case he has
abused his discretion or exceeded his authority.
ISSUE/S:
1. WON the Director erred in holding that the publication is libelousYES
RULING: Petition GRANTED.
RATIO:
1. The performance of the duty to determine whether a publication contains
printed matter of a libelous character rests with the Director of Posts and
involves the exercise of his judgment and discretion. The rule is that the
courts will not interfere with the decision of the Director unless clearly of
opinion that it was wrong.
2. The attorney-general advised the Director that the matter printed on the
enclosed postal card is obviously intended to reflect injuriously upon the
character of a public official by giving publicity to a supposed telegram
which can be interpreted by the public as an attempt on the part of such
official to interfere with the due administration of justice. However, the
Honorable George Harvery of the CFI Manila, is of the contrary view that
when such telegram contains no attack upon any person, it would be
arbitrary and unjust to declare it libelous in character. The propriety of a
periodical distributing copies of a confidential telegram sent by one official
to another may be well be questioned, But to do so is not libelous per se.
Even the squid following the copy of the telegram is not more that
attempted humor and would not be taken seriously by the reading public.
3. The court is of the view that the barring of the distribution is clearly
wrong but the Director acted in best of faith and should accordingly not
mulcted in damages.