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MVRS Publication

versus
Islamic Dawah
Council of the
Philippines
Case Analysis

Alman-Najar L. Namla
Law 119.1 Legal Logic
MVRS Publications v. Islamic Dawah Council of the Phils
Case Analysis
I. Parties involved
Petitioner MVRS Publication, (MVRS) MARS C.
LACONSAY, MYLA C. AGUJA and AGUSTINO G. BINEGAS,
JR.
vs.
Respondents - ISLAMIC DA'WAH COUNCIL OF THE
PHILIPPINES, INC(IDCP)., ABDUL-RAHMAN R.T. LINZAG,
IBRAHIM F.P. ARCILLA, ABDUL RASHID DE GUZMAN, ALFARED DA SILVA and IBRAHIM B.A. JUNIO, respondents.
II. Prior Proceedings
On 30 June 1995 the trial court dismissed the complaint holding
that the plaintiffs failed to establish their cause of action since the
persons allegedly defamed by the article were not specifically
identified It must be noted that the persons allegedly defamed, the herein
plaintiffs, were not identified with specificity. The subject article
was directed at the Muslims without mentioning or identifying the
herein plaintiffs. It is thus apparent that the alleged libelous article
refers to the larger collectivity of Muslims for which the readers of
the libel could not readily identify the personalities of the persons
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defamed. Hence, it is difficult for an individual Muslim member to


prove that the defamatory remarks apply to him. The evidence
presented in this case failed to convince this court that, indeed, the
defamatory remarks really applied to the herein plaintiffs. [3]
On 27 August 1998 the Court of Appeals reversed the decision of
the trial court. It opined that it was clear from the disputed
article that the defamation was directed to all adherents of the
Islamic faith. It stated that pigs were sacred and idolized as god by
members of the Muslim religion. This libelous imputation
undeniably applied to the plaintiff-appellants who are Muslims
sharing the same religious beliefs." It added that the suit for
damages was a class suit" and that ISLAMIC DA'WAH COUNCIL
OF THE PHILIPPINES, INC.'s religious status as a Muslim
umbrella organization gave it the requisite personality to sue and
protect the interests of all Muslims.[4]
III.

Theories of the Parties

MVRS was contending the following to the Supreme Court


(a) On the existence of the elements of libel,
(b) The right of respondents to institute the class suit, and,
(c) the liability of petitioners for moral damages, exemplary
damages, attorney's fees and costs of suit.
On the part of the MVRS, theyre contention regarding the
elements of libel were supported but it didnt meet the criteria of
directly defaming a certain person in a class.
To their advantage, they were saved from damages because of this.

On the class suit of the Muslims, the SC supported it as they are a


class of their own. They are Muslims that compose a significant
number in the Filipino population.
But regarding their liability, they were saved by the SC because the
libel case did not meet the requirement of having a member of that
class to have a cause of action. In order for a member of the class
to have a cause, it must be proved that the article pertains to him.
While on the other hand, the IDCP was averring that:
(a) the article was published to defame(defamation) and besmirch
the Muslims
(b)To disparage the Muslims as a people and Islam as religion
(c) They are injured and thus they deserve justice for it.
Yes the article was published to defame the Muslims but a case for
libel will not prosper as it did not identify specifically nor refer to
any particular individuals to be the subject of the publication. Their
opponents in this case cannot be held liable just because the words
were insulting or offensive. According to Justice Puno, there are
prerequisites to recovery:
1. published statement
2. Which is defamatory
3. And of concerning the plaintiff.
If the articles refers to a group, for a member to have a cause of
action, he must prove that the article pertains particularly to him.
IV.Objectives of the Parties
In the case of MVRS, they wanted to be relieved from the liability
imposed upon them by the Court of Appeals because they feel like
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they did not hurt anybody and they did not have the intention of
defaming the Muslims or causing disparage against them. They
prayed that there isnt really any case of libel in this case due to the
missing element of person being pertained to in the said article. They
also attacked the right of the Muslims to institute and action as a
class suit. And lastly, claiming innocence, they wanted the higher
court to erase the damages imposed upon them which include moral
damages, exemplary damages, attorney's fees and costs of suit.
On the part of IDCP, they were aiming at the substantive protection
given to them by the law against defamation. The article was clearly
pertaining to the Muslims. This was derogatory in nature and thus
they are entitled to damages.
V. Key Facts
An article was published in Bulgar, a tabloid, about how Muslims do
not eat pigs and other animals and treat such animals as gods.

The August 1, 1992 edition of Bulgar had an article that reads:


"ALAM BA NINYO?
Na ang mga baboy at kahit anong uri ng hayop sa Mindanao ay hindi
kinakain ng mga Muslim?
Para sa kanila ang mga ito ay isang sagradong bagay. Hindi nila ito
kailangang kainin kahit na sila pa ay magutom at mawalan ng ulam sa
tuwing sila ay kakain. Ginagawa nila itong Diyos at sinasamba pa nila
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ito sa tuwing araw ng kanilang pangingilin lalung-lalo na sa araw na


tinatawag nilang Ramadan."

The Islamic Council filed with RTC-Manila a complaint for

damages against MRVS et al saying the article alluded to the pig as


the god of the Muslims.

The complaint alleges that the libelous statement was insulting.

They also say it was published with the intent to hurt their

feelings and disparage the Muslims and Islam in this country.

MVRS et al says that the article did not mention anyone to be

the object of the article and so the complainants (the Muslims) are
not entitled to damages

They also say that the article was an expression of belief or

opinion

Says it was published without malice

RTC dismissed the complaint.

CA reversed.

VI.

Issues

Are Muslims entitled to damages?


Is the article protected by the free speech clause of the
constitution?

VII. Holdings and Findings

Defamation, which includes slander and libel, means the offense of


injuring a persons character, fame, or reputation through false and
malicious statements.

It is that which tends to injure reputation or diminish esteem,


respect, or confidence in the person claiming to have been
defamed.

Defamation is an invasion of a relational interest since it


involves the opinion which others in the community may have or
tend to have of the person claiming to have been defamed.

Words which are merely insulting are not actionable as libel or


slander.
Declarations made about a large group of people cannot be
interpreted to advert to an identified or identifiable individual.
Absent circumstances specifically pointing or alluding to a particular
member of a class, no member of such class has a right of action
without impairing the equally demandable right of free speech,
expression, and of the press.
Jurisprudence
In Newsweek v. IAC, SC said: Where the defamation is alleged to
have been directed at a group or class, it is essential that the
statement must be so sweeping or all-embracing as to apply to every
individual in that group, or sufficiently specific so that each individual
in the class or group can prove that the defamatory statement
specifically pointed to him, so that he can bring the action separately,
if need be.

In the current case, there is no identifiable person who was allegedly


injured by the Bulgar article. Since the persons allegedly defames
could not be identifiable, the respondents (the Muslims) have no
individual cause of action.

Hence, they cannot sue for a class allegedly disparaged.

Respondents (the Muslims) must have a cause of action in


common with the class to which they belong in order for
the case to prosper.

There is no injury to the reputation of the individual Muslims


who constitute the class that can give rise to an action for group
libel. Each reputation is personal. Together, the Muslims do not
have a single common reputation that will give them a common
or general interest in the subject matter of the controversy.

The rule on libel has been restrictive. In an American case, the


Court held that there could be no libel against an extensive
community in common law.

According to Wittenberg in his book: there are groupings which


may be finite enough so that a description of the body is a
description of the members. So there is a question, is the
description of the member implicit in the description of the
body, or is there a possibility that a description of the body may
consist of a variety of persons, those included within the charge,
and those excluded from it?

As the size of the groups increases, the chances for members of


such to recover damages on tortious libel become elusive. This
principle is said to embrace 2 important public policies:

1st: where the group referred to is large, the courts presume that
no reasonable reader would take the statementas so literally
applying to each individual member
2nd: the limitation on liability would satisfactorily safeguard
freedom of speech, expression, and of the press, effecting a sound
compromise between the conflicting fundamental interests
involved in libel cases

Some authorites have noted that in cases permitting recovery,


the group generally has 25 or fewer members. But there is not
articulated limit on size. Suits have been permitted by members
of fairly large groups when some distinguishing characteristic of
the individual or group increases the likelihood that the
statement could be interpreted to apply individually.

A prime consideration is the public perception of the size of the


group

In this case, the Muslim community is too vast as to readily


ascertain who among the Muslims were particularly defamed.
Muslim is a name which describes only a general segment of
the Philippine population, comprising of heterogenous body
whose construction is not so well defined as to render it
impossible for any representative identification

The statements published in this case did not specifically


identify nor refer to any particular individuals who were
reportedly the subject of the allegedly libellous publication.

Defamation is made up of the twin torts of libel and slander.


Although the gist of an action for defamation is an injury to
reputation, the focus of a defamation action is upon the
allegedly defamatory statement itself and its predictable effect
on 3rd persons.

Defamatory statement is one that tends to harm the reputation


of another as to lower him in the estimation of the community or
to deter 3rd persons from associating or dealing with him.

VIII. Ratio Decidendi


As a prerequisite to recovery, it is necessary for the plaintiff to prove
as part of his prima facie case that the defendant
1. Published a statement that was
2. Defamatory
3. Of and concerning the plaintiff
Action for libel must be brought by the person against whom
the defamatory charge has been made
Contrary view:
What is involved here is intentional tortious act causing mental
distress and not an action for libel.
This contrary view invokes:

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o Chaplinksy case: words intended to merely incite hostility have no


social value and do not enjoy constitutional protection
o Beauharnais case: hate speech which denigrates a group of
persons identified by their religion, race, or ethnic origin, defames
that group and the law may validly prohibit such speech on the same
ground as the defamation of an individual.
Supreme court ruled:
They do not agree with the contrary view. An emotional distress tort
action is personal in nature. It is a civil action filed by an individual to
assuage the injuries to his emotional tranquillity due to personal
attacks on his character. It has no application in this case since no
particular individual was identified in the article of Bulgar. Also, the
purported damage (if there was any) falls under the principle of
relational harm which includes hard to social relationships in the
community in the form of defamation; as distinguished from the
principle of reactive harm which includes injuries to individual
emotional tranquillity in the form of an infliction of emotional distress.
In the complaint, the respondents (the Muslims) clearly asserted an
alleged harm to the standing of the Muslims in the community.
Therefore, it means that this case falls within the application of
relational harm principle of tort actions for defamation, rather than
reactive harm principle. Emotional distress properly belongs in
reactive harm. Therefore emotional distress tort is not applicable.
Moreover, to recover for intentional infliction of emotional distress,
the person must show that:
1. The conduct of the defendant was intentional or in reckless
disregard of the plaintiff
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2. The conduct was extreme and outrageous


3. There was a causal connection between the defendants conduct
and the plaintiffs mental distress
4. The mental distress was extreme and severe
Extreme and outrageous menas conduct that is so outrageous as to
go beyond all possible bounds of decency.
o Conduct will be actionable where the recitation of the facts to an
average member of the community would arouse his resentment
against the actor and lead him to exclaim outrageous! as his
reaction.
Re: Brandenburg
Brandenburg recognized a narrower set of permissible grounds for
restricting speech than Beauharnais
In Brandenburg, SC held that advocacy of illegal action becomes
punishable only if such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing
imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.
Brandenburg overruled Beauharnais.
Brandenburg is considered as one of the lynchpins of the modern
doctrine of free speech, which seeks to give special protection to
politically relevant speech.
In conclusion, SC says:
Court has no power to determine which is proper religious conduct or
belief.
Courts must be viewpoint neutral when it comes to religious matters if
only to affirm the neautrality principle of free speech rights under
modern jurisprudence where all ideas are treated equal in the eyes
of the first amendment even those universaly condemned and run
counter to constitutional principles.
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Under the right of free speech, there is no such thing as a false idea.
Petition granted.
Vitug, J. concurs
Carpio, J. dissents:
This case is not about a libel which requires the identification of the
plaintiff in the libelous statement.
if this were a libel case under NCC 30, which authorizes a separate
civil action to recover civil liability arising from a criminal offense,
Carpio agrees that case will not prosper for want of identification of
the libeled persons. But this case is not anchored on NCC 30.
Respondents (the Muslims) insist that the case is about tortuous
conduct under NCC 26.
unlike actions in NCC 30 which must arise from a criminal offense,
the action under NCC 26 may not constitute a criminal offense.
NCC (4), which refers to acts humiliating another for his religious
beliefs, is embraced in the tort known as intentional infliction of
mental or emotional distress.
This case must be decided on whether there was such tortuous
conduct or not.
in intentional infliction of mental distress, the opinion of the
community is immaterial. What is material is the harm to plaintiffs
mental and emotional state.
Austria-Martinez, J. dissents:
In libel cases, its 4 elements must be established by mere
preponderance of evidence. However, these elements are not essential
in a cause of action based on tort under NCC 26, where one is liable

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for personal injury whether done intentionally, wantonly, or by


negligence.
Personal injury here refers not only to reputation but also
encompasses character, conduct, manner, and habit of a person.
NCC 26 (4) which makes one liable for vexing or humiliating
another on account of his religious beliefs finds proper application
here.
the freedom of speech does not require a journalist to guarantee
the truth but it does prohibit publishing statements in a reckless
disregard without any effort to ascertain the truth.
The freedom of speech and of the press cannot be availed of to
broadcast lies nor may it be used to insult others for such would be
contrary to the mandate of the NCC for each person to respect the
dignity, personality, privacy, and peace of mind of his neighbors and
other persons.

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