Angry Maude Does Libel

Guest Article
by Maude Garrison

You blogger boys probably don’t know that I got very fine grades in English. We ladies are good with our words. I like to apply them now and then in a dry, business-like manner. Just to prove that being feminine does not mean we have to be frilly.

Today I’ll write about libel and do my best impersonation of an attorney. I’m not one, thank God, so please take my analysis with a bag of salt.
The oppressive, regressive Cybercrime Act essentially takes Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code and applies it to computer systems. I’ve pulled a couple of interesting excerpts from RPC 355 and will remark on them.
The Title and Reason for the Law
  • Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code: CRIMES AGAINST HONOR
Angry Maude

So right off, in the title, we have an interesting finding. We are dealing with honor here, not economic loss. This is troublesome because honor is not black and white. Money, you can count. Honor, not so. Also, there is a natural gap in definition between two parties: one who is sensitive to the libelous remark (the reader) and one who is not (the writer).  In the Philippines, power is vested with the person who READS the words, not the writer. This is different than in the U.S. where defamation laws favor the writer and put the burden on the reader to prove intent and malice.

The Philippine law MANDATES that when we write anything, we must consider the most sensitive souls amongst us, and not offend them.
You wanna know why there are so many libel suits in the Philippines? Let’s cut to the chase: (1) Because Filipinos are notoriously self-engaged and horrible at extending themselves into the emotional shoes of another person, and (2) Because Filipinos are notoriously thin-skinned.
Libel suits and guns are weapons of similar aim. Tools of anger and Ego. They are what keep the Philippines, in the eyes of many around the globe, thuggish and Third World. Leaders large of ego, over-sensitive, lacking confidence, requiring authoritarian tools to prop them up.

Like that thuggish cybercrime piece of  . . . legislation.

Definition of Libel
From Article 355:
  • Definition of libel. — A libel is public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead.
Yes, well, that’s what bloggers like my cousin JoeAm  do. They impute stuff. In public. It almost sounds sexual, does it not? He imputed his opinion and it impugned her honor. Hubba hubba!
But back to the topic. So the key issues are: (1) “Is it malicious?”, and (2) Does the imputation cause discredit IN THE EYES OF THE PERSON WHO PERCEIVES HARM? How in God’s great green pasture would Joe know if  the other person is hypersensitive and doesn’t dig satire? But the Article 355 words say “real or imaginary”.  Read the definition in its shortest form: “imaginary defect”.
“I imagine I was dishonored, and therefore I was.”
Descartes could not have said it better.
The Defense Rests
But bloggers also have their savior in the word “malicious” as a requirement for libel to exist. Now Joe has a huge body of work that proves his writing is well-intended. Ideas, suggestions, criticisms, and praise aimed at learning, teaching, and advocating for a modern, capable Philippines; plus he’s done some really creative stuff. You gotta be smart with a slightly bent brain to get Joe.
He’s written nearly 500 blogs aimed at learning, teaching, entertaining and advocating for a successful Philippines. Even when he utters an outright insult of another person, his ultimate intent is well-meaning. Constructive. Always, that’s what he intends. Every damn word. There is not a malicious bone in his body, not a malicious thought that exits from his cranium. I know. He told me so.
You think he writes for MONEY? No. For Philippine progress. Can you grasp the concept, Sotto? Angara the Old? Recto the Marlborough Man? Or are you really the mental midgets you sometimes seem? The forest, Joe’s writing, is objective and constructive. The trees, your shortcomings, are not.
Now the bastards who wrote the libel law PRESUME MALICIOUSNESS IS INTENDED. Hyper-sensitive twits. But then they were dumb enough to make the escape clause for bloggers requiring only that bloggers show good intention and justifiable motive:
  • Art. 354. Requirement for publicity. — Every defamatory imputation is presumed to be malicious, even if it be true, if no good intention and justifiable motive for making it is shown . . .
So, briefly, here is what I imagine Joe’s attorney would argue, aiming at showing good intention and justifiable motive for levying the occasional insult:
“Your Honor, Mr. America has written like a banshee for three years, thinking, imagining, postulating, challenging, grappling for understanding and demanding people open their minds. Sometimes it takes a hammer to open a mind. Mr. America writes satire, fiction and opinions to make his points, to open minds, to amuse. All with good intent. It would be a shame for the court to determine that a satirical insult is a truth. This would be establishing precedent that any work of satire, humor or fiction could be construed as a malicious truth. What’s next? Burning books in the Philippines? So we respectfully request that you lighten up, your honor, and we would ask the plaintiff, as well, to broaden his mind and not see snakes when he is looking at flowers. Thank you. Boy do we rest.”
Editors, Those Libelous Cretins
Next we come to the matter of editors who publish defamations. “Guilty!” As if they penned the libel themselves. The lawmakers expect publishers to recognize when a reader will be so sensitive as to file a charge.
  • Art. 360. Persons responsible. — Any person who shall publish, exhibit, or cause the publication or exhibition of any defamation in writing or by similar means, shall be responsible for the same. The author or editor of a book or pamphlet, or the editor or business manager of a daily newspaper, magazine or serial publication, shall be responsible for the defamations contained therein to the same extent as if he were the author thereof.
Boy howdy. That’s really reasonable, eh?
You want to know how many libel suits have been filed against bloggers in the United States?

Zero.

Here is libel policy in the United States, 180 degrees different from Sotto’s thinking:

  • Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 generally immunizes from liability parties that create forums on the Internet in which defamation occurs from liability for statements published by third parties. This has the effect of precluding all liability for statements made by persons on the Internet whose identity cannot be determined.[Wikipedia]
So if you readers want to get JoeAm in hot water, simply spew libel across his pages and see his ass hauled off to jail for 12 years. Nevermind, that Joe makes clear in his Policy and Terms that commenters own their comments. Joe does not. He couldn’t tell a libel from a good joke, and he can’t afford the attorney to sit looking over his editorial shoulder looking for bad expressions. You write it, you own it. Joe is kind enough to publish it on your behalf.
Can you imagine the pap that would be produced, the thoughtless, inane, boring mush, if editors censored any questionable materials from their publications? Is THAT the vision Philippine leaders have for their nation? MUSH. PABLUM. INANE THOUGHT.
Good God above. Give me a break!

Talk about insecure!

The Where of the Matter
Now if you think satire is hard to understand, try reading the legalistic nonsense below. A libel case has to be filed in TWO COURTS. Where published, and where the offended party resides. After that the law is pretty much babble, as if James Joyce did a sequel to Finnegan’s Wake in the guise of Philippine law. Especially the part about the “time of the effectivity of this law”, whatever the hell foreign language that is in.
  • The criminal and civil action for damages in cases of written defamations as provided for in this chapter, shall be filed simultaneously or separately with the court of first instance of the province or city where the libelous article is printed and first published or where any of the offended parties actually resides at the time of the commission of the offense: Provided, however, That where one of the offended parties is a public officer whose office is in the City of Manila at the time of the commission of the offense, the action shall be filed in the Court of First Instance of the City of Manila, or of the city or province where the libelous article is printed and first published, and in case such public officer does not hold office in the City of Manila, the action shall be filed in the Court of First Instance of the province or city where he held office at the time of the commission of the offense or where the libelous article is printed and first published and in case one of the offended parties is a private individual, the action shall be filed in the Court of First Instance of the province or city where he actually resides at the time of the commission of the offense or where the libelous matter is printed and first published: Provided, further, That the civil action shall be filed in the same court where the criminal action is filed and vice versa: Provided, furthermore, That the court where the criminal action or civil action for damages is first filed, shall acquire jurisdiction to the exclusion of other courts: And, provided, finally, That this amendment shall not apply to cases of written defamations, the civil and/or criminal actions which have been filed in court at the time of the effectivity of this law.
So you tell ME what that says, because I get a splitting headaches about 10 lines in.
Libel on The Internet
Well, Senator Sotto did not bother to consider that the internet is a very different animal than a newspaper or magazine.
Where does JoeAm publish from? Where do you file the case?  Maybe he is in Pongyang and only pretending to be in the Philippines. And who the hell is he, anyway? And if some schmuck publishes a libelous comment elsewhere under the Joe America nameplate, are you going to go after THIS Joe America because he is more famous? Is he responsible for ANYONE who writes under his name?
Messages fly about the internet at the speed of electricity. They don’t have to be arranged, typeset, and inked onto paper. They are fast and fluid and free.
Emphasis on the FREE you idiots.
And what about chat rooms? You going to haul some kid’s arse off to jail because he makes a flippant remark like “Senator Angara is a drunken, officious twerp”? A blog is just a chatroom on intellectual steroids. My God. And the twitter messages flying about, and the Facebook photos and verbiage. You gonna police THAT you impractical ignoramuses?
Aieeee!
These Philippine leaders like Sotto and Angara are thuggish, hypersensitive, authoritarian twits with a tin ear about the finer points of free expression.  Maybe President Aquino is, too. He certainly has not displayed any eloquence about the importance of free expression to the development of a vibrant, modern Philippines.
Jose Maria!
Where’s my Kickapoo Joy Juice? My recipe, not Johnny’s.
Time to blow a little wax out of my ears.
Let the bra fly free, if you catch my drift.
Hubba hubba.
Comments
16 Responses to “Angry Maude Does Libel”
  1. Edgar Lores says:

    Maude,Are you by any chance a reincarnation of Clarence Darrow, the civil liberties lawyer of time past? Of course, I do not mean to impute his appearance and impugn your beauty.It’s just that such wit and eloquence has not been visited on the Web in defence of any living creature – man or monkey. It seems to me that the imposition of the libel provision of the Cybercrime Law is akin to the imposition of creationism. It is a limitation of our freedom to think and to express what we think is right.I will not attempt to – indeed, cannot, dare not – contest your eloquence so please allow me three quotes from the masterful lawyer that sum up this issue:• “The world is made up for the most part of morons and natural tyrants, sure of themselves, strong in their own opinions, never doubting anything.”• “Laws should be like clothes. They should be made to fit the people they serve.”• “You can only protect your liberties in this world by protecting the other man's freedom.”

  2. Oh, Edgar, Sweetie, you certainly know how to make a girl blush. I am, of course, referring to your intellectual proweress, not those smoothie words of yours. I can read a flirt when I see one.I have to read up on the Clarence Darrow fellow. He seems to have a certain depth of understanding about morons and laws. He should be required reading in the Senate, I think.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Pinoy leaders think themselves aristocrats, descended from the blood line of Datus or Kings or a blue-blooded Spanish friar. They don't dig satire. They will not brook dissent, they will not want to be made fun of. Libel is a subtle lesse majesty to them. If it were up to them we would settle disputes of honor with a gun duel. DocB

  4. Anonymous says:

    MaudeI can see you drank my kickapoo recipe for the cathartic explosives out of every orifice in the body. Now you deserve your joy juice to replenish the drained adrenaline. You're very courteous calling them bastards and thugs who have souls. Only the devil has no soul until getting new bffs in his same mold. Way to go Maude, keep 'em coming, could not agree more. More kickapooJohnny Lin

  5. Hello Doctor Happily Married Man, are you French or French Filipino by any chance? I read Joe Am and note you use these Frenchy terms like "cordon bleu" or was it "solitaire"? And now "lesse magesty". Now, in the main, I can do without too many Frenchies, for they can out-opinion moi, and that's a quick twist of the girdle I can do without.But you must be right, when people have their noses so high in the aristocratic air, they can't see much. That makes them absolutely the most fun of people to make fun of, oui?

  6. It's all in the metamucil crystals. LOLThanks.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Maude, I don't have a drop of blood from "surrender artists". All pinoy blood. Pardon my 'french' -just my way of shorthand. Though I realize now I sound pretentious. Bombastic article by the way. DocB

  8. Oh, no, Doctor, it's not pretentious at all. It is a style that we girls can grow accustomed to, because when the French are not busy making opinions, they are busy making love. Wooo hooo. Surrendering is a very good thing in that business.And I must confess, no one has ever called me "bombastic" before, which I set right beside Edgars "eloquent" as a high compliment.Thank you.

  9. GabbyD says:

    I think you are wrong about libel. consider your opinion of the presumption of malice. what does that ultimately mean? are all criticism malicious? defamatory?NO.the penal code clarifies: "A fair and true report, made in good faith, without any comments or remarks, of any judicial, legislative, or other official proceedings which are not of confidential nature, or of any statement report, or speech delivered in said proceedings, or of any other act performed by public officers in the exercise of their functions.""this isnt malicious. in other words… if you have evidence of wrongdoing, PLEASE, by all means, WRITE ABOUT IT.the problem is, its EASY to write inflamatory things, even tho there is no iota of proof, or if the tone of the piece is aggresive. that sort of writing is ALL OVER THE INTERNET.

  10. Anonymous says:

    GabbyD, that's what's Maude's bag of salt for. No offence meant.DocB

  11. Anonymous says:

    Malicious intent is pretty obvious. Here's a concrete example: someone discloses in a blog a list of persons who tested HIV positive. Most of what I read on the web are just people showing off, which is what I'm doing now. Thank you.DocB

  12. Anonymous says:

    Well, one can think malicious anything said about Mohammad or Allah as Salman Rushdie found out much to his chagrin. DocB

  13. Gabs, dearie, lighten up. You remind me of the bookburners in "Don Quixote" who found fiction sinful because it was a pack of lies so they took every novel in the village and burned it. There is the content and there is the packaging. My content suggests that Filipino libel laws are constructed to favor the reader, essentially those in power, where as American laws favor the writer. It is a huge distinction, authoritarian versus free-expression. If you disagree that the difference exists, argue your pointIf you don't like my packaging, tough tittie as we girls say after we reach a certain age, which I shall refrain from mentioning. You do it in your words and kindly leave mine to me. If I choose to take my best shot at calling libel laws a stinko piece of insult to the finer points of peace, justice and aspirations for freedom and prosperity for the Philippines, you can either read those words or read elsewhere. It's a choice, and you are free to make it.

  14. GabbyD says:

    "My content suggests that Filipino libel laws are constructed to favor the reader, essentially those in power, where as American laws favor the writer. "actually, libel laws give power to judges and the justice system to adjudicate all kinds of problems with libel. recall that the judge has the power to determine whether the malice standard has been reached.in the US, there is an attempt to limit the involvement of the courts by allowing more lattitude to the kind of discourse you can (or cannot) take to court.________________________" You do it in your words and kindly leave mine to me." this is true, but it leaves me to wonder — IF this is true, what are comments for? just a place to vent? or could it be a venue for active discussion? i'm hoping for the latter, but most want the former…

  15. Yes, laws empower the judges and Philippine libel laws favor the complainant while US laws favor the defendant as to who has the burden to prove malice or lack thereof. It seems to me that this is reflective of a cultural distinction, authoritarian (Philippine model) versus open discourse (American model). It holds the Philippines back, I think. Suppression, oppression. They are old, dysfunctional tools best laid aside in favor of candor and open-mindedness. It seems to me comments are a place to elaborate or counter the content of the main article. I see precious little "venting" in the comments to Joe's blogs. Most readers seem able to draw the distinction between style and content, or personality and content. Sometimes the words are . . . um, colorful . . . but that is to open minds, not close them.

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  1. […] Here’s Angry Maude at her best, just to help you understand that JoeAm is actually not a normal man for allowing a certified wild woman member of his clan access to his famous blog: “Angry Maude does libel” […]



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