G.R. No. 1847. October 22, 1905

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5 Phil. 155

[ G.R. No. 1847. October 22, 1905 ]




This is a civil action for damages for libel, under the provisions of Act No. 277 of the Philippine Commission.

It was proven at the trial of the case that the defendant caused to
be published the articles set out in the complaint in certain
newspapers published and circulated in the municipality and Province of
Cebu, and that the alleged defamatory words contained therein referred
to the plaintiff, and were so understood by many of those who read them.

Counsel for the defense insists that the plaintiff can have no cause
of action against the defendants, because the articles in question do
not refer to him by name, and because, as he alleges, they are equally
applicable to any one of a number of persons living in Cebu; we are of
opinion, however, that when, as in this case, there is an averment in
the complaint that the defamatory words refer to the plaintiff, and it
is proven that the words do in fact refer to him, and are capable of
bearing such special application, an action for libel may be maintained.

“If the words, spoken or written, though plain in
themselves, apply equally well to more persons than one, evidence may
be given both of the cause and occasion of publication, and of all the
surrounding circumstances affecting the relations between the parties,
and also to any subsequent articles referring to the former one, or of
any statement or declaration made by the defendant as to the person
referred to. The plaintiff may also call at the trial his friends or
those acquainted with the circumstances, to state that on reading the
libel they at once concluded it was aimed at the plaintiff. (Am. and
Eng. Ency. of Law, vol. 18, p. 996, note 2.)

“Whether a man
is called by one name or whether he is called by another or whether he
is described by a pretended description of a class to which he is known
to belong, if those who look on know well who is aimed at, the very
same injury is inflicted, the very same thing is done as would be done
if his name and Christian name were ten times repeated. (Per Campbell,
C. J., in Le Fanu vs. Malcohusen, 1 H. L. C, 668.)”

To justify and excuse the publication of the articles in question
the defendant offered evidence to prove the truth of the incidents
therein related; that they had been published in good faith, believing
them to be true; that he had no express malice toward the plaintiff;
and that the publication was made in good faith, for the sole purpose
of correcting certain abuses by bringing them forcefully to the
attention of the public.

We are of opinion that the truth of the incident set out in the
first article mentioned in the complaint was sufficiently proven by the
evidence adduced at the trial and the admissions of the plaintiff, but
we think that the defendant failed to establish the fact that the
plaintiff was guilty of the alleged assault upon which the second
article is based.

The assault as set out in the article in question was a misdemeanor,
punishable by fine or detention, and the publication alleging that the
complainant had thus violated the criminal laws of the Islands was a
libel for which he is entitled to damages under the provisions of
section 11 of Act No. 277.

The trial court gave judgment for 3,000 pesos damages, but this
amount is so far in excess of the damages which in our opinion should
be imposed upon the defendant that we are constrained to modify the
judgment in this regard.

We do not think that this is a proper case for the imposition of
punitive or exemplary damages. We believe that the defendant believed
the incidents related in the articles to be true when he caused them to
be published; that he had reasonable grounds to believe that the
assault mentioned in his second article occurred, although he failed to
establish that fact at the trial of the case; and that the comment on
the incidents reported, though severe, was in fact directed toward the
alleged abuses rather than the person who was charged with committing

No actual pecuniary damages were proven, and we are of opinion that
100 pesos, Philippine currency, will be amply sufficient compensation
for the damages to the feelings and reputation of the plaintiff,
resulting from the unproven publication that he was guilty of the
assault mentioned in the second article.

Modified to conform with the views herein expressed, and reducing
the damages from 3,000 pesos to 100 pesos, Philippine currency, the
judgment of the trial court is affirmed, with the costs of this
instance against the appellant. After the expiration of twenty days let
judgment be entered in accordance herewith and the cause remanded to
the court below. So ordered.

Arellano, C. J., Torres, Mapa, and Johnson, JJ., concur.

Date created: April 28, 2014


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