Junking An Internet Libel Suit
In my article about suing an Internet user for libel way back in September 2009, I described a court case in its early stage of litigation involving prominent plastic surgeon Vicky Belo and activist-lawyer Argee Guevarra who allegedly committed libel in his Facebook posts. As Internet users, I said in my blog post that it should be worth our time to watch what will be the decision of the court on that very first Facebook libel case in the country because it would set some sort of precedence in future litigations of the similar nature.
Well, it was in the news last week that an Antipolo Regional Trial Court judge has dismissed the case citing “jurisdictional constraints” in trying libel committed over the Internet. As a non-lawyer, I am not in a position to discuss what the decision meant but further reading of the news said that the case was dismissed because it was filed in an “improper venue”, according to a statement issued by Guevarra. Belo filed the case against Guevarra in the province of Rizal despite the fact that Belo resides in Makati and Guevarra in Pasig which are both in Metro-Manila.
As such, the decision in junking the case was not of any help in concluding if an Internet user can indeed be sued for the libelous statement that he posted on a social networking site (SNS) or a blog. The defendant’s camp lamented how the court decided on the lawsuit, saying it had ignored some of the significant points that they raised during the trial. One argument they raised was that Internet libel does not exist in our statute books and thus requires new legislation before a suit could prosper.
Are you a victim of libelous statements posted by an SNS member or a blogger? Do you plan to sue him for the crime he committed? Depending on the damage caused by the libelous statements, you may want to consider the junking of the Internet libel case between Belo and Guevarra before making the move.
If the reason cited by the judge was “jurisdictional constraints” or “improper venue”, Belo’s lawyer should have refiled the libel suit in Makati City. I think Belo was more interested in reaping publicity from the libel suit rather than justice for her damaged reputation. Remember Belo is now the reigning “Celebrity Doctor” and basking in the limelight as the “Beauty Doctor” of the stars in the field of entertainment. Still, there should be laws that will regulate the use of Internet, particularly the social networking sites, thereby preventing the posting of defamatory statements.
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