A Clear Explanation From Atty. Mel Sta. Maria

Dear KaPAB,

Even SC Justice Carpio agreed with Atty. Mel Sta Maria.

I TOTALLY DISAGREE WITH THE DECISION. Prescinding from the merits of the case, Maria Resa’s case should not have been filed in the first place. The filing of the case already prescribed before it was filed. It was a non-case from the very beginning.

Again let me state my reasons. I disagree with the Decision that a pre-war law Act No. 3326 is controlling. WHEN the 2012 Cybercrime Law was questioned in the Supreme Court, I was one of the petitioners. The SC’s decision is clear. Cyber-libel in the Cybercrime Law on libel is NOT A NEW CRIME but merely provides a manner of committing an already exisitng offense — which is libel —- under the 1932 Revised Penal Code (RPC). The SC ruled:

“”The Court agrees with the Solicitor General that libel is not a constitutionally protected speech and that the government has an obligation to protect private individuals from defamation. Indeed, cyberlibel is ACTUALLLY NOT A NEW CRIME since Article 353, in relation to Article 355 of the penal code, already punishes it. In effect, Section 4(c)(4) above merely affirms that online defamation constitutes “similar means” for committing libel.” ( Disini et al vs. Secretary of Justice et al G.R. No 203335 – 203518 February 11, 2014)

How does that decision affect the charge against Maria Resa? That decision, among others, should be one of the reasons for Maria Resa’s acquittal. Why? That can easily be explained.

First, because Cyber-libel is not a new crime, then the one year prescriptive period specially provided in the RPC applies to it. Moreover, such prescriptive period was not directly and expressly changed by the new Cybercrime Law. Again, cybercrime libel “MERELY AFFIRMS” an existing law. The Supreme Court made that ruling in 2014 and it must be considered part of the law of the land embedded in the Cybercrime law since its promulgaton in 2012. All cyber-libel cases must abide by that ruling including those filed in 2017.

The RTC said that the cyberlibel is “an offense separate and distinct from the ordinary libel”. However the SC clearly said cyberlibel is “ACTUALLY NOT A NEW CRIME”.The Surpreme Court was very precise in the Disini case in this regard. Its plain explanation cannot be misinterpreted. Judges must not deviate from SC decisions. A manner of committing a crime is not a new crime, just like murder being committed in so many ways, but there is only one crime. And depending on the circumstances the penalty may be mitigated or aggravated, resulting into different penalties.

Second, an old 1924 pre-commonwealth era and pre-Second-World War law ( Act No. 3326 used by the DOJ and the RTC) stating that a 12-year-prescriptive period applied to statutes without a prescriptive period DOES NOT APPLY TO offenses under the REVISED PENAL CODE (RPC) because the RPC totally repealed the OLD PENAL CODE ( for which ACT 3326 was made specially applicable).

More importantly, the RPC specifically provides that libel should be filed within one-year from its commission. Any Supreme Court interpretation of this prescriptive period making it a longer time, if such interpretation has been issued after 2017, say in 2018, will only be prospective in application, and cannot apply to cases filed in 2017. Judicial decisions are prospective in application ( Co vs. CA G.R. No. 10076, October 28, 1993). Anything less than a decision, say a resolution, does not count as only a decision forms part of the law of the land. And if the resolution is unsigned, it is binding only between the parties and “has no significant doctrinal value; or is minimal interest to the law profession, the academe, or the public.” (Rule 13, Section 6 (c) of the Internal Rules of the Supreme Court )

Third, since the alleged offense of Maria Resa was committed in 2014 (assuming that the republication was the starting point) and the case was filed in 2017, clearly the crime (assuming there was a crime) already prescribed. It cannot be filed in 2017.

Fourth, at the very least, if there is an ambiguity with respect to the interpretation of criminal and related statutes, the interpretation must always lean toward upholding the presumption of innocence. It cannot be otherwise.

I truly believe that the court got this wrong.


Klaro? Dean yan ng law school ha.

Yamot Sa Mga Vindictive,


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