THIRD DIVISION

 

 

ALFONSO T. YUCHENGCO,

Petitioner,

 

 

- versus -

 

 

THE MANILA CHRONICLE PUBLISHING CORPORATION, ROBERTO COYIUTO, JR., NOEL CABRERA, GERRY ZARAGOZA, DONNA GATDULA, RODNEY P. DIOLA, RAUL VALINO and THELMA SAN JUAN,

Respondents.

 

G.R. No. 184315

 

Present:

CORONA, J.,

Chairperson,

CHICO-NAZARIO,

VELASCO, JR.,

NACHURA, and

PERALTA, JJ.

 

 

Promulgated:

 

 

November 25, 2009

x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x

 

 

D e C I S i o n

 

 

CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:

 

 

When malice in fact is proven, assertions and proofs that the libelous articles are qualifiedly privileged communications are futile, since being qualifiedly privileged communications merely prevents the presumption of malice from attaching in a defamatory imputation.

 

This is a Petition for Review on Certiorari assailing the Amended Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 76995 dated 28 August 2008. The Amended Decision reversed on Motion for Reconsideration the 18 March 2008 Decision[2] of the same court, which in turn affirmed in toto the Decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Makati City in Civil Case No. 94-1114 dated 8 November 2002 finding herein respondents liable for damages.

 

The facts of the case, as summarized by the RTC, are as follows:

 

In his Complaint, plaintiff Alfonso T. Yuchengco alleges that in the last quarter of 1994, Chronicle Publishing Corporation (Chronicle Publishing for brevity) published in the Manila Chronicle a series of defamatory articles against him. In two of the subject articles (November 10 and 12, 1993 issues), he was imputed to be a Marcos crony or a Marcos-Romualdez crony, which term according to him is commonly used and understood in Philippine media to describe an individual who was a recipient of special and underserving favors from former President Ferdinand E. Marcos and/or his brother-in-law Benjamin Kokoy Romualdez due to special and extra-ordinary closeness to either or both, and which favors allowed an individual to engage in illegal and dishonorable business activities.

 

The plaintiff claims that the said articles further branded him as a mere front or dummy for the Marcos and Romualdez clans in Benguet Corporation, which company sought to take-over the management of Oriental Petroleum Mineral Corporation (Oriental for brevity). He contends that such an imputation is untrue since his holdings in Benguet Corporation were legally acquired by him.

 

Also, he was likewise accused of unsound and immoral business practices by insinuating that he wanted to take control of Oriental in order to divert its resources to rescue the debt-ridden Benguet Corporation. He claims that the accusation is untrue since he was merely interested in being represented in the board thereof so as to protect his and his companies interest therein as shareholders.

 

The subject articles insinuated that he personally and intentionally caused the failure of Benguet Corporation and that if even if he ever assumed control of Oriental, it would suffer the same fate as the former. According to him, at the time he assumed chairmanship of Benguet Corporation, it was already experiencing financial downturns caused by plummeting world prices of gold and unprofitable investments it ventured into.

 

Moreover, one of the articles portrayed him as being an unfair and uncaring employer when the employees of Grepalife Corporation, of which he is the Chairman, staged a strike, when the truth being that he had nothing to do with it. And that if his group takes over Oriental, it will experience the same labor problems as in Grepalife.

 

Furthermore, the subject articles accused him of inducing Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC for brevity) to violate the provisions of the General Banking Act on DOSRI loans. He denies the imputations believing that there is nothing irregular in the RCBC-Piedras transaction for the acquisition of shares of Oriental.

 

Also, the plaintiff claims that the subject articles insinuated that he induced others to disobey lawful orders of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC for brevity) when the truth is that the officials of RCBC and Alcorn never defied any SEC order, and that if ever they did, he never induced them to do so.

 

Finally, the plaintiff asserts that the subject articles imputed to him the derogatory tag of corporate raider, implying that he was seeking to profit for something he did not work for. He denies the imputation since he acquired his stake in Oriental for adequate and valuable consideration at the time when no one was willing to bailout the government from its difficult and losing position thereto.

 

In their Answer, the defendants deny liability claiming that the subject articles were not defamatory since they were composed and published in good faith and only after having ascertained their contents. In any event, they claim that these articles are privileged and/or constitute reasonable and balance[d] comments on matters of legitimate public interest which cannot serve as basis for the finding of libel against them. They likewise alleged that they were acting within the bounds of constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech and of the press.

 

Furthermore, they contend that since plaintiff is a public figure, and assuming that the articles were indeed defamatory, they cannot be held liable for damages since they were not impelled by actual malice in the composition thereof. They did not compose and/or publish said articles with the knowledge that they contained falsehoods, or with reckless disregard on whether or not they contained falsehood.

 

As to defendant Coyiuto, he claims that he had no participation in the publication of the subject articles nor consented or approved their publication.

 

PLAINTIFFS EVIDENCE

 

During the trial, the plaintiff himself, ALFONSO T. YUCHENGCO, testified that prior to his appointment as Ambassador to Japan, he was the chairman of various business organizations notably: Benguet Corporation (Benguet), Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company, Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC), Bank of America Savings Bank, House of Investments, Inc., Dole Philippines and Philippine Fuji Xerox Corporation. He was also the President of the Philippine Ambassadors; chairman or vice president of Bantayog ng Bayan; and chairman of AY Foundation, Inc. He was appointed Philippine Ambassador to Peoples Republic of China after the EDSA Revolution.

 

As regards the article referring to the November 10, 1993 issue of the Manila Chronicle (Exh. A), he stated that he had never been a Marcos crony nor had been a business partner of the Romualdezes or had personal dealings with them; that during the shareholders meeting, the two (2) sons of Benjamin Kokoy Romualdez were elected as directors of Benguet Corporation pursuant to a Court order; that he had no personal dealings with them; that he had no intention of taking over Oriental and that Benguet Corporation did not lose the amount as stated in the article; that Benguet Corporation experienced liquidity problems, and that before he joined the corporation, it had already diversified into many other financial ventures; that he denied having any business partnership with the Romualdezes at that time.

 

Regarding the November 12, 1993 issue of the Manila Chronicle (Exh. B), he denied having any partnership with the Marcos family; that he denied responsibility for the losses incurred by Benguet Corporation, as the losses were due to the drop of the commodity market, and for having diversified into other non-profitable ventures; that he had no intention whatsoever of taking over Oriental; that although the Yuchengco family owns a substantial block of shares of RCBC, Sanwa Bank actually owns twenty-five percent (25%) thereof; that RCBC did not finance his fund but it extended a loan to Piedras Petroleum, a subsidiary of the Presidential Commission of Good Government (PCGG for brevity); admitted that Traders Royal Bank also granted a loan to PCGG but such was an independent transaction of RCBC.

 

About the November 15, 1993 issue of the Manila Chronicle (Exh. C), he denied any knowledge of what transpired at the Trust Department of RCBC because as Chairman he was not involved in many of the banks transactions.

 

Referring to November 16, 1993 issue of the Manila Chronicle (Exh. D), he considered the attacks against him to be malicious considering that he does not see any connection between the labor strike at Grepalife with the case of Alcorn and RCBC; that the article would like to show that he was the reason for the huge losses incurred by Benguet Corporation.

 

As regards the November 22, 1993 issue of the Manila Chronicle (Exh. E), he denied giving any interest free loan, the fact that they gave a loan to PCGG does not mean that they gave a loan to Benedicto since the latter had already turned over the shares of Piedras to PCGG at that time.

 

Regarding the November 23, 1993 issue of the Manila Chronicle (Exh. F), he denied extending an interest free loan considering that he is not the only owner of RCBC; that these series of attacks against him and RCBC were intended to cause a bank run; that the article imputes that he was responsible for giving an interest free loan.

 

About the December 5, 1993 issue of the Manila Chronicle (Exh. G), he said the article was intended to humiliate and embarrass him since he really had no intention of taking over Oriental; that the reason for the attack against his person was because he and defendant Coyiuto, Jr. were both rivals in the insurance business and that the latter has always been envious of his position for having owned Malayan Insurance Company.

 

On cross-examination, plaintiff Yuchengco testified that he does not consider himself a public figure; and that he felt maligned by the references to him as a Marcos crony. [TSN, 07 February 1997; 10 February 1997; 12 February 1997]

 

ROSAURO ZARAGOZA testified that he is the Executive Vice-President of RCBC; that the statement in Exhibits D, E and F with regard to the interest free loan allegedly granted to Piedras Petroleum Company, Inc. (Piedras) are false because the Piedras deal was a trust transaction which involved an advance in exchange for shares of stock; that plaintiff Yuchengco did not have a personal interest in the Piedras deal; that Piedras or Oriental Petroleum Mineral Corporation (Oriental Petroleum) shares were not transferred to plaintiff Yuchengcos name by virtue of the transaction; and that the defendants did not approach him or RCBC to check the veracity of the subject articles. The affidavit of Mr. Zaragoza (Exhibit H) was adopted as part of his testimony.

 

On cross-examination, Mr. Zaragoza testified that he volunteered to testify in the instant case because he was the most knowledgeable about the Piedras deal; that plaintiff Yuchengco was aggrieved upon reading the subject articles; that under the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between RCBC and Piedras, should the latter fail to comply with its obligations under the MOA, it will pay interest at the prevailing market interest rate from the date of advance until full payment; and that there was a complaint filed with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas against RCBC by Mr. Felipe Remollo questioning the Piedras deal. [TSN 28 February 1997; 26 June 1997; 27 June 1997; 04 July 1997]

 

JOSE REVILLA testified that he and Amb. Yuchengco were long time friends, where he (Revilla) worked for him (Yuchengco) for thirty-two (32) years in his (Yuchengco) credit card company Industrial Finance Corporation Credit Cards; that knowing Amb. Yuchengco for a considerable period of time, he does not believe the truth of the contents of the subject articles; that plaintiff Yuchengco appeared distressed when he joked about the subject articles; that other people approached him to ask whether the subject articles are true [TSN 25 August 1997].

 

x x x x

 

 

 

DEFENDANTS EVIDENCE

 

On the other hand, defendants Zaragoza, Gatdula, Cabrera and Valino substantially testified on the following matters:

 

GERRY ZARAGOZA testified that he was the Managing Editor of Manila Chronicle in charge of the national and political news; that defendant San Juan was the other Managing Editor in charge of the lifestyle section; that a story conference is conducted everyday where the articles, including the pages where they will appear, are discussed; that the editor-in-chief (defendant Cruz), executive editor (defendant Tolentino) and deputy editor (defendant Cabrera) were the ones responsible for the decisions of the story conference relative to the printing of the newspaper; that he was not involved in the writing and editing of the subject articles; that Exhibits A to D are classified as business news; that columns, specifically Exhibits E and F are not discussed during story conferences; and that Exhibit G, which appeared in the Money Section did not pass thru him.

 

On cross-examination, defendant Zaragoza testified that except for the columns, Exhibits A to D and Exhibit G are considered hard news; that he handled the hard news, while defendant San Juan handled the soft news; and that defendant Valino was the business editor in charge of the business section (TSN 22 July 1998; 23 September 1998]

 

DONNABELLE GATDULA claimed that she was a correspondent for Manila Chronicle assigned to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) beat; that she had no participation in the writing or publication of Exhibits A to C and G to E; that she attended the hearing conducted by the SEC and interviewed the two lawyers of RCBC and SEC Chairman Rosario Lopez regarding the Oriental Petroleum case; that her name appears as a tag line in Exhibit D, because she only wrote part of the story; and that she did not write the entire article (Exhibit D) as some of the statements therein were added by the editor/s; and that she did not discuss Exhibit D with any of the editors.

 

On cross-examination, defendant Gatdula testified that she does not have a copy of the original article which she wrote; that she read Exhibit D after it was published; that she did not compare her original story with Exhibit D nor question the authority of the editor to edit her story; and that she agreed to put her name on Exhibit D. (TSN 23 September 1998; 05 October 1998).

 

NOEL CABRERA contended that after having gone through the subject articles, he believes that the news stories and commentaries were fair and that those who wrote the same followed the proper standards; that as regard the contents of Exhibits E and F, the opinion of Mr. Raul Valino, as written in the said articles, were valid and based on documentary facts; as to Exhibit D, pertaining to the article of Ms. Donnabelle Gatdula, she based her article on documents pertaining to the Oriental transaction, other documents, as well as interviews; that at the time the subject articles were written, Amb. Yuchengco was a public figure, being a very prominent businessman with vast interest in banks and other businesses; that during the year 1993, the word crony was more or less accepted to mean as a big businessman or close associate of the late President Marcos, and its use in the column was meant only to supply the perspective as to the figure or subject involved in the news story, and there is thus no malice or derogatory intent when the same was used.

 

On cross-examination, defendant Cabrera testified that defendant Coyiuto is one of the owners of Manila Chronicle; and that he only saw the records of Exhibits 8 to 10 and 16 to 20 after the publication of Exhibits A to G (TSN 21 April 1999; 28 April 1999 05 May 1999; 10 May 1999).

 

RAUL VALINO stated that he was the Acting Business Manager and later Managing Editor and Business Editor-in-Chief of Manila Chronicle; that after having consulted several dictionaries as to the meaning of the word crony, he did not come across a definition describing the word to mean someone who is a recipient of any undeserving or special favor from anyone, that it merely refers to someone who is a friend or a special friend; there was no mention whatsoever in the subject article that Amb. Yuchengco was being accused of fronting for the late President Marcos (referring to par. 2.3.2 of the complaint); that nowhere in the said paragraph was Amb. Yuchengco accused of having acted as a front to facilitate the acquisition of a prohibited interest in a private corporation by a public official while occupying a public office; that nowhere in the article was Amb. Yuchengco accused of being directly or indirectly involved in unsound business practices (referring to par. 2.4 of the complaint); that whatever imputation of ill-will in par. 2.4.1 of the complaint was only in plaintiffs mind; and as regards par. 2.6 of the complaint, that he was merely reporting on what transpired at the picket line and what the striking employees answered to him; and that he did not state in his columns (Exhibits E and F) that plaintiff Yuchengco violated banking laws. [TSN 23 February 2000][3]

 

 

On 8 November 2002, the RTC rendered its Decision in favor of herein petitioner Alfonso T. Yuchengco, disposing of the case as follows:

 

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, judgment is hereby rendered as follows:

 

1. On the First Cause of Action, ordering defendants Chronicle Publishing, Neil H. Cruz, Ernesto Tolentino, Noel Cabrera, Thelma San Juan, Gerry Zaragoza, Donna Gatdula, Raul Valino and Rodney Diola to pay plaintiff Yuchengco, jointly and severally:

 

a.       the amount of Ten Million Pesos (P10,000,000.00) as moral damages; and

 

b.      the amount of Ten Million Pesos (P10,000,000.00) as exemplary damages;

 

2. On the Second Cause of Action, ordering defendants Roberto Coyiuto, Jr. and Chronicle Publishing to pay plaintiff Yuchengco, jointly and severally:

 

a.       the amount of Fifty Million Pesos (P50,000,000.00) as moral damages; and

 

b.      the amount of Thirty Million Pesos (P30,000,000.00) as exemplary damages;

 

3. On the Third Cause of Action, ordering all defendants to pay plaintiff Yuchengco, jointly and severally, the amount of One Million Pesos (P1,000,000.00) as attorneys fee and legal costs.[4]

 

 

The respondents, namely the Manila Chronicle Publishing Corporation, Neal H. Cruz, Ernesto Tolentino, Noel Cabrera, Thelma San Juan, Gerry Zaragoza, Donna Gatdula, Raul Valino, Rodney P. Diola, and Roberto Coyiuto, Jr. appealed to the Court of Appeals. The appeal was docketed as CA-G.R. CV No. 76995 and was raffled to the Fifth Division.

 

On 18 March 2008, the Court of Appeals promulgated its Decision affirming the RTC Decision:

 

WHEREFORE, in consideration of the foregoing premises, judgment is hereby rendered DISMISSING the appeals of defendants-appellants and AFFIRMING the decision dated November 8, 2002 of the trial court IN TOTO.[5]

 

 

Respondents filed a Motion for Reconsideration. On 28 August 2008, the Court of Appeals reversed itself in an Amended Decision:

 

WHEREFORE, the appeal is GRANTED. The Decision of this Court dated March 18, 2008 is RECONSIDERED and SET ASIDE. The decision of the court a quo dated November 8, 2002 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Amended Complaint for Damages against the defendants-appellants is DISMISSED. No pronouncement as to costs.

 

 

Hence, this Petition for Review on Certiorari, where petitioner puts forth the following Assignments of Error:

 

A.                THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED GRAVE REVERSIBLE ERROR IN RULING THAT THE CASE OF ARTURO BORJAL, ET AL. V. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL. CITED BY RESPONDENTS IN THEIR MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION WARRANTED THE REVERSAL OF THE CA DECISION DATED MARCH 18, 2008.

 

B.                 THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED GRAVE REVERSIBLE ERROR IN RULING THAT THE SUBJECT ARTICLES IN THE COMPLAINT FALL WITHIN THE CONCEPT OF PRIVILEGED COMMUNICATION.

 

C.                 THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED GRAVE REVERSIBLE ERROR IN RULING THAT PETITIONER IS A PUBLIC OFFICIAL OR PUBLIC FIGURE.[6]

 

 

Libel is defined in Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code, which provides:

 

Art. 353. Definition of Libel. A libel is a 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.

 

 

Based on this definition, this Court has held that four elements constitute the crime of libel, namely (a) defamatory imputation tending to cause dishonor, discredit or contempt; (b) malice, either in law or in fact; (c) publication; and (d) identifiability of the person defamed.[7]

 

Despite being defined in the Revised Penal Code, libel can also be instituted, like in the case at bar, as a purely civil action, the cause of action for which is provided by Article 33 of the Civil Code, which provides:

 

Article 33. In cases of defamation, fraud, and physical injuries, a civil action for damages, entirely separate and distinct from the criminal action, may be brought by the injured party. Such civil action shall proceed independently of the criminal prosecution, and shall require only a preponderance of evidence.

 

 

The above elements of libel were adopted as well in a purely civil action for damages. As held by this Court in GMA Network, Inc. v. Bustos[8]:

 

An award of damages under the premises presupposes the commission of an act amounting to defamatory imputation or libel, which, in turn, presupposes malice. Libel is the public and malicious imputation to another of a discreditable act or condition tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or juridical person. Liability for libel attaches present the following elements: (a) an allegation or imputation of a discreditable act or condition concerning another; (b) publication of the imputation; (c) identity of the person defamed; and (d) existence of malice.

 

 

Of these four elements, the most apparent in the case at bar would be the publication of the alleged imputation. Libel is published not only when it is widely circulated, but also when it is made known or brought to the attention or notice of another person other than its author and the offended party.[9] The circulation of an allegedly libelous matter in a newspaper is certainly sufficient publication. We are thus left with the determination of the existence of the three remaining elements of libel, namely: (1) the defamatory imputation; (2) the identity of the person defamed; and (3) the existence of malice.

 

 

Defamatory Imputation

 

Defamation, which includes libel and slander, means the offense of injuring a person's character, fame or reputation through false and malicious statements. It is that which tends to injure reputation or to diminish esteem, respect, goodwill or confidence in the plaintiff, or to excite derogatory feelings or opinions about the plaintiff. It is the publication of anything that is injurious to the good name or reputation of another or tends to bring him into disrepute.[10] In determining whether certain utterances are defamatory, the words used are to be construed in their entirety and taken in their plain, natural and ordinary meaning, as they would naturally be understood by persons hearing (or reading, as in libel) them, unless it appears that they were used and understood in another sense.[11]

 

In order to fully appreciate whether the subject articles are, in fact, defamatory, an analysis thereof is in order. The following are what have been referred to as the subject articles:

 

 

 

Manila Chronicle Issue Date (Author)

Title

Exhibit

10 November 1993

(no by-line)

Yuchengko joins forces with Kokoy

A, A-1 to A-5

12 November 1993

(no by-line)

RCBC probed for violating CB rules

B, B-1 to B-2

15 November 1993

(no by-line)

RCBC called to SEC; subtitled Yuchengco Bank defies government order

C, C-1 to C-3

16 November 1993

(Donna Gatdula)

Alcorn, RCBC execs own guilt

D, D-1 to D-4

22 November 1993

(Raul Valino)

Bank runs and RCBC free loans

E, E-1 to E-2

23 November 1993

(Raul Valino)

RCBC case bugs Bangko Sentral

F, F-1 to F-3

5 December 1993

(Rodney P. Diola)

The Battle for Oriental

G, G-1 to G-4

 

 

 

In two of the subject articles, respondents allegedly accused and labeled Yuchengco as a Marcos crony, who took advantage of his relationship with the former President to gain unwarranted benefits:

 

Yuchengco joins forces with Kokoy[12]

 

 

Alfonso Yuchengco, a Marcos crony who wants to takeover the ownership and management of the highly profitable Oriental Petroleum Minerals Corp. (OMPC), has tied up with Marcos brother-in-law Benjamin Kokoy Romualdez through two of his sons, records at the securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) showed yesterday.

 

Kokoys two sons, Benjamin Philip Gomez Romualdez, 32, and Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez, 29, are now members of the board of the debt-ridden and heavily losing Benguet Corp., a company taken over by Marcos during his dictatorship, but which was sequestered at the start of President Aquinos term.

 

x x x x

 

Observers said they believed the elections of the Romualdez sons officially confirmed suspicions that the Marcos and Romualdez clans really owned Benguet.

 

Benguets former president, Jaime Ongpin, employed by the company for 10 years before he was named finance secretary by then President Aquino, committed suicide after being accused of being a Marcos-Romualdez crony.

 

 

Yuchengco Bank under CB probe[13]

 

x x x x

 

The official said the case was recently brought to Bangko Sentrals attention by an RCBC creditor who felt he was being cheated by the bank through interest-free loans granted to related interests.

 

Under the interest-free loan scheme, Yuchengco was able to own OMPC shares of Piedras since they were the same shares RCBC financed and which were turned over to the bank as payment for the loan.

 

The Central Bank official said that Bangko Sentral is now determining whether RCBC violated the rule on loans to directors, officers, stockholders and related interests (DOSRI).

 

Yuchengco is both a director (chairman) officer, stockholder, and a related interest of RCBC.

 

x x x x

 

Violating the DOSRI rule is a criminal offense. The Bangko Sentral official stressed. I believe that that is tantamount, not only to cheating the depositor, but also robbing the bank of its clients money.

 

If Bangko Sentral does not act decisively on this matter, the official asked what will prevent the other banks from resorting to this kind of transactions to enrich their owners and enable them to acquire shares of stock from other companies?

 

The interest-free loan controversy also involves Traders Royal Bank (TRB), a sequestered bank, owned by Roberto Benedicto, a Marcos crony.

 

x x x x

 

The deal could be from one crony to another since Yuchengco is very much associated with the Marcoses and the Romualdezes, a source opined.

 

Yuchengco owns Benguet Corp., which is heavily losing since he joined the Company as Chairman in 1989.

 

x x x x

 

Since Benguet is encountering all kinds of financial problems, losses and overdue debts, observers say they fear that Oriental may also suffer the same fate when and should Yuchengco and his partners assume management of OMPC.

 

Already, it was noted the Oriental shares sold on the stock market are weakening, and stock observers say this could be attributed to the planned entry into the company of Yuchengco, Leonardo Siguion-Reyna and their minority partners.

 

 

In another of the subject articles, respondents allegedly insinuated that Yuchengco induced others to disobey the lawful orders of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC):

 

Alcorn, RCBC execs own guilt[14]

 

Two officials of Alcorn Petroleum and Minerals Corporation (AMPC) and Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) admitted before the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) yesterday that they ignored the SEC order commanding them to process all Alcorn shares in the name of R. Coyiuto Securities Inc. and its investor clients such as Oriental Petroleum and Minerals Corporation (OMPC).

 

x x x x

 

RCBC is owned by Alfonso Yuchengco, chairman of the debt-ridden and heavily-losing Benguet Corp. He also owns Great Pacific Life Insurance Co., whose employees are on strike because of the companys refusal to grant them better salaries and benefits.

 

x x x x

 

SEC insiders said that while Monreal and Ricalde should be punished for disobeying a lawful order from the SEC, people who masterminded the APMC order should also be penalized once proven guilty.

 

x x x x

 

Some observers said the APMC order to RCBC could be a ploy to prevent Robert Coyiuto, Jr., chairman and president of OPMC, from retaining his majority control of Oriental, and a scheme to put on the board members of the Yuchengco company.

 

In fact, when Yuchengco created his own OPMC board of directors, he appointed Ricalde as corporate secretary, OPMC officials pointed out.

 

In our opinion, observers following the OPMC developments stated, this is a clear and simple case of criminal conspiracy whose perpetrators must be meted the harshest punishment to prevent corporate thieves from making a mockery of the law and from illegally taking over corporations which they do not own in the first place.

 

 

Yuchengco further presented the following articles which allegedly accused him of inducing Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) to violate the provisions of the General Banking Act on Directors, Officers, stockholders, and Related Interest (DOSRI) loans:

 

Bank runs and RCBC free loans[15]

 

The Bank runs that devastated the economy in the recent past were, first and foremost, instigated by rumors that bank owners were, themselves, using the publics money to promote their own businesses and interests in violation of Central Bank rules and regulations.

 

x x x x

 

Now here comes Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) being charged with engaging in unsound banking by lending an interest-free loan of P101 million to one company, Piedras Petroleum Corporation, which Marcos crony Roberto Benedicto had surrendered to the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG).

 

x x x x

 

What would happen if all the other banks resort to this kind of lending activity, giving away loans without interest? The entire banking system would certainly be compromised.

 

The owners or RCBC, therefore, should not be too liberal with their depositors money. They should also consider what fatal effects such a practice could inflict on the very system where RCBC operates. The country, at this time, cannot afford another series of bank runs, nor a run at RCBC.

 

 

RCBC case bugs Bangko Sentral[16]

 

x x x x

 

The P101 million interest-free loan to Piedras is of national interest for not just one reason alone.

 

First, the money involved came from the depositors, and not from the pockets of Yuchengco.

 

Second, banking rules dictate that a bank must be prudent in lending out its clients money, so that its financial viability must never be put in question.

 

Third, the money lent to a borrower must never end up in the pocket of the owner of the bank.

 

Fourth, such a practice could lead to a bank run, which the economy cannot afford at this time, even if the run is confined to just one bank.

 

 

Yuchengco further claims that the following article, in labeling him as a corporate raider, implies that he is seeking to profit from something he did not work for:

 

The Battle for Oriental[17]

 

Ledesma says Coyiuto will not wilt from Yuchengcos fabled financial power. Robert has a lot of friends that will help him fend off a raider like Yuchengco, says Ledesma.

 

x x x x

 

Ledesma of OPMC says that even if Coyiuto loses in the bid, hell still remain a very significant player in OPMC given his substantial personal holdings and proxies in the company. Coyiutos investment in OPMC is now valued at more than a billion pesos compared to the Yuchengco block which, the Coyiuto group points out, has only minimal investments.

 

Thats our moral ascendancy over their group. Coyiuto virtually made Oriental what it is today unlike Yuchengco who is just getting into the act now because Oriental has become an attractive cash cow says Ledesma.

 

War of Families

 

The fight for control of Oriental Petroleum gains particular poignancy given the long history of feuding between the families of Yuchengco and Coyiuto. Their families were bitter rivals in the insurance business way back in the seventies. The Yuchengcos own the Malayan Group of Insurance Companies while the Coyiutos used to control Pioneer Insurance. That rivalry seems to have come full circle with their battle in Oriental Petroleum.

 

Pomento says the best arrangement would have been a modus vivendi between the two groups to stop their quarrel and work instead for the interest of the company. But given the bad blood that exists between the two families, that might be a difficult proposition, he says.

 

 

The trial court and the Court of Appeals are in agreement that the above articles contain defamatory imputations. Even the Amended Decision of the Court of Appeals, wherein the appellate court reversed itself and held that respondents were not liable for damages, did not modify its earlier ruling affirming the defamatory character of the imputations in the above articles. The Court of Appeals merely reversed itself on account of the allegedly privileged nature of the articles, which goes into the element of malice. Malice, as an element of libel, and the defenses affecting the existence of the same shall be discussed later.

 

In arguing that the subject articles are not really derogatory, respondent Cabrera explains that the word crony was more or less accepted to describe a big businessman or close associate of the late President Marcos, and its use in the column was meant only to supply the perspective as to the figure or subject involved in the news story. Respondent Valino further claimed that after consulting several dictionaries as to the meaning of the word crony, he did not come across a definition describing the word to mean someone who is a recipient of any undeserving or special favor from anyone.

 

We are not swayed by the explanations of respondents Cabrera and Valino. In determining the defamatory character of words used, the explanation of the respondent should not prevail over what the utterances (or writing) convey to an ordinary listener (or reader).[18] Furthermore, as held by this Court in United States v. Sotto[19]:

 

[F]or the purpose of determining the meaning of any publication alleged to be libelous that construction must be adopted which will give to the matter such a meaning as is natural and obvious in the plain and ordinary sense in which the public would naturally understand what was uttered. The published matter alleged to be libelous must be construed as a whole. In applying these rules to the language of an alleged libel, the court will disregard any subtle or ingenious explanation offered by the publisher on being called to account. The whole question being the effect the publication had upon the minds of the readers, and they not having been assisted by the offered explanation in reading the article, it comes too late to have the effect of removing the sting, if any there be, from the word used in the publication. (Emphasis supplied.)

 

 

In finding that the phrase Marcos crony is derogatory, the trial court took judicial notice of the fact that the said phrase, as understood in Philippine context, refers to an individual who was the recipient of special and/or undeserved favors from the late President Marcos due to a special closeness to the latter. This finding, which was upheld by the Court of Appeals in its original Decision and was not tackled in the Amended Decision, is even supported by one of the subject articles. In particular, the 10 November 1993 article marked as Exhibit A mentioned that Benguets former president, Jaime Ongpin, committed suicide after being accused of being a Marcos-Romualdez crony.[20] This statement highlights the disgrace respondents wanted to associate with the term crony, which was used to describe Yuchengco in the very same article.

 

Even a cursory reading of the subject articles would show the intention of the writers to injure the reputation, credit and virtue of Yuchengco and expose him to public hatred, discredit, contempt and ridicule. The indirect manner in which the articles attributed the insults to Yuchengco (e.g., the money involved came from depositors, and not from Yuchengco) does not lessen the culpability of the writers and publishers thereof, but instead makes the defamatory imputations even more effective. Words calculated to induce suspicion are sometimes more effective to destroy reputation than false charges directly made. Ironical and metaphorical language is a favored vehicle for slander.[21]

 

In sum, this Court upholds the ruling of the trial court and the Court of Appeals that the subject articles contain defamatory imputations. All of the following imputations: (1) the labeling of Yuchengco as a Marcos crony, who took advantage of his relationship with the former President to gain unwarranted benefits; (2) the insinuations that Yuchengco induced others to disobey the lawful orders of SEC; (3) the portrayal of Yuchengco as an unfair and uncaring employer due to the strike staged by the employees of Grepalife; (4) the accusation that he induced RCBC to violate the provisions of the General Banking Act on DOSRI loans; and (5) the tagging of Yuchengco as a corporate raider seeking to profit from something he did not work for, all exposed Yuchengco to public contempt and ridicule, for they imputed to him a condition that was dishonorable.

 

Identification

 

Defamatory words must refer to an ascertained or ascertainable person, and that person must be the plaintiff. Statements are not libelous unless they refer to an ascertained or ascertainable person.[22] However, the obnoxious writing need not mention the libeled party by name. It is sufficient if it is shown that the offended party is the person meant or alluded to.[23]

 

In the case at bar, all but one of the subject articles explicitly mention the name of petitioner Yuchengco. The lone article, which does not mention Yuchengco at all, Bank runs & RCBC free loans,[24] nevertheless chided the owners of RCBC:

 

The owners or RCBC, therefore, should not be too liberal with their depositors money. They should also consider what fatal effects such a practice could inflict on the very system where RCBC operates. The country, at this time, cannot afford another series of bank runs, nor a run at RCBC.[25]

 

 

Identifying Yuchengco in said article by name was, however, not necessary, since the other subject articles, published a few days before and after this one, had already referred to Yuchengco as the owner of RCBC, sometimes explicitly (Benguet started to bleed in 1989, the year Yuchengco, who owns Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. [RCBC], took over as chairman of the company[26]), and sometimes implicitly (the money involved came from depositors, and not from Yuchengco). While the defamation of a large group does not give rise to a cause of action on the part of an individual, this is subject to exception when it can be shown that he is the target of the defamatory matter.[27] This Court therefore finds that Yuchengco was clearly identified as the libeled party in the subject defamatory imputations.

 

 

 

Malice

 

Malice connotes ill will or spite and speaks not in response to duty but merely to injure the reputation of the person defamed, and implies an intention to do ulterior and unjustifiable harm.[28] It is present when it is shown that the author of the libelous remarks made such remarks with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard as to the truth or falsity thereof.[29]

 

Malice, however, does not necessarily have to be proven. There are two types of malice malice in law and malice in fact.[30] Malice in law is a presumption of law. It dispenses with the proof of malice when words that raise the presumption are shown to have been uttered. It is also known as constructive malice, legal malice, or implied malice.[31] On the other hand, malice in fact is a positive desire and intention to annoy and injure. It may denote that the defendant was actuated by ill will or personal spite. It is also called express malice, actual malice, real malice, true malice, or particular malice.[32]

 

In this jurisdiction, malice in law is provided in Article 354 of the Revised Penal Code, which also enumerates exceptions thereto:

 

Art. 354. Requirement of 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, except in the following cases:

 

1. A private communication made by any person to another in the performance of any legal, moral or social duty; and

 

2. 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.

 

 

There is, thus, a presumption of malice in the case of every defamatory imputation, where there is no showing of a good intention or justifiable motive for making such imputation.

 

The exceptions provided in Article 354 are also known as qualifiedly privileged communications. The enumeration under said article is, however, not an exclusive list of qualifiedly privileged communications since fair commentaries on matters of public interest are likewise privileged.[33] They are known as qualifiedly privileged communications, since they are merely exceptions to the general rule requiring proof of actual malice in order that a defamatory imputation may be held actionable. In other words, defamatory imputations written or uttered during any of the three classes of qualifiedly privileged communications enumerated above (1) a private communication made by any person to another in the performance of any legal, moral or social duty; (2) 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; and (3) fair commentaries on matters of public interest may still be considered actionable if actual malice is proven. This is in contrast with absolutely privileged communications, wherein the imputations are not actionable, even if attended by actual malice:

 

A communication is said to be absolutely privileged when it is not actionable, even if its author has acted in bad faith. This class includes statements made by members of Congress in the discharge of their functions as such, official communications made by public officers in the performance of their duties, and allegations or statements made by the parties or their counsel in their pleadings or motions or during the hearing of judicial proceedings, as well as the answers given by witnesses in reply to questions propounded to them, in the course of said proceedings, provided that said allegations or statements are relevant to the issues, and the answers are responsive or pertinent to the questions propounded to said witnesses. Upon the other hand, conditionally or qualifiedly privileged communications are those which, although containing defamatory imputations, would not be actionable unless made with malice or bad faith.[34]

 

 

In the case at bar, both the trial court and the Court of Appeals found that the publication of the subject articles was attended by actual malice:

 

In the instant case, there is preponderance of evidence showing that there exists malice in fact in the writing and publication of the subject libelous articles.

 

As correctly found by the trial court, [petitioner] was able to show that [respondents] were animated by a desire to inflict unjustifiable harm on his reputation as shown by the timing and frequency of the publication of the defamatory articles. Further, as previously stated, [respondents] failed to show that they had any good intention and justifiable motive for composing and publishing the vicious and malicious accusations against [petitioner].

 

Moreover, [respondents] published or caused the publication of the subject defamatory articles with reckless disregard as to the truth or falsity thereof. As previously stated, there is no proof that the contents of the subject articles are true or that the respondents exercised a reasonable degree of care before publishing the same. [Respondents] failed to present evidence showing that they verified the truth of any of the subject articles, especially in light of the categorical denial by [petitioner] of the accusations made against him.

 

[Respondents] did not exercise reasonable degree of care or good faith efforts to arrive at the truth before publishing the subject defamatory articles. [Respondents] did not present any competent evidence to establish the truth of their allegations against [petitioner]. There was no showing that [respondents] made any attempt to talk to [petitioner] to verify the statements contained in the defamatory articles, especially considering the gravity of the accusations made against [petitioner]. At the very least, [respondents] should have exercised efforts to talk to [petitioner] to clarify the issues and get his side. [Respondents] failure to verify the truth of the information from [petitioner] himself is in itself an evidence of their lack of bona fide efforts to verify the accuracy of her information.

 

The incessant publication of the defamatory articles attacking the honor and reputation of [petitioner] is also proof of [respondents] malicious scheme to malign and defame the name, honor and reputation of [petitioner]. As earlier pointed out, in a span of one (1) month, [respondents] wrote and published and/or caused the publication of seven (7) libelous articles against [petitioner] attacking his honor and reputation as a distinguished businessman, philanthropist, his political inclination, and as an employer in his insurance company. In fact, the presence of malice is made more evident by [respondents] baseless and uncalled for attack on the person of [petitioner] as an employer. As aptly noted by the trial court in the assailed Decision:

 

Also in one of the articles, herein plaintiff was portrayed as an unfair and uncaring employer due to the strike staged by the employees of Grepalife suggesting that it was the [petitioner] who was the cause, and of insinuating that if [petitioners] group takes over control of Oriental, it would experience the same labor problem as in Grepalife. The Court finds that [respondents] failed to render an unbiased and fair report as to the real cause of the strike except to lay the blame to [petitioner], without stating, much less describing, his participation thereon, knowing fully well that Grepalife is an entity distinct from the plaintiff. In other words, the labor policies implemented by Grepalife as regards its employees are obviously not that of Yuchengco.

 

Such baseless and malicious accusation of [respondents] on [petitioner] only proves the intention of the [respondents] in publishing the defamatory articles was not to present an unbiased report on current issues but to launch a personal attack on the very person of [petitioner].

 

As earlier explained, as correctly found by the trial court, even the timing of the publication of these subject articles is highly suspicious inasmuch as the subject libelous articles came out in the Manila Chronicle, a newspaper owned and under the control of [respondent] Coyiuto, around November to December of 1993, a couple of months prior to the January stockholders meeting of Oriental Corporation. From this, it is logical to conclude that the publication of the subject defamatory articles defaming the good name and reputation of [petitioner] is but a part of [a] grand scheme to create a negative image of [petitioner] so as to negatively affect [petitioners] credibility to the public, more particularly, to the then stockholders of Oriental Corporation. Worth noting also is the fact that the subject articles did not only portray [petitioner] in a bad light. Curiously, in these articles, [respondent] Coyiuto, a known rival of [petitioner], was portrayed as the underdog, the David and [petitioner] as the Goliath in their battle for control over Oriental Corporation. This does not escape the Courts attention.

 

These circumstances clearly indicate the presence of actual malice on the part of [respondents] in the publication of the subject libelous articles.[35] (Emphases supplied.)

 

When the Court of Appeals granted the Motion for Reconsideration, it did not touch upon its earlier finding of actual malice on the part of respondents in publishing the subject articles. Instead, the Court of Appeals merely held that the subject articles were fair commentaries on matters of public interest, and thus fell within the scope of the third type of qualifiedly privileged communications.

 

This was a glaring error on the part of the Court of Appeals. As discussed above, whereas there is an absolute bar to an action in the case of absolutely privileged communication, the same is not true with respect to qualifiedly privileged communication, wherein the law merely raises a prima facie presumption in favor of the occasion. In the former, the freedom from liability is absolute, regardless of the existence of actual malice, as contrasted with the freedom in the latter, where it is conditioned on the want or absence of actual malice. Conditionally or qualifiedly privileged communications are actionable when made with actual malice.[36]

 

When malice in fact is proven, assertions and proofs that the libelous articles are qualifiedly privileged communications are futile, since being qualifiedly privileged communications merely prevents the presumption of malice from attaching to a defamatory imputation.

 

Neither is there any reason for this Court to reverse the findings of the trial court and the Court of Appeals that there was actual malice on the part of the respondents. As held by the courts a quo, Yuchengco was able to show by the attendant circumstances that respondents were animated by a desire to inflict unjustifiable harm on his reputation, as shown by the timing and frequency of the publication of the defamatory articles. The portrayal of then Chronicle Publishing Chairman Coyiuto as an underdog and his rival Yuchengco as the greedy Goliath in their battle for control over Oriental Corporation, taken with the timing of the publication of these subject articles a couple of months prior to the January stockholders meeting of Oriental Corporation, clearly indicate that the articles constituted an orchestrated attack to undermine the reputation of Yuchengco. Furthermore, respondents were shown to have acted with reckless disregard as to the truth or falsity of the articles they published, when they were unable to rebut the categorical denial by Yuchengco of the accusations made against him, and his allegation that he was not approached by respondents for his side of the stories before the publication thereof. Respondents failure to present evidence showing that they verified the truth of any of the subject articles is fatal to their cause. In In re: Emil P. Jurado,[37] this Court ruled that categorical denials of the truth of allegations in a publication place the burden upon the party publishing it, either of proving the truth of the imputations or of showing that the same was an honest mistake or error committed despite good efforts to arrive at the truth. There is actual malice when there is either (1) knowledge of the publications falsity; or (2) reckless disregard of whether the contents of the publication were false or not.[38] Failure to even get the side of Yuchengco in the published articles clearly constituted reckless disregard of the truth or falsity of said articles.

 

Finally, even if we assume for the sake of argument that actual malice was not proven in the case at bar, we nevertheless cannot adhere to the finding of the Court of Appeals in the Amended Decision that the subject articles were fair commentaries on matters of public interest, and thus fell within the scope of the third type of qualifiedly privileged communications.

 

In Philippine Journalists, Inc. (Peoples Journal) v. Theonen,[39] this Court adopted the pronouncement in the United States Decision in Gertz v. Robert Welsch, Inc.[40] that, in order to be considered as fair commentaries on matters of public interest, the individual to whom the defamatory articles were imputed should either be a public officer or a public figure:

 

In Borjal v. Court of Appeals, we stated that the enumeration under Art. 354 is not an exclusive list of qualifiedly privileged communications since fair commentaries on matters of public interest are likewise privileged.  We stated that the doctrine of fair commentaries means that while in general every discreditable imputation publicly made is deemed false, because every man is presumed innocent until his guilt is judicially proved, and every false imputation is deemed malicious, nevertheless, when the discreditable imputation is directed against a public person in his public capacity, it is not necessarily actionable.  In order that such discreditable imputation to a public official may be actionable, it must either be a false allegation of fact or a comment based on a false supposition.

 

Again, this argument is unavailing to the petitioners.  As we said, the respondent is a private individual, and not a public official or public figure.  We are persuaded by the reasoning of the United States Supreme Court in Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., [418 U. S. 323 (1974)] that a newspaper or broadcaster publishing defamatory falsehoods about an individual who is neither a public official nor a public figure may not claim a constitutional privilege against liability, for injury inflicted, even if the falsehood arose in a discussion of public interest. (Emphasis supplied.)

 

 

Thus, in trying to prove that the subject articles delved on matters concerning public interest, the Court of Appeals insisted that Yuchengco was a public official or public figure, who must not be too thin-skinned with reference to comment upon his official acts.[41] The Court of Appeals then noted that Yuchengco was, at the time of the Amended Decision, appointed as a Presidential Adviser on Foreign Affairs with Cabinet rank, and proceeded to enumerate[42] the public positions held by Yuchengco through the years.

 

However, an examination of the subject articles reveals that the allegations therein pertain to Yuchengcos private business endeavors and do not refer to his duties, functions and responsibilities as a Philippine Ambassador to China and Japan, or to any of the other public positions he occupied. A topic or story should not be considered a matter of public interest by the mere fact that the person involved is a public officer, unless the said topic or story relates to his functions as such. Assuming a public office is not tantamount to completely abdicating ones right to privacy. Therefore, for the purpose of determining whether or not a topic is a matter of public interest, Yuchengco cannot be considered a public officer.

 

Neither is Yuchengco a public figure. The above case Philippine Journalists continues to cite the US case Gertz in describing who is a public figure:

 

More commonly, those classed as public figures have thrust themselves to the forefront of particular public controversies in order to influence the resolution of the issues involved. In either event, they invite attention and comment.  Third, this would impose an additional difficulty on trial court judges to decide which publications address issues of general interest and which do not.  Even if the foregoing generalities do not obtain in every instance, the communications media are entitled to act on the assumption that public officials and public figures have voluntarily exposed themselves to increased risk of injury from defamatory falsehood concerning them. No such assumption is justified with respect to a private individual. He has not accepted public office or assumed an influential role in ordering society. (Curtis Publishing Co. v. Butts, 388 U.S., at 164)  He has relinquished no part of his interest in the protection of his own good name, and consequently he has a more compelling call on the courts for redress of injury inflicted by defamatory falsehood. Thus, private individuals are not only more vulnerable to injury than public officials and public figures; they are also more deserving of recovery.[43] (Emphasis supplied.)

 

 

The records in the case at bar do not disclose any instance wherein Yuchengco had voluntarily thrust himself to the forefront of particular public controversies in order to influence the resolution of the issues involved. He cannot, therefore, be considered a public figure. Since Yuchengco, the person defamed in the subject articles, is neither as public officer nor a public figure, said articles cannot be considered as qualifiedly privileged communications even if they deal with matters of public concern.

 

In view of the foregoing, this Court is constrained to grant the instant Petition and reinstate the Decision of the trial court, as previously affirmed by the Court of Appeals in its original Decision. This Court, however, finds the award of damages in the total amount of One Hundred Million Pesos by the trial court to be rather excessive given the circumstances. This Court, thus, further resolves to reduce the award of damages, as follows:

 

1. The damages for which Chronicle Publishing, Neil H. Cruz, Ernesto Tolentino, Noel Cabrera, Thelma San Juan, Gerry Zaragoza, Donna Gatdula, Raul Valino and Rodney Diola shall be jointly and severally liable under the first cause of action shall be reduced as follows:

 

a.     The amount of moral damages shall be reduced from Ten Million Pesos (P10,000,000.00) to Two Million Pesos (P2,000,000.00); and

 

b.     The amount of exemplary damages shall be reduced from Ten Million Pesos (P10,000,000.00) to Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (P500,000.00);

 

2. The damages for which Roberto Coyuito, Jr. and Chronicle Publishing shall be jointly and severally liable under the second cause of action shall be reduced as follows:

 

a.     The amount of moral damages shall be reduced from Fifty Million Pesos (P50,000,000.00) to Twenty-Five Million Pesos (P25,000,000.00); and

 

b.     The amount of exemplary damages shall be reduced from Thirty Million Pesos (P30,000,000.00) Ten Million Pesos (P10,000,000.00).

 

 

WHEREFORE, the Petition is PARTIALLY GRANTED. The Amended Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 76995 dated 28 August 2008, which reversed on Motion for Reconsideration the 18 March 2008 Decision of the same Court is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Makati City in Civil Case No. 94-1114 dated 8 November 2002 finding herein respondents liable for damages, is hereby REINSTATED, but shall be MODIFIED to read as follows:

 

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, judgment is hereby rendered as follows:

 

1. On the First Cause of Action, ordering defendants Chronicle Publishing, Neil H. Cruz, Ernesto Tolentino, Noel Cabrera, Thelma San Juan, Gerry Zaragoza, Donna Gatdula, Raul Valino and Rodney Diola to pay plaintiff Yuchengco, jointly and severally:

 

a. the amount of Two Million Pesos (P2,000,000.00) as moral damages; and

 

b. the amount of Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (P500,000.00) as exemplary damages;

 

2. On the Second Cause of Action, ordering defendants Roberto Coyuito, Jr. and Chronicle Publishing to pay plaintiff Yuchengco, jointly and severally:

 

a. the amount of Twenty-Five Million Pesos (P25,000,000.00) as moral damages; and

 

b. the amount of Ten Million Pesos (P10,000,000.00) as exemplary damages;

 

3. On the Third Cause of Action, ordering all defendants to pay plaintiff Yuchengco, jointly and severally, the amount of One Million Pesos (P1,000,000.00) as attorneys fee and legal costs.

 

Costs against respondents.

 

SO ORDERED.

 

 

 

 

MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO

Associate Justice

 

 

WE CONCUR:

 

 

 

 

RENATO C. CORONA

Associate Justice

Chairperson

 

 

 

 

 

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.

Associate Justice

ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DIOSDADO M. PERALTA

Associate Justice

 

 

 

ATTESTATION

 

I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision were reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.

 

 

 

RENATO C. CORONA

Associate Justice

Chairperson, Third Division

 

 

 

CERTIFICATION

 

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, and the Division Chairpersons Attestation, it is hereby certified that the conclusions in the above Decision were reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.

 

 

 

REYNATO S. PUNO

Chief Justice



[1] Penned by Associate Justice Amelita G. Tolentino with Associate Justices Isaias P. Dicdican and Japar B. Dimaampao, concurring; rollo, pp. 53-62.

[2] Penned by Associate Justice Agustin S. Dizon with Associate Justices Amelita G. Tolentino and Lucenito N. Tagle, concurring; rollo, pp. 195-248.

[3] Rollo, pp. 114-121.

[4] Id. at 160.

[5] Id. at 247.

[6] Id. at 348-349.

[7] People v. Monton, 116 Phil. 1116, 1120-1121 (1962).

[8] G.R. No. 146848, 17 October 2006, 504 SCRA 638, 650-651.

[9] United States v. Ubiana, 1 Phil. 471, 473 (1902).

[10] MVRS Publications, Inc., v. Islamic Da'wah Council of the Philippines, Inc., 444 Phil. 230, 241 (2004).

[11] Lacsa v. Intermediate Appellate Court, G.R. No. L-74907, 23 May 1988, 161 SCRA 427, 432.

[12] Manila Chronicle, 10 November 1993, Exhibit A; rollo, p. 63.

[13] Manila Chronicle, 12 November 1993, Exhibit B; rollo, p. 64.

[14] Manila Chronicle, 12 November 1993, Exhibit D; rollo, p. 66.

[15] Manila Chronicle, 22 November 1993, Exhibit E; rollo, p. 67.

[16] Manila Chronicle, 23 November 1993, Exhibit F; rollo, p. 68.

[17] Manila Chronicle, 23 November 1993, Exhibit G, rollo, p. 69.

[18] Madrona, Sr. v. Rosal, G.R. No. 39120, 21 November 1991, 204 SCRA 1, 8.

[19] 38 Phil. 666, 672-673 (1918).

[20] Rollo, p. 63.

[21] United States v. O'Connell, 37 Phil. 767, 773 (1918).

[22] Corpus v. Cuaderno, Sr., G.R. No. L-16969, 30 April 1966, 16 SCRA 807, 816.

[23] Quisumbing v. Lopez, 96 Phil. 510, 513 (1955).

[24] Exhibit D; rollo, p. 67.

[25] Id.

[26] Exhibit A; rollo, p. 63.

[27] MVRS Publications, Inc., v. Islamic Da'wah Council of the Philippines, Inc., supra note 10.

[28] United States v. Caete, 38 Phil. 253, 264 (1918).

[29] Vasquez v. Court of Appeals, 373 Phil. 238, 254 (1999).

[30] Lawson v. Hicks, 38, Ala. 279.

[31] Leonardo P. Reyes, Fundamentals of Libel Law, p. 15 (2007), citing William v. Hicks Printing Co., 150 N.W. 183, 159 Wis. 90, Ajouelo v. Auto-Soler Co., 6 S.E.2d 415, 61 Ga App. 216, Astruc v. Star Co., C.C.N.Y. 182 F. 705.

[32] Id., citing Cook v. East Shore Newspapers, 327 Ill. App. 559, 64 N.E.2d 751; Freeman v. Mills, 97 Cal. App.2d 161, 217 P.2d 687; Scott-Burr Stores Corporation v. Edgar, 177 So. 766, 18 Miss. 486; Davis v. Hearst, 116 P. 530, 160 Cal. 143; Id.; Swain v. Oakey, 129 S.E. 151, 190 N.C. 133.

 

[33] Borjal v. Court of Appeals, 361 Phil. 1, 19 (1999).

[34] Orfanel v. People, 141 Phil. 519, 523-524 (1969).

[35] Rollo, pp. 234-236.

[36] Orfanel v. People, supra note 34.

[37] 313 Phil. 119, 169 (1995).

[38] Villanueva v. Philippine Daily Inquirer, G.R. No. 164437, 15 May 2009.

[39] G.R. No. 143372, 13 December 2005, 477 SCRA 482.

[40] 418 U.S. 323 (1974).

[41] Rollo, p. 55.

[42] 1. Presidential Adviser on Foreign Affairs with Cabinet Rank (January 30, 2004-present)

2. Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations with the rank of Ambassador (November 2001-December 2002);

3. Presidential Special Envoy to China, Japan and Korea (2001);

4. Presidential Assistant on APEC Matters with Cabinet Rank (1998-2000);

5. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of the Philippines to the Peoples Republic of China (PROC) (1986-1988); and

6. Chairman, Council of Private Sector Advisors to the Philippine Government on the Spratlys Issue (Marine and Archipelagic Development Policy Group (1995-1998). (Rollo, p. 56.)

[43] Philippine Journalists, Inc. (Peoples Journal) v. Theonen, supra note 38 at 497.