Thursday, January 26, 2012

GMA Network, Inc. v. Bustos


Facts: Examinees who failed the August 1987 physicians’ licensure examinations filed a mandamus in the RTC of Manila against the Board of Medicine of the Professional Regulation Commission (herein respondents). The examinees alleged that the Board committed manifest errors in the checking of answers. Petitioners (GMA and Vidal) secured a copy of the petition, made a report, and aired it in their Headline News. 

Respondents filed a libel suit against the petitioners. The RTC ruled in favor of GMA and Bustos. 

On appeal, the CA reversed the prior ruling. The CA held GMA and Bustos liable and ordered them to pay damages. Hence, this case. 

Issues
(1) Whether or not the televised news report in question is libelous? 
(2) Whether or not the insertion of old film footage constitutes malice to warrant award of damages? 

Held
(1) No, the report was not libelous. Liability for libel attaches when the following elements are present: (a) an allegation or imputation of a discreditable act or condition concerning another (b) publication of the imputation (c) identity of the person defamed (d) existence of malice. Malice is a term use to indicate the fact that the offender is prompted by personal ill will or spite and speaks not in response to duty, but merely to injure he reputation of the person defamed. In this case the report aired by petitioners was basically a narration of the contents of the petition for mandamus. (Side topic: petitioners’ report is also covered by qualified privilege communication, although not specified in Article 354 of Revised Penal Code). 

(2) No, petitioner is not liable for damages. Moral damages may be recovered only if the existence of the factual and legal bases for the claim and causal connection to the acts complained of are satisfactorily proven. Sadly, the required quantum of proof is miserably wanting in this case…Not being entitled to moral damages, neither may the respondents lay claim for exemplary damages.


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