Anatomy of an Internet Libel Case (Part V)

We previously discussed that the two complaints for libel were dismissed as against RP Nuclei Solutions and Abe Olandres (Part IV). However, the cases were filed in court as against the two other individual respondents (Part III), who were the supposed authors of the allegedly libelous comments (Part II – basic facts).

RP Nuclei Solutions, represented by Abe, filed a counter-charge for perjury (under Article 183 of the Revised Penal Code), which was consolidated with the two libel complaints (this simply means that the three complaints were joined and decided by the same Investigating Prosecutor).

According to RP Nuclei Solutions, it is the owner of plogHost (ploghost.com), a web hosting service aimed at providing affordable and efficient ways to deliver web hosting services to the local market. RP Nuclei Solutions or plogHost claims that as such web host, it leases its servers to registered owners of websites or web logs (blogs), among others, and that a web host is entirely different from the registered owner of a website or blog.

The charge for perjury is based on the allegation that RP Nuclei Solutions is liable for libel on the ground that greedyolddumbass.com is Ĺ“owned and operated by the Respondent RP NUCLEI SOLUTIONS CORP. According to RP Nuclei Solutions, it is not the owner and operator of greedyolddumbass.com, contrary to the allegation of the complainant in the libel complaints.

The counter-charge of perjury, however, was also dismissed.

The requisites of perjury under Article 183 of the RPC are as follows:

1. the accused made a statement under oath or executed an affidavit upon a material matter;
2. the statement or affidavit was made before a competent officer authorized to receive and administer oath;
3. in that statement or affidavit, the accused made a willful and deliberate assertion of a falsehood; and
4. the sworn statement or affidavit containing the falsity is required by law or made for a legal purpose.

According to the Investigating Prosecutor, it is undeniable that the second, third and fourth elements of perjury are present. The complainant executed a sworn statement in the form of the two Affidavit-Complaints for libel. Said sworn statements were made before a competent officer authorized to receive and administer oaths. Said sworn statements are required under the Rules of Court and is made for a legal purpose. It is also a willful and deliberate assertion of a falsehood because in contrast to the demand letter showing that plogHost is a host, the Affidavit-Complaints state that RP Nuclei Solutions is the owner of greedyolddumbass.com.

However, the first element is not present. The allegation that RP Nuclei Solutions is the owner, rather than the host or server, of greedyolddumbass.com is immaterial because an owner of an internet forum or interactive internet medium, just like the host or the server, is also considered as a service provider under Republic Act No. 8792 (the Electronic Commerce Act of 2000), and, therefore, is not liable.

This should not be construed to mean that an owner of a forum is not liable when that owner itself posts libelous articles or comments. The allegation of the complainant, however, is clear that the alleged authors of the comments are the two individual respondents. There was no allegation that the owners of greedyolddumbass.com or any other person, including Abe Olandres, wrote the comments.

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