Court junks cyber libel vs Nalzaro
Gregg M. Rubio (The Freeman) - December 11, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  The Regional Trial Court has dismissed the two cyber libel cases filed by Ramon Miguel Osmeña, son of former Cebu City mayor Tomas Osmeña, against veteran broadcaster and columnist Pablito “Bobby” Nalzaro due to technicality.

RTC Branch 11 Judge Ramon Daomilas granted on December 6 Nalzaro’s urgent motion to quash the information with prayers for the suspension of his arraignment and further proceedings claiming that it has violated his rights against double jeopardy.

Nalzaro was charged for writing two alleged libelous articles against Miguel that were published both in print and online.

The Cebu City Prosecutor’s Office earlier found probable cause to charge Nalzaro in court for two counts of violation of Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code now pending before the RTC Branch 5 in Cebu City and another two counts for cyber libel under Republic Act No. 10175.

In his defense, Nalzaro said the filing of two separate charges from the same incident violated his right against double jeopardy. Miguel opposed the motion but the court found Nalzaro’s motion meritorious.

The court cited the Supreme Court ruling in the case of Jose Jesus M. Disini, Jr. et al. vs. The Secretary of Justice et al. on the determination of the constitutionality of RA 10175, particularly Section 7 thereof.

The high tribunal ruled that “online libel is different. There should be no question that if published material on print, said to be libelous, is again posted online or vice versa, that identical material cannot be the subject of two separate libels. The two offenses, one a violation of Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code and the other a violation of Section 4(c)(4) of R.A.  10175 involve essentially the same elements and are in fact one and the same offense. Indeed, the OSG itself claims that online libel under Section 4(c)(4) is not a new crime but is one already punished under Article 353. Section 4(c)(4) merely establishes the computer system as another means of publication. Charging the offender under both laws would be a blatant violation of the proscription against double jeopardy.”

Daomilas said that clearly, there can only be one type of libel that the prosecution can file -- either libel under the RPC or cyber libel under RA 10175.

“There is no necessity to subject an accused to go through an entire trial and wait for a conviction or acquittal before he can invoke his right against double jeopardy. Apropos, prosecution has the choice on which kind of libel it will file,” Daomilas further said.  FPL  (FREEMAN)

PABLITO “BOBBY” NALZARO
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