The Supreme Court has acquitted tabloid columnist Raffy Tulfo of six counts of libel filed against him and two others in 1999 by a Bureau of Customs lawyer in 1999.
In decision penned by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, the SC’s Third Division reversed the decision of the Court of Affirms that upheld the conviction by a Pasay City Regional Trial Court of Tulfo, and then Abante publisher Allen Macasaet and then managing editor Nicolas Quijano Jr. for 14 libel cases filed by Customs lawyer Carlos So.
The trial court convicted them in 2005 on all the 14 cases. On appeal, the CA affirmed in 2006 the trial court’s decision. But in an amended decision issued in 2009, the CA ordered their acquittal in eight cases.
This prompted Tulfo, Macasaet and Quijano to file an appeal of their conviction before the Supreme Court.
In 1999, in his column “Shoot to Kill” in Abante Tonite, Tulfo wrote several articles on the alleged illegal activities of So at the BOC.
In acquitting the accused of libel, the SC ruled the prosecution failed to prove that petitioners “acted with malice, or with reckless disregard in determining the truth or falsity of the imputations.”
“Petitioner Tulfo reported the alleged illegal activities of Atty. So in the exercise of his public functions. Our libel laws must not be broadly construed as to deter comments on public affairs and the conduct of public officials. Such comments are made in the exercise of the fundamental right to freedom of expression and the press…,” the High Court said.
“Public officers are accountable to the people, and must serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives. Speech that guards against abuses of those in public office should be encouraged.”