cyber libel in the Philippines

As of November, cyber libel conviction rates remain below 1%

Matthew G. Yuching
As of November, cyber libel conviction rates remain below 1%

Nico Villarete

As of November, there have been an additional 39 cyber libel cases filed since May 2022

MANILA, Philippines – Data obtained from the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office of Cybercrime (OOC) show that a total of 3,809 cyber libel cases have been filed since RA 10175 was signed into law last September 2012.

A majority of cases have either been dismissed (1,198) or currently filed in court (1,159), according to the data. Other cases are in different stages of investigation, from being under preliminary investigation, cases resolved outside of the court, and acquittal.

Cases that are archived are caused by person/s involved not being located, thus proceedings are not able to continue. Cases that are dropped or withdrawn are often at court-level proceedings, according to OOC Investigation Agent Christian Ibasco.

Compared to data gathered last May 2022, there has been a 1,550% increase of cases that have been resolved as of November. Cases seem to be processed faster compared to the number of cases being filed, with a 12% reduction of cases filed in court. Conviction rates continue to be negligible, from 0.32% in May 2022 to 0.47% in November 2022. (READ: ​​Decriminalize libel: PH junked one-third of cyber libel cases filed since 2012)

The graph below compares the statuses of cyber libel cases from May 2022 and November 2022. Get a better visualization of each status by choosing from the drop-down menu.

The latest data breaks down the case statuses of cyber libel per region. The Central Visayas region has the most number of cases filed (176), while the Bicol region has the most convictions (5) and highest conviction rates (2.8%).

Metro Manila lays claim to the highest number of cases dismissed (243), dropped or withdrawn (35), under preliminary investigation (213), and resolved (84).

Below is a line graph visualization of the statuses of cyber libel cases as of November 2022. You can compare the numbers from one or more regions by choosing or typing the region from the drop-down menu.

Ongoing cyber libel cases 

Cyber libel in the Philippines continues to be a hotly-contested issue, with different sides claiming it is either effective in enhancing cybersecurity or it hinders freedom of expression.

Lawyer Gilbert Andres of the Center for International Law earlier said that the pursuit of cyber libel cases might be a waste of time and resources for the government, as an overwhelming number of cases are dismissed.

Rappler CEO Maria Ressa is among the 18 current convictions of cyber libel. The conviction last June 2020 could set a dangerous precedent for the filing of cyber libel cases based on the “republication” of older articles. Currently, the Court of Appeals has denied the motion for reconsideration filed by Ressa and former Rappler researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr. The case has been elevated to the Supreme Court for a possible reversal of the decision. (READ: Maria Ressa arrest tests the bounds of Philippine cyber libel law)

Former vice presidential candidate Walden Bello was issued an arrest warrant last August 8 for two counts of cyber libel, over comments involving Jefry Tupas, Vice President Sara Duterte’s former information officer. His trial is ongoing. (READ: Police arrest ex-VP candidate Walden Bello for cyber libel)

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines released a statement calling for the decriminalization of libel, as its Baguio chairperson and Rappler correspondent Frank Cimatu awaits his verdict on cyber libel charges filed by former agriculture secretary Emmanuel Piñol. – Pola Regalario/Rappler.com

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