3 cases when a celebrity can haul a basher to court

8/18/2016 2:10 PM | Updated as of 8/18/2016 2:39 PM
by: Gerry Plaza

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With good reason, they are fighting back.

Who wouldn’t? Especially if you are Bianca Gonzalez reading comments about your precious princess being “negra” and “panget”? Or, when one “gutsy” commenter calls Kris Aquino “Imeldiffic” and “cheap” when she wore those ostentatious clothes during the APEC Summit in November last year? Or when you are Matteo Guidicelli trying to show how much you love the woman of your dreams and gets called a “useless boyfriend” and a “mediocre actor and triathlete”. Or when a follower tells Julia Barretto that she is not famous as she think she is being a second choice in an upcoming film’s casting?

While most other celebrities just ignore or laugh off such assertions, a growing number of them are not keeping silent. Bianca emphatically stated how proud she was of her ethnicity and that her baby being dark skinned was all the more gratifying being Filipinos. Kris emphasized she was not cheap and that she purchased those dresses she wore at the APEC Summit last year from her own pocket, unlike those who siphon off the nation’s coffers just to buy a party wardrobe.

Matteo was all the more combative with a mere three-word retort “Ikaw, ano ka?” And for Julia, a dignified yet piercing response of being motivated by such unprovoked, merciless, and reckless attacks to do better at what she does.

In a democracy, anyone can post anything they want, be it in their own websites, blogs, or social media accounts even if it were too mean for comfort for these celebrities or anyone else they want to attack. But when do we draw the line? How can we determine if these bashers have gone too far?  When is it time to call the authorities and lodge formal complaints against them and file appropriate cases? When can they request the Cybercrime Units of the PNP and NBI to track and identify their bashers and haul them to court? 

1.) When they become libelous 

When bashers say something completely false and malicious, with the purpose of defaming or maligning the person being bashed. 

It’s either they absolutely know it is untrue or care less if it is false or not. It’s like calling a certain actor a “drug addict” but you know he is not, or you are not sure about it and still post it on your personal blog or Facebook account. Then the respondent actor proves he is not a drug addict by presenting evidence to prosecutors and eventually the trial court using official drug test results that he is not.

The Supreme Court defines it as actual malice, which guarantees conviction for online libel in the Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, carrying six to ten years of jail time, plus fees accrued from moral damages it caused.

2.) When they harass and bully

When they strip the dignity of the victim with belittling, rude, insulting remarks posted publicly. A basher calls a former starlet who has since gone obese as “baboy”, “pumangit”, or “lumobo” in his blog then shares her then and now photos with more demeaning remarks through his Twitter, and brings his humiliating remarks on the ex-starlet’s own Instagram.

While it has not been enacted yet, the proposed Anti-Cyberbullying Act is seen to penalize violators with prison terms of six months up to six years and fines up to P500,000 with the court’s discretion. 

This not only covers comments but also continued unwarranted tirades in other posts, such as sharing offensive photos of the victim, and repeatedly posting humiliating or embarrassing information would also make these bashers liable.  Currently, while the Republic Act 10627 or the Anti-Bullying law enacted in 2013 can only protect children against such online bullying, adults can however use online libel provisions in the Cybercrime Prevention Act to pursue their case.

3.) And worse, when they steal your identity

The Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 makes it clear: identity theft is a grave offense. 

You are so passionate at shaming the country’s most beautiful actress, you decide on creating a Facebook account under her name. Then, as you fool thousands of people as a poser, you would not only steal her identity but post statuses that would mislead or misinform followers about her. Worse, you would post embarrassing photos showing her supposedly real, not-so-presentable look during private moments at her home as against her usual stunning public appearance.

Once you are convicted of computer-related identity theft under Section 4-B-3, you will face up to 12 years in jail and fines of at least P200,000.

While we are free to say all we want in this democracy, it is however important to know the values of propriety, ethics, and respect for others at all times. And this goes for prominent public figures at our mercy, especially with our convenient access to technology that grants us that privilege to state, share and opine assertions openly and without regulation or censorship. 

Responsibility is a given; being mindful of what we post that reaches millions at an instant is vital. But for bashers who persist with their trigger happy ways, unmindful of the defaming posts or comments they make, their days are numbered. 

This is when celebrities, or any other victim, would not only just answer them back, but also haul them to court.

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