What I Learned : Libel Complaint Experience
Receiving that sub-poena last December 2012 was a big change / stressful event in my life. Termed as an “adult problem” by my friends, I’m really glad the complaint got dismissed. However, it taught me a lot of valuable lessons which I’ll try to enumerate here.
As a blogger,
Write a disclaimer on your blog or if moderate any content not written by you (comments, guest posts)
The complaint stemmed from the comments of other people on my blog. They wanted to show that since it is my blog and by allowing those comments to appear on my blog, it is like I authored them myself. A disclaimer can serve as your defense on this.
As an ordinary citizen and getting immersed to law,
A subpoena is a summon to appear on a specific time or place (e.g. fiscal’s office, court). This doesn’t mean that you are already under arrest because the first step after a complaint would be the preliminary investigation. In my experience, I was given two dates to appear. I missed the first one because when I got the mail, the first schedule as already elapsed.
You should not miss the sub poena because this will give you a chance to defend yourself against the complaint / accusations by submitting a counter-affidavit. You have nothing to lose by appearing.
Here’s a good read that defines preliminary investigation. Basically, the prosecutor handling the complaint will determine, based on the affidavits and evidences submitted by both parties, if there is probable cause for the respondent (me in this case). If he finds probable cause then the case is submitted for trial and there you will get a warrant of arrest. Else, the case would be dismissed.
Getting a lawyer
I started watching the show Suits last December
The first week during the subpoena was very stressful for me because everything was new to me and the advices I got was that I need a lawyer. I’m glad that everyone around me was there to help me in my cause. I was able to meet and talk, talk on the phone, and have email conversations with several lawyers before I decided on who to go with.
My current lawyer is Atty. Toby Purisima. He also served as a legal counsel to one (led by Tonyo Cruz) of the many groups who filed a TRO against the implementation of RA 10175 or better known as cybercrime law. It was very timely because one of the complaints against me was libel (although online). The other one was unjust vexation.
Affidavits and documents
In bond papers, I always wondered what “legal” in sizes mean. It was an inch longer than what we call “long bond paper” and sometimes I mistake it as such. Apparently, this is the correct paper size in where you print any legal documents. In the preliminary investigation, there was an exchange of affidavits between complainant and respondent.
- Complaint Affidavit by complainant
- Counter Affidavit by respondent
- Reply Affidavit by complainant
- Rejoinder Affidavit by respondent
The goal of the complainant is to provide evidence that indeed the crime was committed while the goal of the respondent is to prove otherwise. There’s a specific way in writing these affidavits that it is recommended that a lawyer writes them.
Everything on this document should be based on facts and facts alone. Emotions cannot be used as evidence. Since you will swear before the prosecutor, you will be liable to perjury if you state something untrue on your affidavit.
Facing the prosecutor
The subpoena will give you the specific place and time to show up in the prosecutor’s office (for preliminary investigation). There you will submit your documents or receive documents from the other party. If you are the one submitting the document, you will swear before the prosecutor that you have read your affidavit and the contents are truthful. After that, the prosecutor will sign the document and let you know of the next schedule of the appearance.
My heart was always pounding very fast during these moments. It was like taking an exam without being able to study. It doesn’t help that the complainant is represented by their lawyer while I, ordinary citizen, was representing myself. But gladly, I was able to survive those appearances.
After submitting my rejoinder (as the last document), the complainant did not send a representative anymore. I nervously asked the prosecutor on how does it usually take for the review to be done. He informed me around 2-3 weeks and so, the waiting game began.
Again, I’m very happy that the complaint was dismissed. One less “adult problem” for me. I really hope that this would be the end and they won’t file an appeal.
Till next time,