Court dismisses first "Facebook libel" case in PH, Vicki Belo suffers setback
(SPOT.ph) The Antipolo city court yesterday, July 16, dismissed a libel suit filed by beauty mogul Vicki Belo against lawyer Argee Guevarra in 2009, reports ABS-CBN News. The latter posted allegedly "slanderous" comments about the doctor on his Facebook page. According to a Manila Bulletin report, not only was it the first Facebook-related libel case in the Philippines, it was also the first case in the world where the complainant did not belong in the defendant’s "Friends" list.
The legal battle between the two started two years ago when a Belo Medical Group doctor used a banned substance called "Hydrogel" for Guevarra's client, Josie Norcio’s buttock enhancement surgery, reports Manila Bulletin. On his Facebook, Guevarra referred to Belo as "Reyna ng Kaplastikan, Reyna ng Kapalpakan (Queen of False Pretenses, Queen of Incompetence);" claimed that the doctor bribed her clients to cover up complaints; and encouraged people to boycott Belo clinics.
In a statement released yesterday, Guevarra said Regional Trial Court Judge Mary Josephine Lazaro based the junking on improper venue-Belo resides in Makati while Guevarra lives in Pasig. Guevarra also said that there was no such crime as "internet libel." Guevarra's counsels, Luke Espiritu and Resty Mendoza, told ABS-CBN that the decision is "a small step forward in making Facebook one of the freest forums for the nearly 20 million Filipino Facebook users to exercise their right to free speech and expression."