Penalty for libel; Administrative Circular 08-2008

Based on Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code, the penalty for libel is "prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods or a fine ranging from 200 to 6,000 pesos, or both." (Note that the fine herein has not yet been updated by recent amendment.)

A component of the approach is the rule of preference in favor of fine instead of imprisonment in libel committed under certain circumstances. In Administrative Circular 08-2008, the Supreme Court has listed the guidelines in implementing the rule of preference, to wit:
  1. This Administrative Circular does NOT remove imprisonment as an alternative penalty for the crime libel under Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code;
  2. The Judges concerned may, in the exercise of sound discretion, and taking into consideration the peculiar circumstances of each case, determine whether the imposition of a fine alone would best serve the interests of justice or whether forbearing to impose imprisonment would depreciate the seriousness of the offense, work violence on the social order, or otherwise be contrary to the imperative of justice;
  3. Should only a fine be imposed and the accused be unable to pay the fine, there is no legal obstacle to the application of the Revised Penal Code provision on subsidiary imprisonment.
If circumstances of the case warrant the rule of preference to be applied, considering, for example, that the accused was impelled to write the news article out of his firm belief that he was doing his duty to inform the public, the penalty of imprisonment may be deleted. For example, in Buatis, Jr. v. People, the Supreme Court imposed a fine, instead of jail time, upon a lawyer found guilty of libel because he had been motivated by his belief that he was exercising a civic or moral duty towards his client.

In the case of Alcala v. People (G.R. No. 170721, Aug. 23, 2017), the Supreme Court deleted the penalty of imprisonment prescribed by the lower courts, and opted to impose a fine of P3,000.00 with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency. According to the High Court, this deletion better serves the interest of justice because the accused therein was a journalist who believed that he was impelled by his duty to inform the public of the activities of the dead mayor (who was called "Jueteng & illegal logging mayor of Laguna" in a news article).