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Case 060

People of the Philippines vs. Federico M. Chua Hiong

G.R. No. 10413-R October 20, 1954

Federico Chua Hiong is the uncle of Cesareo Gacheco. Gacheco and his family were defeated in a civil
case in the CFI of Manila, which, if not overturned by the SC, would lead to Gacheco and co. losing
2/3s of the inheritance left by a Paulino Gacheco. Hiong sided with the party that defeated Gacheco.
This created tension and Gacheco wrote the Chief Finance Agent of the Department of Finance
charging Hiong with tax evasion and using a fake citizenship. He then wrote a letter to Vice President
Fernando Lopez accusing Hiong of illegal transactions with the government.

A letter was written by a certain Benito Solipco to Hiong. (The SC says Solipco was undoubtedly if not
Gacheco himself, acting under Gachecos inducement.) It said that the members of the Go Family
Association, of which Gocheco belonged, told Solipco that they will make every vengeance against
Hiong, such as paying some persons to kill him, or reporting him to every Philippine Government
Authority that he is a communist and other kinds of vengeance. The letter warned Hiong to be careful
as the Go Family wee all his enemies now and that they will make every vengeance against him at all
cost. The letter was contained in an envelope along with a rope which contained a note saying this
serves for your personal use. Hiong received threats on the phone and was denounced as a
communist through anonymous letters. Gocheco then caused to be published articles entitled
Doubtful Citizenship in the Feb 11, 1952 issue of the Manila Chronicle. It said that while the
Commissioner of Immigration had certain evidences supporting the Filipino citizenship of Hiong, the
Commisisoners decision was based on questionable proofs. It then proceeded to enumerate the
evidences such as:

1. Mr. Frederico M. Chua Hiong and his family, as shown, by the Master List of alien registered
in 1941 with the Bureau of Immigration, were registered under reg no.s. 199-461 to 199466.
2. The proceedings of the Board of Special Inquiry at the Port of Manila, under Chinese Board
Report No. 1451, show that Mr. Chua Hiong was admitted into the country as legitimate minor
son of Chua Pe on September 23, 1913.
3. A certified Chinese Marriage Certificate secured from the local Civil Registrar shows that his
marriage was performed by the Chinese Consul at the Chinese YMCA in 1926.
4. Affidavits sworn to by residents of Aparri, Cagayan, the place where the alleged mother (of
Hiong) lives, and submitted by the Chief of Police at the instance of the investigator in this
case, show that the alleged mother has never left Aparri, much less the Philippines, and
therefore could not give birth to Hiong who was born in China.

In response, Hiong caused Seriously Speaking to be published in the Manila Chronicle. It said: This
investigation was only one of a series of other investigations conducted by different agencies of our
government at the instigation of Mr. Gocheco, who appears to be obsessed with a persecution mania
in order to besmirch my name and reputation and harass me and my family. To my eternal shame
and misfortune, Mr. Cesario T. Gocheco is my nephew. As such, he is cognizant of all of the facts of my
life for he has known me for the past 25 years.Why then this sudden concern over my citizenship?
Why this mad desire to bring harm to me and my family? The reason is not hard to find personal
revenge is the moving passion in this drama of intrigues and persecution to which I and my family
have been subjected. It is easy to imagine the gloom, despondency and despair, that must have
seized the Gocheco family when the above decision was handed down as that would divest them of
everything that they now have and thus face stark poverty It is obvious that the name Benito
Sulipco is fictitious, as it is the most natural thing that my enemies should cowardly hide behind the
cloak of anonymity, but, one need not stretch the imagination too far to be able to guess the
mastermind behind these threats... For what could be better or more convenient to my enemies than
my untimely death, or for that matter, my deportation from this country had they been able to prove
their charges filed with the different government agencies. What better or more convenient weapon
can my enemies avail of then a this systematic and malicious persecution in order to coerce or cajole
me into submitting to their demands that I should desist from proceeding with the civil case I have
instituted against the Gocheco family which shall ultimately reduce them to the poverty of the
proverbial church-mouse? Because of the article above, Hiong was found guilty of libel by the RTC.
He now appeals.

Issue: Whether or not Chua Hiongs libelous publication was a proper act of self-defense

Ruling: Yes
Self-defense applies to the crime of libel. Self-defense is a mans inborn right. In a physical assault,
retaliation becomes unlawful after the attack has ceased, because there would be no further harm to
repel. But that is not the case when it is aimed at a persons good name. Once the aspersion is cast its
sting clings and the one thus defamed may avail himself of all necessary means to shake it off. He may
hit back with another libel which, if adequate, will be justified. Granting that the Seriously Speaking
column of the Manila Chronicle caused by Hiong was libelous, is it unnecessarily libelous? It was
intended to counteract the impression left in the mind of the public by the article Doubtful
Citizenship which Gocheco caused to be published in the Manila Chronicle on Feb. 11, 1952. Hiong
was living as a Filipino, his livelihood depended mainly upon enterprises only Filipinos can engage
in. It is perfectly conceivable that any attempt to assail his Filipino citizenship should meet the
keenest defense from him. To flout in public the genuineness of ones citizenship is slanderous,
nobody would dare deny, the more so Hiongs case for obvious reasons. The Doubtful Citizenship
column makes it appear that his citizenship was acquired through questionable means and that an
investigation is currently being conducted with respect to the legality of his citizenship. Gochecos
purpose was to malign Hiong. Because he lost in the civil case, Gocheco decided to air his grievances
through the press. Hiongs Seriously Speaking Column is not necessarily libelous because Hiong is
entitled to show Gochecos motive behind Doubtful Citizenship and to dispel the bad impression
about him of those who had read it.