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19, 2012

NR # 2928B

Solon wants to decriminalize libel

Rep. Joseph Victor Ejercito (Lone District, San Juan City) has joined the wave to decriminalize libel with a provision to release of all persons serving jail sentences for violations of the libel provisions of the Revised Penal Code. Ejercito is author of HB 6649, which provides for the decriminalization of libel, thereby repealing Articles 353 to 357 and Articles 360-362 of the Revised Penal Code. The law against libel has primarily been used to suppress free expression rather than address media abuse, Ejercito said. Notwithstanding the Constitutional provisions guaranteeing freedom of speech, of expression and of the press, Ejercito cited a 2011-2012 World Press Freedom Index Report by the Reporters Without Borders which ranked the Philippines at 140th out of 179 countries worldwide in terms of press freedom with threats and violence against media and culture of impunity acting as the biggest threats confronting media freedom in the country. Another obstacle is the criminalization of libel under our Revised Penal Code, which has its attendant imprisonment and payment of large fines, Ejercito noted. Likewise, Ejercito said that United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) declared, in the case of Alexander Adonis, a Davao broadcaster who was convicted of libel and sentenced to a prison term, that our laws on libel are incompatible with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which the Philippines is a signatory. Ejercito said media has evolved to accommodate the views and perspectives of the common Filipino, and has strengthened its important role of being the watchdogs of the Government. This bill reinforces this function and truly enables them to be of service to the Filipino through responsible journalism that pushes for complete transparency, Ejercito said. He said modern technology allows common people to air their grievances against any person or entity, whether with malice or not, through online publication. The decriminalization of libel does not mean that ones right to privacy, dignity and peace will be impinged. Violators will continue to be civilly liable, and the remedy of filing an action for damages to seek redress for the wrong done shall still be available, Ejercito said. Reps. Angelo Palmones and Lord Allan Jay Velasco (HB 6391), Reps. Teodoro Casio and Neri Javier Colmenares (HB 1009) and the late Salvador Escudero III (HB 2979) introduced similar measures all referred to the House Committee on Revision of Laws for proper consideration and/or consolidation. (30) dpt