Solon Urges PGMA To Certify Bill Decriminalizing Libel

July 13, 2007 at 12:28 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

MANILA – Philippine Senator Mar Roxas on Thursday said he wanted to strike off from the statute books all criminal liabilities attached to libel and guarantee public access to information to advance the freedom of the press and democratic governance, respectively.

He urged President GMA to certify his bills decriminalizing libel (SB 110) and his Free Information Act (SB 109) to substantiate her avowed commitment to human rights.

“The libel law has been used to inflict fear on journalists already saddled with the threat of physical harm when reporting events to the ire of the high and mighty.”

Civil damages are enough penalty for, and deterrence of libel, he added, considering that it is difficult to prove malice because this issue goes straight to personal motives of the journalist.

“It is ironic that the Philippines, while claiming to be a beacon of democracy in Asia, suffers from vicious shootings of reporters,” he said.

SB 110 also limits the venue for filing libel suits to the regional trial court where the media office or address of the charged journalist is located.

“Presently, one can file a libel suit virtually anywhere and leave a reporter without legal or financial means twisting in the wind, to the whim of the powerful and influential,” Roxas said.

At the same time, Roxas said information on matters of public interest must be readily made available to the people under pain of sanctions against errant government officials and employees illegally hiding secrets from the public.

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