July 27, 2010 in Featured
By ARTHUR ALLAD-IW
So it’s all systems go for the first State of the Nation Address (SONA) of newly elected President Noynoy Aquino. In fact, the Philippine National Police and other state security agencies are laying the ground for the secured SONA come July 26.
Even the press people outside Metro Manila are geared toward the event. A friend from the government press asked me, through text: if you were to advise the president on the contents of his speech, what priority issues or programs would you want him to discuss in his speech? I texted him back raising two issues: First, P-Noy should address the issue on extra-judicial killings, particularly that of journalists, who, like human rights defenders are considered endangered species in this country, and, Second, P-Noy should signify it urgent to pass the freedom of information bill.
The first issue, if addressed and if justice is realized for the EJK victims, would at least repair the Philippine image internationally as one of the most dangerous countries for journalists to live. The second issue is necessary for the realization of the constitution’s recognition of the right for the public to know.
As my answers to my friend’s query was through text, I forgot the inclusion of one important issue – the de-criminalization of libel, a campaign that our organization – the NUJP – has continuously took on up to lobbying in congress. I am raising the issue to Pres. P-Noy to certify as an urgent bill the de-criminalization of libel.
Antiquated as it was introduced by the Spanish colonizers during their time, the provisions on libel in the Revised Penal Code (RPC) has been institutionalized as a hindrance to the people’s right to know, a right recognized by the 1987 Constitution. As the libel provisions of the RPC – a statute – contradict the constitutionally enshrined people’s right to know, this is the first and foremost reason to repeal the libel provisions in the RPC.
Historically, libel is utilized by the powerful and rich against members of the press who bravely do their job –to bring information of public interest to the people. In reality, it has been an effective way to silence media practitioners who usually have no money to pay for the long and expensive court litigation of libel cases.
Lately, our media colleague Rimaliza Opina of Sun Star, was charged with libel along with her sources on a labor issue that happened at Baguio’s John Hay Management Corporation. The case was filed at the Quezon City’ Prosecutors Office, where lately Rimaliza had just filed her counter affidavit.
Rimaliza’s case is a concrete example of the use of the libel law to silence a media practitioner. She did the article as it was of public interest. In fact that labor case that she wrote about is not the only case, there are more filed at the NLRC here.
Assuming, just assuming, that media practitioners have made excesses, how can they be punished without the libel law? Under the present legal system, a victim of a defamatory story can file for damage claims under the Civil Code. So this would ensure that lapses by any media practitioner can be brought to court as a civil case filed with damages. And, I therefore urge our new Pres. P-Noy to order for the de-criminalization of libel. # nordis.net