Press Release
February 8, 2007

RIGHT TO REPLY: an exercise of free speech
Sponsorship speech of Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr.,
on Senate Bill No. 1120

Mr. President:

I rise to sponsor Senate Bill No. 1120 that seeks to give people unduly criticized or even maliciously maligned over print, radio to television media the right to reply.

In this country, it seems that some members emphasis on the word, some of the mass media now and then smear and slander people with malice aforethought. And wound the sensibilities and damage names and reputations of people who incur their ire.

The main idea behind the bill is to make it a legal obligation of newspapers, radio and television stations to print or broadcast the replies of individuals who are on the receiving end of their tirades.

It is thought that by imposing on them the legal duty to make public the replies of the injured parties, we lessen the possibility of the latters resorting to violence.

Note that in recent times, our country has acquired the unsavory reputation as one nation where journalists are most unsafe.

A recent compilation of the death toll of journalists reveals the following deadly score:

Filipino Journalists/Media Practitioners Killed in the Line of Duty Since 1986

1. PETE F. MABAZZA Manila Bulletin 1986 April 24

2. WILFREDO WILLY VICOY Reuters 1986 April 24

3. FLORANTE BOY DE CASTRO DXCP/General Santos City 1986

4. DIONISIO PERPETUO JOAQUIN Olongapo News 1987 April 12

5. NARCISO BALANI DXRA / Davao City 1987 Aug. 27

6.ROGIE ZAGADO DXRA / Davao City 1987 Aug. 27

7. LEO PALO DXRA / Davao City 1987 Aug. 27

8. MARTIN CASTOR Pilipino Ngayon 1987 Aug. 28

9. RAMON NOBLEJAS DYVL/Tacloban City 1987 Aug. 28

10. NOEL MIRANDA Mindanao Scanner 1988 March 29

11. RUBEN R. MANRIQUE Luzon Tribune/Bataan 1988 Aug. 12

12. JOSEF ALDEGUER NAVA Visayan Life Today/lloilo 1988 - 0ct. 30

13. SEVERINO ARCONES DYFM-Radyo Bombo/ lloilo 1989 - 0ct. 17

14. EDDIE TELAN Newscaster/Manila 1989 Dec. 0I

15. REYNALDO CATINDIG SR. Northern Sierra Madre Express/Isabela 1990 May 15

16. JEAN LADRINGAN Southern Star/General Santos City 1990 July 08

17. NESINO PAULIN TOLING Panguil Bay Monitor/ Ozamiz 1991 April 14

18. DANILO VERGARA Philippine Post 1992 July 01

19. LADJID LADJA Prensa Zamboanga 1992 JuIy 03

20. REV. GREG HAPALLA DXAS/Zamboanga 1992 Sep. 21

21. GLORIA MARTIN DXXX/ Isabela Basilan 1992 Dec. 30

22. ROMEO ANDRADA LEGASPI Voice of Zambales 1993 Jan. 11

23. ROSAURO LAO Cotabato News 1993 Nov. 22

24. DING SADE Cotabato News 1993 Nov. 22

25. FERDINAND REYES Press Freedom/Dipolog City 1996 Feb. 12

26. ALBERTO BERBON DZMM / Manila 1996 Dec. 15

27. EVELYN JOY MILITANTE GMA Channel 2 / Legazpi City 1997

28. DANIEL J. HERNANDEZ Peoples Journal Tonight / Manila 1997 June 03 29. REGALADO MABAZZA Polaris cable network 1997 Dec. 17

30. ODILON MALLARI DXCP / General Santos City 1998 February

31. REY BANCAIRIN DXLL / Zamboanga City 1998 March 29

32. NELSON CATIPAY DXMY/ Cotabato 1998 April 16

33. DOMINADOR DOM BENTULAN DXGS / General Santos City 1998 Oct. 30

34. FRANK PALMA Bombo Radyo / Bacolod 1999 April 25

35. VINCENT RODRIGUEZ DZMM / Pampanga 2000 May 23

36. OLIMPIO JALAPIT DXPR / Pagadian City 2000 Nov. 17

37. ROLANDO URETA DYKR / Kalibo, Aklan 2001 Jan. 03

At the start of Gloria Macapagal Arroyos Presidency up to today:

38. MUHAMMAD YUSOP DXID / Pagadian City 2001 Feb. 24

39. CANDELARIO CAYONA DXLL / Zamboanga City 2001 May 30

40. JOY MORTEL Mindoro Guardian 2001 May 31


42. EDGAR DAMALERIO DXKP, Zamboanga Scribe, Mindanao Gold Star / Pagadian City 2002 May 13

43. SONNY ALCANTARA Kokus, Celestron Cable TV / San Pablo City 2002 Aug. 22

44. JOHN BELEN VILLANUEVA JR. DZGB /Legazpi City 2003 April 28

45. APOLINARIO POLLY POBEDA DWTI / Lucena City 2003 May 17

46. BONIFACIO GREGORIO Dyaryo Banat / Tarlac 2003 July 8

47. NOEL VILLARANTE The Laguna Score/DZJV 2003 Aug. 19

48. RICO RAMIREZ DXSF/Butuan City 2003 Aug. 20

49. JUAN JUN PALA DXGO/Davao City 2003 Sept. 6

50. NELSON NADURA DYME/Masbate City 2003 Dec. 2

51. ROWEL ENDRINAL DZRC/Legazpi City 2004 Feb. 11

52. ELPIDIO ELY BINOYA Radyo Natin / General Santos City 2004 June 17

53. ROGER MARIANO DZJC-Aksyon Radio/ Laoag 2004 July 31

54. ARNNEL MANALO DZRH/Bulgar/Batangas 2004 Aug. 5

55. JONATHAN ABAYON RGMA Superadyo / General Santos City 2004 Aug. 8

56. FERNANDO CONSIGNADO Radio Veritas / Laguna 2004 - Aug. 12

57. ROMY BINUNGCAL Remate / Bataan 2004 - Sept. 29

58. ELDY GABINALES (ELDY SABLAS) DXJR-FM / Tandag, Surigao del Sur 2004 - Oct. 19

59. GENE BOYD LUMAWAG MindaNews / Jolo, Sulu 2004 - Nov. 12

60. HERSON HINOLAN Bombo Radyo / Kalibo, Aklan 2004 - Nov. 13

61. MICHAEL LLORIN Freelance photojournalist/ Manila 2004 - Nov. 13

62. ALLAN DIZON Freeman Cebu and Banat News / Cebu 2004 - Nov. 27

63. STEPHEN OMAOIS Guru News Weekly / Kalinga 2004 - Dec. 1

64. EDGAR AMORO Freelance broadcaster / Pagadian City 2005 - Feb. 2

65. ARNULFO VILLANUEVA Asian Star Express Balita /Naic, Cavite 2005 - Feb. 28

66. ROMEO SANCHEZ DZNL, Baguio 2005 - March 9

67. MARLENE GARCIA ESPERAT The Midland Review / Tacurong City 2005 - March 24

68. KLEIN CANTONEROS DXAA-FM / Dipolog City 2005 - May 4

69. PHILIP AGUSTIN Starline Times Recorder / Dingalan, Aurora 2005 - May 10

70. ROLANDO MORALES DWMD-Radio Mindanao Network, South Cotabato 2005 July 3

71. RICARDO DING UY DZRS-AM Sorsogon City 2005 - November 18

72. ROBERT RAMOS Katapat, Laguna 2005 - November 21

73. GEORGE BENAOJAN DYDD, Cebu City 2005 - December 2

74. ROLLY CAETE DXPR, Pagadian City 2006 - January 20

75. GRACIANO AQUINO Central Luzon Forum, Bataan 2006 - January 21

76. ORLANDO MENDOZA Tarlac Profile / Tarlac Patrol 2006 - April 2

77. NICOLAS CERVANTES Surigao 2006 - May 2

78. ALBERT ORSOLINO Saksi Ngayon 2006 - May 16

79. FERNANDO DONG BATUL DYPR Puerto Princesa, Palawan 2006 - May 22

80. GEORGE VIGO Union of Catholic Asian News (UCan, Kidapawan 2006 June 19

81. MACEL ALAVE-VIGO DXND Kidapawan City 2006 - June 19

82. ARMANDO PACE Radyo Ukay dxDS Digos City 2006 July 18

This is not to say that the extra-judicial killings or to put it in more gruesome words the wanton murders of journalists in this country are necessarily the evil results of vengeful acts of the people they might have libeled.

We cite the figures just to underscore the thesis that, perhaps, if people who are maligned can demand as a matter of right that the newspapers, radio or television concerned publish their side of any publicized controversy, conceivably there could be an easing of tensions. And that development could lead to the harmonization of the conflicting views between them and their critics in mass media. Hopefully, the deadly game of shooting journalists would, thus, be minimized.

Concerns have been expressed by some respected media practitioners that the bill could be an infringement of the rights of free speech and of the press that are embodied in the Constitution.

Far be it for me to even think about, much less, endorse any move to curtail free speech and free press in this country.

To be immodest about it, I did get arrested four times or get thrown out of public elective offices twice during the martial law years fighting for the fundamental freedoms of our people only to undermine those same rights now that we have been rid of the martial dictatorship.

I would never do that. Not for any personal gain or base motives.

In fact, I have made a proposal to decriminalize libel so that the powerful may not have any legal excuses to curtail free speech and press freedom in the county. That bill, however, has been rotting for about three years now in the bowels of our senate bureaucracy or to be more precise in the committee to which it has been referred.

I, therefore, propose the measure we are discussing, Mr. President, in an attempt to balance things out so that when persons are unduly targeted by mass media, they should have the right to reply.

That reply should be published as soon as it is made more or less in the same space of the newspapers where the offending item appeared or over the same radio or television program where the verbal abuse took place.

It is my humble opinion that the right to free speech including the right to a free press - is not a right reserved only for journalists.

These are rights that also inhere in people whatever be their station in life. And those rights, if they are to be meaningful, must be allowed to find their way into the pages of newspapers and into the air lanes of radio and television. Otherwise, in this information age of instant communication, the right of free speech of people who are not media practitioners would be marginalized if not totally rendered irrelevant.

May I digress a little bit to point out that in my opinion some journalists do relish hurling brickbats against the objects of their anger. But when the targets of their venomous invectives so much as take exception to their diatribe, they feel offended and raise the hue and cry against what they perceive are brazen attempts to curtail their rights to free speech and of the press.

In this brief intervention, then, may I ask our colleagues to pass the bill under consideration without further delay. Believe me, its enactment will do wonders to rationalize the exercise of the rights of free speech and free press.

The bill once it becomes a law will help raise the level of the public discussions of public issues from base considerations to the nobler aspirations of our people.

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