Press Release
March 12, 2008

To protect the right to speech and self-expression,

Senator Edgardo J. Angara today stressed the importance of one's privacy and the right of a person to be free from public and malicious imputation.

"In a country where democracy is primarily infringed on the freedom of speech and expression, and in a State where the media is considered the fourth estate, it is a sad reality that existing laws on libel have not been attuned to the evolving needs of the people under a democratic rule and the rising importance of media in effecting transparency and accountability in governance," said Angara.

He also said that while a newspaperman is 'free to share his views publicly' on issues that affect our nation and our people, they remain unprotected from the risk of imprisonment.

"While we recognize that socially-relevant issues must have room for open debate an public discussion, we do not safeguard the very people who risk their safety and career in order to report events that have escaped our critical eye, circumstances that would have to led us to think twice before making our conclusions, and instances that would have made us more aware of what is more important and what is more relevant," Angara added.

With this, Angara drafted Senate Bill 918 which seeks to amend certain provisions of the Revised Penal Code by abolishing the imprisonment penalty in libel cases.

Under this bill, the penalty of fine is sustained as Angara believed that libel must not go unpunished. He also said that the imprisonment of a person convicted of libel will be precluded in the future from doing his job with zeal and critical eye. Such person may choose not to look deeply into issues and concerns that may not seem to affect public interest on face value, but with deep investigation, would expose anomalies and abuses, for fear of imprisonment.

This amendment loosens the restraint on the free flow of information and thus fosters the growth of a free and open society. Socially relevant issues must have room for open debate and public discussion.

"It is not our intent in this proposal to downplay the importance of one's privacy and the right of a person to be free from public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice, or defect, real or imaginary, or circumstances tending to cause the dishonor, discredit or contempt of a person or to blacken the memory of one who is dead. But the penalty of imprisonment that goes with libel is, to our opinion, not commensurate to the act being penalized. With the decriminalization of libel, the safeguards strengthened," said Angara.

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