Press Release
June 21, 2008


Senator Mar Roxas called on his colleagues in Congress to act on the bill seeking to decriminalize libel and the proposed Free Information Act once session resumes in July, in order to lessen the risks faced by journalists.

"The harrowing experience of Ces Drilon and her crew underscores the hazards that professional journalists face in their line of work. On a daily basis, however, they also risk harassments from powerful persons who prefer to operate in the shadows and outside the margins of the law," he said.

"Decriminalizing libel and ensuring public access to government documents are vital steps in upholding the principles of transparency and press freedom," he added."

The two bills, he said, would ensure that the people's right to know will be unfettered.

Roxas, Liberal Party President, filed Senate Bill No. 110 seeking to decriminalize libel, because he believes the nature of the offense can be properly resolved in civil proceedings. The threat of imprisonment, he added, can be used as a means of harassment by big shots in the government and private sector.

Journalists and other citizens also have to deal with the unavailability of information and official documents as a result of minimal disclosure of government offices, even when such information is of public interest. Roxas has thus filed Senate Bill No. 109, the Free Information Act.

"In order to reform our public institutions, we have to first make sure that there is a system of transparency and accountability in the flow of information," he said, while also noting that Martial Law was able to flourish in part due to a controlled press.

Roxas noted that a Supreme Court case is still pending, wherein he and his fellow LP stalwart Sen. Noynoy Aquino are seeking the disclosure of National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) documents relating to the controversial National Broadband Network, whose P15-billion cost was to be funded by taxpayers until it was canceled due to public uproar.

"If only our agencies had strict and definite guidelines to follow on the release of public information, this whole NBN debacle may have never happened," he said.

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