Press Release
October 12, 2008

Senate holds final hearing on libel

The Senate committee on constitutional amendments, revision of codes and laws will hold on Monday final hearing on the Senate bills (SB) proposing to decriminalize libel.

Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon, committee chairman, said the panel would consolidate and finalize details of SB nos. 5, 110, 223, 918, 1403 and 2108, which propose to amend articles on the Revised Penal Code (RPC) regarding libel.

While the other bills intend to decriminalize libel, Gordon's measure, SB 2108, seeks to prescribe different penalties for political and private libel.

"While our society accords immense value on freedom of expression and speech, our laws also recognize the right of an individual to protect and defend himself when his good name or standing in the community have been unduly injured or compromised," Gordon said.

"We want to strike a balance between the two legitimate, albeit clashing, social interests between freedom of expression and the right of the individual to protect honor and person, by differentiating public from private libel," he added.

Gordon's bill proposes to amend Articles 354 and 361 of the RPC by requiring proof of publicity and malice discussion of any matter of public concern before any criminal prosecution for libel.

Gordon said with the current political climate in the country, discussions of matters of public concern and criticisms of official conduct should be considered privileged and not presumed to be malicious even though defamatory.

"Our current political climate demands the recognition of legitimate expressions of public opinion as an additional exception under Article 354 of the Revised Penal Code. The prosecution must, therefore, show that the accused acted with malice in order to prove guilt," he said.

Expected to attend Monday's hearing are Malaya publisher Jake Macasaet, The Daily Tribune publisher Niñez Cacho-Olivarez, National Press Club President Benny Antiporda, and Department of Justice Chief State Prosecutor Jovencito Zuño, among others.

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