Press Release
February 18, 2013

Legarda wants libel decriminalized

Senator Loren Legarda today reiterated her stance that libel should be decriminalized, stressing that freedom of speech is easily stifled with the mere threat of criminal libel as the commonly used form of suppression.

"Apart from threatening our Constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of speech, the continued criminalization of libel will be a huge hindrance in efforts aimed at promoting good governance and exacting accountability on our public officials," said Legarda who has filed a measure, Senate Bill 3294, to decriminalize libel.

The Senator, a former broadcast journalist, noted the September 2012 report by United States-based organization Freedom House which rated the status of press freedom in the Philippines as only "partly free" citing among other things, the criminalization of libel under the country's penal code. It particularly noted how frequent use of such charges has often been used to "stifle criticism of officials and of public figures".

"The continued criminalization of libel will work more to discourage members of the media to perform their duties with zeal and vigilance. Instead of looking deeply into issues that have a potential of affecting public interest and general welfare, the penalties imposed have paved the way for members of the media to approach their mandates with doubt and hesitation," Legarda stressed.

"We cannot have that in a country where democracy is primarily hinged on freedom of speech and of expression, and where media is considered the Fourth Estate," Legarda concluded.

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