Press Release
July 5, 2016

De Lima files her first Senate bills

Part of commitment towards strengthening criminal justice, fighting corruption, and upholding human rights

Newly-elected Senator Leila de Lima filed her first bills yesterday, as part of her commitment to strengthen efforts for criminal justice system, fight corruption, and uphold human rights protection.

De Lima, a former Justice Secretary and Commission on Human Rights Chair, filed Senate Bills (S.B.) no. 195 or the Anti-Criminal Exploitation of Children Act of 2016; S.B. no. 196, the Bank Secrecy Law Amendments, and S.B. no. 197, or the Libel Law Reform Act of 2016.

The Anti-Criminal Exploitation of Children bill defines criminal exploitation of children, and imposes higher penalties for all crimes involving them.

"Children are among the marginalized and most vulnerable in society. They must be protected from predators. These include parents and criminals who take advantage of their vulnerability," said De Lima.

"Sa katunayan nga, dahil sa kasakiman, may mga magulang na sila mismo ay ibinubugaw ang sariling anak."

According to this bill, children are made victims when criminals--in any capacity or extent--involve them in the commission of offenses. As such, this bill seeks to provide stiffer penalties to include imprisonment for individuals who engage, promote, facilitate, or induce a child in illegal activities.

This bill also reiterates that a child who is fifteen (15) years of age or under during the time the offense was committed is exempt from criminal liability. A child above fifteen (15) years old but below eighteen (18) years old is also exempt from criminal liability but can be subject to state intervention.

"Minors should be guided, not jailed. They do not possess the same level of discernment that adults have, making them defenseless to influences that place their lives and future at risk. It is our duty to protect and take care of the psychological and physical well-being of our children. Imprisonment of children violates their human right to development," said De Lima.

Meanwhile, the Senator's proposed amendments to Republic Act no. 1405 or the Bank Secrecy Law, seek to exempt government officials and employees from coverage under this legislation.

"The 1987 Constitution states that 'public office is a public trust.' No person who serves in government shall abuse this mandate, or be promised a shield from accountability in the commission of crimes," De Lima said.

"By removing the bank confidentiality privilege of those in public office, this bill will promote transparency in governance, and will significantly lessen attempts of accumulating ill-gotten wealth."

On the Libel Law Reform Act of 2016, De Lima seeks to amend some provisions of Act no. 3815, otherwise known as the Revised Penal Code. This bill proposes to abolish the penalty of imprisonment in libel cases, as it constitutes a prior restraint upon the people's freedom of expression. However, she also adds that libel cannot go completely unpunished in cases of malicious remarks that damage the honor and reputation of private individuals. Thus, she proposes increasing the existing fine as a penalty for offenders.

Other provisions in this bill include making discussions of any matter of public concern, and criticism of public officials a non-offense as privileged, as well as determining the venue of cases and persons responsible for libel.

Following the removal of the penalty of imprisonment for libel, with the upgrading of fines, a similar amendment is proposed in the sanctions for the cybercrime of libel under Section 4, sub-section (c), paragraph (4), Chapter II of Republic Act No. 10175, otherwise known as the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

"I have already expressed my support before for the decriminalization of libel, and my opposition to the libel provision of the anti-cybercrime law, in a legal opinion issued when I was still Justice Secretary," De Lima recalled.

"The media should be encouraged to perform their social responsibility of exposing misconduct without fear of being harassed through the arbitrary filing of libel cases against them. Upholding press freedom as an institution for checks and balances is crucial to a strong and robust democracy," noted De Lima.

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