Press Release
February 20, 2014


Senator Chiz Escudero is pushing anew for the passage of proposals he put forward to decriminalize libel, including online libel which constitutionality was upheld early this week by the Supreme Court.

Escudero has first put the proposal in 2007 to decriminalize libel and the provisions that define and penalize libel under Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC).

And now that the High Tribunal has ruled on the constitutionality of Republic Act No. 10175 or the Cyrbercrime Prevention Act of 2012, Escudero saw the need to pass his proposed legislation seeking to repeal laws that consider libel a criminal offense in order to guarantee freedom of expression.

"The Philippines, as a country deemed democratic and developing, cannot rest on its antiquated laws that run detrimental and contrary to the exercise of freedom," Escudero said. "Decriminalizing libel accords greater protection to freedom of speech and expression."

He added: "If we take away the threat of fear of incarceration and restraint of liberty, we encourage a strong print media to continuously provide a mechanism that promotes transparency over the excesses of government and other entities."

According to Escudero, the existence of libel in Philippine laws is hurting the country's global press freedom ranking, which has dropped in recent years from 147 out of 179 countries in 2013 and 140 in 2012 based on the World Press Freedom Index.

Last year, the senator introduced Senate Bill No. 126 to amend the cybercrime law by removing its online libel provision. In Senate Bill No. 127, which Escudero reintroduced, he is seeking anew the repeal of Article 355 of the RPC to decriminalize libel committed by writing, printing, airing on radio or any similar means. Escudero said the two proposed bills, while seeking to scrap criminal penal provisions, did not completely remove the remedies provided under existing laws against media abuse and irresponsible reports.

"I respect the decision of the High Court but there still lies a pressing need to pass the amendments removing the criminal provisions of libel as a crime." These bills are only consistent with my long-time position to decriminalize libel from our statutes and just retain civil liabilities just so we also ensure that the exercise of our freedom of expression comes with equal responsibilities," Escudero said.

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