Malacañang on Saturday clarified that the Office of the President had no hand in the proposal to amend the Bill of Rights.
Palace spokesman Harry Roque made the clarification after Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro claimed that the recommendation to protect only the “responsible exercise of free speech” in the new Constitution came from a committee under the Office of the President.
“I’d like to clarify that Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat is not or does not have the rank of a Cabinet member. This means that when they spoke, they did not speak as alter ego of the President. So that is the recommendation of the Secretariat. It is not in any way the position of the President,” Roque said in a news conference in Aklan.
“The President is a lawyer. He is a fiscal. The bill of rights has remained unchanged from the 1935 Constitution to the 73 Constitution to 87 Constitution. As far as free speech is concerned, the President sees no need to amend it. I repeat, that’s not the position of the President, unless it comes from a member of the Cabinet who is an alter ego of the President, their recommendations cannot bind the President,” he added.
Last week, Castro recommended the insertion of the phrase “responsible exercise” in Section 4 of the Bill of Rights, which reads: “No law shall be passed abridging the responsible exercise of the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”
“There is so much abuse of this freedom. They think it is unrestrained. Therefore, we propose the insertion of that phrase,” Castro said during the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments’ discussions on charter change.
The lawmaker later said the proposed amendment did not come from the House subcommittee but from the Presidential Committee on Human Rights secretariat.
The proposal to amend the free speech clause came amid President Rodrigo Duterte’s testy relations with the media.
Earlier, he slammed journalists for allegedly favoring the “interest of oligarchs” and for purportedly misreporting his policies such as the bloody war on drugs and the extension of martial law in Mindanao.
Duterte told reporters he is used to critical reporting as he clarified he had nothing to do with the Securities and Exchange Commission’s decision to revoke the incorporation papers of news site Rappler. CATHERINE S. VALENTE