Lawmakers today moved to decriminalize libel by abolishing the penalty of imprisonment provision under the Revised Penal Code.
Instead, Reps. Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro City and Maximo Rodriguez Abante Mindanao party-list filed House Bill 2562 increasing the fines for violators from the present P 6,000 to P 30,000.
“Although this bill abolishes the penalty of imprisonment, it has increased the amount from the present maximum of P 6,000 to the maximum of P 30,000, to accomplish the purpose of penalizing libel and deterring would be violators,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said the present law on libel infringes on the freedom of speech and of expression and negatively impacts on media practitioners.
“We cannot have that libel law in a country where democracy is primarily infringed on the freedom of speech and of expression, and where media is considered the Fourth Estate,” Rodriguez said.
Libel is defined under Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code as “a public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstance tending to cause dishonour, discredit or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead.”
Rodriguez said Under the law, one is liable for libel when there is an allegation of a discreditable act or condition concerning another, publication of the charge, identity of the person defamed and the existence of malice.
The current law provides that a person guilty of committing libel is penalized with imprisonment ranging from arresto mayor or one month and one day to 6 months, to prision correccional or 6 months and one day to six years, aside from the fine ranging from P 200 to P 6,000.
“While the penalty of fine must be sustained, for no crime should go unpunished, imposing a penalty of imprisonment will work more to discourage members of the media from performing their duties with zeal and vigilance,” Rodriguez said
Rodriguez said a libel committed by means of writing, printing, lithography, engraving, radio, phonograph, painting, theatrical exhibition, cinematographic exhibition, or any similar means shall be punished by a fine ranging from P 10,000 to P 30,000, in addition to the civil action which may be brought by the offended party.
dThe crime of libel and the corresponding penalty imposed above shall be prescribed in six months counted from the date of the first publication, airing or exhibition of the libellous material.
Likewise, the bill provides that the penalty of a fine ranging from P 5,000 to P 15,000 shall be imposed upon any person who threatens another to publish a libel concerning him or the parents, spouse, child, or other members of the family of the latter, or upon anyone who shall offer to prevent the publication of such libel for a compensation or money consideration.
The penalty of P 10,000 to P 30,000 shall be imposed upon any reporter, editor, or manager of a newspaper, daily or magazine, who shall publish facts connected with the private life of another and offensive to the honor, virtue, and reputation of said person, even though said publication be made in connection with or under the pretext that it is necessary in the narration of any judicial or administrative proceedings wherein such facts have been mentioned. PNA