New charter to protect only ‘responsible exercise’ of speech freedom
Lawmakers are proposing that only the “responsible exercise” of freedom of speech be protected under an envisioned federal Constitution, possibly laying the groundwork for sanctions against journalists critical of the government.
One of the changes to the 1987 Constitution proposed by a subcommittee of the House committee on constitutional amendments is the inclusion of a qualifier to the freedom of speech provision under Article III.
The amended provision would read: “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.”
In a note below the proposed amendment, the subcommittee headed by Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro specified the “justification” for the change.
“According to the Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat, in their position paper dated Oct. 10, 2017, the right to free speech, or any right enshrined in the Bill of Rights, comes with an equal burden of responsibly exercising the same,” the subcommittee said.
It added: “It further said that the exercise of one’s rights must be done with good faith and reasonable care.”
The proposed amendment to the Bill of Rights drew objections from House opposition members.
“How [will] you define responsible?” Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano said in a press briefing.
“What is ‘responsible’ for them? Are fake news and propaganda responsible? When they say responsible, they are referring only to those that favor them,” he said.
Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat Jr. said the proposal appeared to be an attack on the news media, citing the case of the news website Rappler, which was ordered shut by the Securities and Exchange Commission for allegedly circumventing the constitutional restriction on foreign ownership of mass media.
He said the move appeared to be an attempt to kowtow to the wishes of the Duterte administration.
“What is happening now is everybody is proposing changes to the Constitution that they feel the current administration wants,” Baguilat said.
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