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House begins discussing right of reply bill

By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 21:45:00 03/05/2009

Filed Under: Legislation, Media, Congress

MANILA, Philippines -- The House of Representatives began discussions on the controversial right of reply bill Thursday night, with a number of lawmakers voicing concern over media opposition to the measure and the withdrawal of support of some senators who voted for the bill.

?Many senators are withdrawing their signatures . . . so what happens now?? Quezon City Representative Matias Defensor asked.

?If I?d be candid enough, the House is now under fire because several media groups are against this right of reply bill?While we say that the Senate has no jurisdiction at this time, we have to realize that there is [a] third body, the bicameral committee,? Defensor said, raising the possibility that even if the bill is passed by the House, it could be thrown out if a sufficient number of senators refuse to support it.

Earlier, Speaker Prospero Nograles said senators who said they were withdrawing their support for the measure, could not do so after the Senate version of the bill had been transmitted to the House.

The bill, authored by Minority Leader Aqulino Pimentel, was passed unanimously by the Senate.

But Escudero, one of the senators who declared withdrawal of support for the bill, had also said he would vote against the measure should it reach the bicameral conference.

The bill has passed the committee level in the House.

?I?m sure the concern is worthy of consideration but in so far as the House is concerned, we can only consider the official copy of the bill approved by the Senate provided to us,? Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante, chairman of the House committee on public information, said, referring to the transmitted Senate version.

Earlier in the session, Abante had balked at an editorial of the Philippine Daily Inquirer against the right of reply bill, which called his argument for the passage of the measure ?fatally flawed.?

Abante had earlier claimed enacting the bill, which seeks to compel media outfits to publish or air the reply of those who feel offended by articles or commentaries, even if only by innuendo, would lessen the murder of journalists.

Asked by Cebu Representative Antonio Cuenco if he plans to ?retreat? and ?make a graceful exit? on the matter of the right to reply bill, Abante replied: ?Let?s cross the bridge when we get there.?

Abante said floor debates on the bill would start after his committee has gathered the position of concerned parties.



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