Ruling on Ressa, Santos revives call to stop treating libel as crime
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY—A lower court decision to convict Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and former researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr for cyber libel has breathed new life into calls for Congress to pass a law that would cease treating libel as a criminal offense.
The revival of calls to decriminalize libel came as Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez filed a bill setting the prescriptive period, or the amount of time within which a case can be filed, to one year.
In separate statements, the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said lawmakers should, however, take the bigger step and pass a law that would stop defining libel as a crime.
Ariel Sebellino, PPI executive director, said PPI has long advocated for libel to be decriminalized.
Jose Jaime Espina, NUJP chairman, said the group has always been for decriminalizing libel.
“While we acknowledge Representative Rodriguez’s intentions, Congress would do better to amend a law that has been used for so long by those in power as they seek to silence or intimidate journalists,” Espina said.
Ressa and Santos were found guilty of violating Republic Act 10175, or the Anti-Cybercrime law, for an article that was published in 2012 and allegedly republished in 2014 because a misspelled word was corrected.
The charges against Ressa and Santos were filed in 2017.
Rodriguez said he recently filed House Bill No. 7010 setting the prescriptive period for libel to one year.
Emmanuel Jaudian, president of the Cagayan de Oro Press Club, agreed with Rodriguez.
Rodriguez said RA 10175, the new law that was used against Ressa and Santos, did not provide for any prescription period.
The Department of Justice, he said, used a provision that sets a 12-year prescription period for offenses punishable by imprisonment of six or more years.
Rodriguez said there was a need to clear the confusion in the interpretation of the law.
Edited by TSB
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