Just file a libel case instead, says Sotto on bid to criminalize red-tagging
MANILA, Philippines — Why not just file a libel case?
Senate President Vicente Sotto III made this suggestion during a Senate hearing on Tuesday amid proposals to criminalize red-tagging.
“I’ve heard it thrice already from this morning up to now, from the CHR (Commission on Human Rights) also, that we should study, or we should criminalize red-tagging. I think, why don’t you just file a libel case?” Sotto said at the resumption of the Senate inquiry into the alleged red-tagging by military officials.
“Because if we criminalize red-tagging, we have to criminalize narcissistic-tagging and fascist-tagging samantalang [while] it falls in the category of libel,” he added.
According to Sotto, filing a bill that would criminalize red-tagging would be “difficult” to do at this time.
“E ‘di file-an na lang ng [Just file] libel. I think that should be food for thought for those who are offended by being called ‘Reds’,” the Senate president said.
“You may think about that instead of having Congress discuss and then file a bill criminalizing red-tagging, which at this point would be very difficult to do,” he added.
But former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, who has been repeatedly tagged as part of the communist movement, said red-tagging is different from other forms of expression.
“Good point naman po si Senate President, ang unang problema, iba ang red-tagging sa ordinary suggestions ng mamamayan. Ang red-tagging ay yung paggamit ng government funds, public funds, government resources…to vilify other people,” Colmenares said.
(The Senate President has a good point but the first problem is that red-tagging is different from the ordinary suggestions of an individual. Red-tagging involves the use of government funds, public funds, government resources to vilify other people.)
“Hindi siya kapareho dun sa level ng freedom of expression, yun talaga yung main problem dito,” he added.
(It’s not at the same level as freedom of expression, that’s the problem here.)
Further, he said government officials who would be accused of red-tagging could just argue that their actions were done in “good faith.”
“Ang pwedeng defense lang nila as government officials is good faith: ‘E public duty namin. Good faith ito.’ Kaya ang ordinaryong tao will have to hurdle that,” the former lawmaker said.
(The defense of government officials could be that they were doing it in good faith: ‘It’s our public duty, we did it in good faith.’ That’s why an ordinary person will have to hurdle that argument.)
“Ang problema is ‘Good faith ‘yan,’ pero klaro naman ang malice. Yung mga ordinary people, hindi naman ganun kadali ang mag-file ng cases. Hindi sila equal e, hindi sila pwedeng ipagtabi,” he added.
(The problem is the claim of ‘That is made in good faith.’ But there is clear malice. It would also be difficult for ordinary people to file a case. They’re not equal. You cannot liken them.)
But Sotto, in response to Colmenares’ concerns, said even the government “is not exempt from libel.” [ac]
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.