ACT rep refiles bill decriminalizing libel
MANILA, Philippines — Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Rep. France Castro has refiled a bill in the House of Representatives that would decriminalize libel.
Castro said she refiled House Bill 1769 in the 19th Congress following the affirmation by the Court of Appeals of the cyber libel conviction of Rappler chief executive officer Maria Ressa, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and the news organization’s former researcher Rey Santos Jr.
“The affirmation of the guilty verdict against Ressa and Santos is a clear example of how the law can be used against the media and even ordinary citizens and forced to be silenced,” Castro said in a statement on Saturday.
Castro also cited Ressa and Santos’ case in the explanatory note of the bill, which stated: “In fact, even as Philippine media has the distinction of having produced a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Rappler’s Maria Ressa, the Philippine government, on the other hand, has the notorious distinction of being the hand behind the cyber libel cases against her.”
Castro also noted that the country’s libel law “has resulted in the prevalence of onion skins amongst government officials and public figures.”
“It caused the gagging of media practitioners, the concealment of the truth from public knowledge, prior restraint and chilling effect, and the resulting incapacitation of the people from gaining a meaningful understanding of the various public issues that are of paramount concern,” the congresswoman pointed out.
The bill was first filed during the 14th Congress by Bayan Muna Representatives, led by then-Rep. Satur Ocampo, and was refiled in the 15th until the 18th Congresses.
“This refiling in the 19th Congress, along with the refiling of the proposal of ACT Teachers Party-List to repeal several provisions of the Cybercrime Law, including cyberlibel (House Bill 569), is an obstinate yet hopeful stance that Congress will finally recognize the ever-growing need to protect press freedom and uphold the people’s democratic rights,” Castro said.
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