De Lima presses libel law reform anew | Inquirer News

De Lima presses libel law reform anew



Former Sen. Leila de Lima, recently designated spokesperson for the Liberal Party, renewed her push to decriminalize libel and expressed support for the arguments of former Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello in asking the Supreme Court on Tuesday to declare parts of the country’s defamation law as contrary to the Bill of Rights.

The former senator said “Professor Walden and I, along with the other speakers of truth to power in our country, know firsthand the dark side of how such draconian measures are being used to stifle dissent, attack free expression, threaten media independence, and ultimately, weaken democracy,” through her X, formerly Twitter, account on Wednesday.


In his petition, Bello asked the high court to declare unconstitutional Articles 353 to 355 regarding libel in the country’s Revised Penal Code, which has been in effect since 1930.


He also asked that Section 4(c)(4) of Republic Act No. 10175, or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, be nullified for violating Section 4, Article III of the Bill of Rights.

“Maintaining libel and cyberlibel as crimes runs afoul with the Constitution,” his petition read. “We have adequate legal remedies under our civil laws and procedure to curb such wrongdoing, no matter how grave it may be.”

Civil liability

De Lima echoed the statement in a previous interview with the Inquirer on Dec. 1, where she said libel should only be a civil liability, like in the United States and the United Kingdom.“We cannot avoid those who abuse free speech. There [will] always be bad eggs just like in any institution, [and] the media is an institution,” she said.

“So there are bad eggs but also, there are mechanisms to go after them. But to censor them is another matter. [There] are prosecutorial processes that ensure that punishment [for those who abuse free speech,] but not criminalization,” she added.

Bello said in his petition that there has been a “growing number of libel and cyberlibel cases aimed at persecuting perceived enemies of the State” which “necessitate a reexamination of the validity of these libel statutes.”He noted he is currently facing cyberlibel charges filed by Jefry Tupas, a former public information officer of Vice President Sara Duterte.

Bello ran against Duterte during the 2022 vice presidential elections and posted a statement on his Facebook page citing Tupas’ alleged involvement in a drug raid in 2021 as criticism against his opponent.


This led to his arrest on Aug. 8, 2022, for the two counts of cyberlibel Tupas filed against him. Bello has since paid a bail of P96,000.

In a press conference held after the filing of the petition, Bello stated that “just the process, and the money, and the expenses [involved] is already a chilling effect on journalism.”

De Lima, on the other hand, has sought the abolition of imprisonment as a penalty, advocating for a fine to be given instead. She filed Senate Bill No. 197 in 2016, one of the first bills she filed when she became senator. Last year, Sen. Risa Hontiveros also filed SB 1593, or the Decriminalization of Libel Act, which would repeal several articles of the Revised Penal Code referring to libel and RA 10175. Hontiveros announced the filing of the bill on the same day journalist Frank Cimatu was convicted of cyberlibel.

In the same year, ACT Rep. France Castro refiled a bill in the House of Representatives that seeks to also decriminalize libel.

She refiled House Bill No. 1769 in the 19th Congress following the affirmation by the Court of Appeals of the cyberlibel conviction of Rappler chief executive officer Maria Ressa, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and the news organization’s former researcher Rey Santos Jr.

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READ: SC raises points against law that makes libel a crime

TAGS: cyber libel, De Lima, Libel

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