Sunday, March 2, 2014
MANILA-Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto filed on Feb. 27 a bill decriminalizing libel, joining a growing list of senators wanting to delist it from the book of crimes.
In Senate Bill 2146, Recto traced the origins of libel as a tool against criticisms and to shield public officials from insults.
He said the 84-year-old was a fusion of the Spanish Codigo Penal and the 1932 Revised Penal Code, “with archaic provisions which had been overtaken by jurisprudence expanding free speech.”
In the bill’s explanatory note, the senator echoed Justice Marvic Leonen’s dissent on the Cybercrime Law “that libel prosecution has evolved from protecting both private citizens and public figures to its modern notion of shielding only private parties from defamatory utterances.”
Even if libel will be decriminalized, Recto said there is another way that “scurrilous and defamatory remarks damaging to one’s reputation” can be set right.
“The institution of civil action for damages can restore a sullied reputation,” he said.
Recto said “it is high time for Congress to revisit defamation laws, and recalibrate them in a manner that they can prevent and penalize malicious and unfounded attacks on a person’s reputation without stifling free speech and the open discussion of policies that affect the public.”
“Even if we take out libel, there should remain a shield which a private, ordinary citizen can use when he is assaulted by harsh tags,” he said.
“We need these safeguards because one of the best apps of a civilized society are laws which allow a private individual robbed of honor to seek restitution,” Recto said.
He said he filed the libel repeal bill because the best way to address the court-upheld cyberlibel provision in the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 is to go to the source which is the Revised Penal Code.
Recto’s bill seeks to repeal Articles 353,354,355,356, 357, 360, 361 and 362 of the Revised Penal Code and Section 4 (c) 4 of the Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Law.