Once in Malacañang, Duterte to prioritize libel decriminalization

Feb. 18, 2016

Duterte Final Kadayawan 2013

PDP-Laban standard bearer Rodrigo Duterte says he will push for the decriminalization of libel if he wins as president. (File photo)


TAGUM CITY — Presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte assured media workers that decriminalization of libel will be one of his priorities when he wins the highest executive position in this country.

“He (Duterte) is for the decriminalization of libel and is consistent that the Freedom of Information bill should be enacted into law,” Duterte’s spokesperson Peter Laviña said in an interview with DavaoToday on Wednesday, February 17.

Laviña said this is to show that Duterte is serious with his concern for the media workers who have been lobbying lawmakers to lessen the penalties for libel.

Libel remains a criminal act in the Philippines and in many parts of the world. But other countries such as Cyprus, Estonia, Ireland, Romania, and the United Kingdom, criminal defamation laws have been repealed as an offense against private individuals, according to the International Press Institute.

Under Article 355 of the Philippines’ Revised Penal Code, parties found guilty of the said act could serve jail time of up to six years.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines has been campaigning for the decriminalization of the said law as they believe many people in power use it to silence journalists in a country where press freedom is a privilege provided by the constitution.

In 2013, a trial court found Sun.Star Davao editor-in-chief Stella Estremera and the paper’s former publisher Antonio Ajero guilty of libel for publishing an alleged one-sided news article.

Estremera said that if “it can happen to any of us. Even because of a mere police story. As long as someone wants to silence you.”

Duterte, also the current mayor of Davao City, has long been supportive to repeal libel as a criminal offence. In fact, in 2007, he vowed to help Davao broadcaster Alexander “Lex” Adonis, who was jailed for libel at the time.

Adonis was found guilty for reporting on the Burlesk King scandal, which insinuated former Davao City First District Representative Prospero Nograles as the man who was running naked in a Manila hotel when the husband of a woman alleged to be his paramour caught them inside the hotel room. (davaotoday.com)

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