A lawmaker wants to decriminalize libel while seeking to impose a higher fine to prevent the commission of the crime.
Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez filed House Bill No. 1835 seeking to amend Articles 355, 357, and 360 of the Revised Penal Code.
He said that while the penalty of fine must be sustained, for no crime should go unpunished, imposing a penalty of imprisonment will work more to discourage members of the media from performing their duties with zeal and vigilance.
“Instead of looking deeply into issues that have a potential of affecting the public interest and general welfare, the penalty of imprisonment has paved the way for members of media to approach their mandates with doubts and hesitation,” Rodriguez said.
“We cannot have that in a country where democracy is primarily infringed on the freedom of speech and expression, and where media is considered the Fourth Estate,” added Rodriguez, chairman of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments.
Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code defines libel as “a public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is already dead.”
Rodriguez said the present law provides the penalty of imprisonment ranging from arresto mayor or one month and one day to six months, and prision correctional or six months and one day to six years and fine ranging from P200 to P6,000.
The proposed amendment to Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code provides for the imposition of a fine of P10,000 to P30,000, in addition to the civil action which may be brought by the offended party, on any person who commits libel by means of writing or similar means.
The measure also seeks to amend Article 357 to read as follows: “the penalty of a fine from P10,000 to P30,000 shall be imposed upon any reporter, editor, or manager of a newspaper, daily or magazine, who shall publish facts connected with the private life of another and offensive to the honor, virtue, and reputation of said person, even though said publication be made in said connection with or under the pretext that it is necessary in the narration of any judicial or administrative proceedings wherein such facts have been mentioned.”
Article 360 of the said law is likewise amended to make the author of the printed article or any person who shall cause the exhibition of the theatrical or cinematographic exhibit containing defamatory words liable for the same.