Bill removes prison term but raises fine for libel
MANILA, Philippines - Two Mindanao congressmen have filed a bill to decriminalize libel by removing the penalty of imprisonment provided for under the Revised Penal Code.
Instead, in Bill 2562, Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and his brother Maximo, who represents the party-list group Abante Mindanao, want the fine for libel increased from P6,000 to P30,000.
“Although this bill abolishes the penalty of imprisonment, it has increased the amount of imposable fine from the present maximum of P6,000 to a maximum of P30,000, to accomplish the purpose of penalizing libel and deterring would be violators,” the two authors said.
They said the present law on libel infringes on freedom of speech and of expression, and negatively impacts on media practitioners.
“We cannot have that libel law in a country where democracy lives primarily through freedom of speech and of expression, and where media is considered the Fourth Estate,” they said.
Libel is defined under Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code 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 dishonor, discredit or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead.”
Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, a former law dean, said under the law, one is liable for libel “when there is an allegation of a discreditable act or condition concerning another, publication of the charge, identity of the person defamed and the existence of malice.”
He said the law provides that a person found guilty of committing libel is penalized with imprisonment ranging from arresto mayor (one month and one day to six months) to prision correccional (six months and one day to six years), aside from a fine ranging from P200 to P6,000.