Lawmakers want to decriminalize, but increase fines in libel
MANILA - Two lawmakers filed a bill seeking to decriminalize libel while increasing the fine imposed on the guilty.
"Although this bill abolishes the penalty of imprisonment, it has increased the amount from the present maximum of P6,000 to the maximum of P30,000, to accomplish the purpose of penalizing libel and deterring would-be violators," Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said.
He and Abante Mindanao Party-list Rep. Maximo Rodriguez filed House Bill 2562.
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."
The current law imposes imprisonment ranging from arresto mayor or one month and one day to 6 months, to prision correccional or 6 months and one day to six years, aside from the fine ranging from P200 to P6,000.
Rodriguez said the present law negatively impacts on media practitioners.
"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," he said.
"We cannot have that libel law in a country where democracy is primarily infringed on the freedom of speech and of expression, and where media is considered the Fourth Estate," he added.