House won't prioritize decriminalization of libel-A A +A
Saturday, October 20, 2012
MANILA -- The House of Representatives will not prioritize bills seeking to decriminalize libel despite President Benigno Aquino III publicly declaring support for it.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said Aquino's stand is "not necessarily" the position of the 284-member House of Representatives.
"That is not necessarily our (stand). It could be our stand as well, but it's not necessarily our stand. We are 284 people here in the House, and that has to be discussed by us here," Belmonte said.
In an Annual Presidential Forum of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines, Aquino said: "I fully subscribe to the idea of decriminalizing but not lessening the atmosphere to encourage irresponsibility in certain quarters."
The Supreme Court earlier issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, which provides for online libel with higher penalties.
Agham party-list Representative Angelo Palmones earlier filed House Bill 6391, an act to decriminalize libel and for other purposes. It is pending before the House committee on revision of laws since July this year.
"Decriminalizing libel has nothing to do with the cybercrime because libel is really one of the crimes defined in our Revised Penal Code (RPC)," Belmonte noted.
"I agree that it should not be increased. It's just another...it should be on the same footing as the others," the House leader added.
Under Article 355 of the RPC, libel is committed by means of writing, printing, lithography, engraving, radio, phonograph, painting, theatrical exhibition, cinematographic exhibition, or any similar means.
Those who committed it shall also be punished by prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods or a fine ranging from P200 to P6,000 or both.
The Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, however, broadened its coverage, with the inclusion of committed online.
For traditional print media, the penalty for libel is up to four years and two months, while online libel is punishable by 12-year imprisonment. (Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)