A LAWMAKER from Cagayan de Oro City is proposing to abolish the penalty of imprisonment for libel cases.
Instead, Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (2nd District, Cagayan de Oro City), through House Bill 1835, proposed to impose a higher fine to discourage, if not totally deter the commission of the crime of libel.
The measure seeks to amend for the purpose Articles 355, 357,and 360 of Act No. 3815, as amended, otherwise known as the Revised Penal Code.
As defined under Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code, libel is “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.
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 to perform their duties with zeal and vigilance.
“Instead of looking deeply into issues that have a potential of affecting 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," said Rodriguez, Chairman of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments.
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.
It further states that “the provisions of Article 90 and 91 to the contrary notwithstanding, the crime of libel and the corresponding said penalty imposed shall be prescribed in six months counted from the date of the first publication, airing or exhibition of the libelous material”.
Article 357 of the same law is amended to read as follows: “The penalty of a fine ranging from P5,000 to P15,000 shall be imposed upon any person who threatens another to publish a libel concerning him or the parents, spouse, child, or other members of the family of the latter, or upon anyone who shall offer to prevent the publication of such libel for a compensation or money consideration."
Meanwhile, the proposed amendment to Article 357 of the Revised Penal Code states that “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 proposed 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.
The amendment also declares that the author or the editor of a book or pamphlet, or the editor or business manager of a daily newspaper, magazine or serial publication shall be responsible for the defamation contained therein to the same extent as if he were the author thereof, provided said defamatory article passed through said publisher, editor or business manager for editing and required the latter’s approval for publication. /Ma. Victoria Palomar / News and Documentation Section-Press and Public Affairs Bureau / House of Representatives of the Philippines
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