With Cybercrime Law in force, solon renews call to decriminalize libel

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Sen. Juan Edgardo "Sonny" Angara Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara[/caption] “I have been pushing for lighter penalties for libel even before the passage of the Cybercrime Law. I think this has been the trend worldwide — to decriminalize libel. Though I agree that libel committed online should be penalized, as provided in the Cybercrime Law and as ruled by the Supreme Court, I don’t think these offenders should be imprisoned,” said Angara, one of the authors of the House version of the Cybercrime Law. Angara initially filed the bill decriminalizing libel during his term in the Lower House. In the current Congress, the neophyte senator has once again filed a similar measure which seeks to amend Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code which penalizes anyone who is found guilty of libel with six months to four years imprisonment or a fine ranging from P200 to P6,000. The SC ruled that penalties of online libel are the same as those under the libel clauses in the Revised Penal Code. Under Angara’s Senate Bill No. 1218, the penalty of imprisonment will be removed. Other senators have expressed their support to such measure. “In a country where democracy is primarily infringed on the freedom of speech and expression, in a State where the media is considered the fourth state, it is a sad reality that existing laws on libel have not been attuned to the evolving needs of the people under a democratic rule and the rising importance of media in effecting transparency and accountability in governance,” the lawmaker said. “To imprison a person convicted of libel might preclude him or her in the future from digging into issues and concerns, that with deep investigation, might expose anomalies and abuses,” added Angara, who is also an author of the Freedom of Information Bill. The senator, however, clarified that the bill does not intend to downplay the importance of one’s privacy and right to be free from public and malicious charges that would dishonor or discredit him or her. He stressed that the imprisonment penalty should be abolished in order to further protect and preserve the constitutional right of Filipinos to speech and self-expression. ]]>

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