No jail, just fines for libel: Rufus wants gag on private lives of persons in judicial cases

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez is proposing to abolish the penalty of imprisonment for libel cases.

Rodriguez is proposing to impose a higher fine to discourage libel.
Rodriguez said the fear of imprisonment would discourage members of the media to perform their duties.

“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,” he added.

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.”

Libel is currently punishable with up to six years in jail and P6,000 in fine.

House Bill 1835 proposes to raise the fine to between P10,000 and P30,000. It also provides a 60-day prescription period for filing of a libels case 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 shall be imposed upon

The House bill also covers 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 preven the publication of such libel for a compensation or money consideration. This will be punishable by a fine ranging from P5,000 to P15,000.

The proposed amendment to Article 357 of the Revised Penal Code states that “the penalty of a fine from P10,000 to P30,000

Rodriguez’s bill would “punish 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.”

Rodriguez also proposed 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.

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