Cebu Citizens-Press Council

Being accountable comes with being free

CCPC seeks removal of jail term for libel

May 4th, 2012 · No Comments

(Approved during the 26th en banc meeting of CCPC held at the MBF Cebu Press Center in Lahug, Cebu City on March 29, 2012)

Knowing that

1. Through the years, there have been bills filed, both in the Senate and the House, seeking to amend provisions of the Revised Penal Code and special laws on libel. The bills pending in the current Congress on decriminalizing libel are Senate Bills 683 and 83 by Sen. Jinggoy Estrada; SB 2053, Sen. Edgardo Angara; SB 2162, Sen. Francis Escudero; House Bill 728, Reps. Rufus Rodriguez and Maximo Rodriguez Jr.; HB 476, Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara; HB 1009, Reps. Teodoro Casiño and Neri Javier Colmenares; HB 2223,
Rep. Salvio Fortuno; and HB 2979, Rep. Salvador Escudero III.

2. CCPC, in consultation with Cebu media practitioners in print and broadcast and with advice from Cebu Media Legal Aid (Cemla), has expressed its views about the bills, through resolutions sent to congressional committees studying the bills;

3. Previously on March 24, 2008, CCPC approved a resolution supporting proposals then pending in Congress that would, among others:

a. remove the penalty of imprisonment from the crime of libel;
b. keep libel as a crime but retain only the penalty of fine without subsidiary imprisonment in case of inability to pay the fine; and
c. adjust the fine as penalty to effects of inflation without being oppressive and confiscatory.

4. In a period of three weeks preceding the CCPC en banc meeting of
March 29, 2012, its secretariat headed by the executive director
conducted an informal survey among Cebu print and broadcast
practitioners on the issue of decriminalizing libel;

5. Results of the survey and recommendation of CCPC’s legal advisor
Cemla as well as the resource persons invited to the en banc meeting reaffirmed the view expressed in the March 24, 2008
CCPC resolution; and

Recognizing that

1. CCPC supports the United Nations Human Rights Committee declaration of October 2011 that the criminal sanction of libel is excessive and violative of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, of which the Philippines is a signatory; and

2. The jail term sanction has been used to terrorize and oppress journalists, silencing with the threat of detention press criticism of government and reporting of matters of public interest;

3. Taking out the prison term will end the use of libel law as means to suppress press freedom and yet won’t deprive the complainant of means of redress in case press freedom is abused.

Considering that

1. Removing only the jail term, as main or subsidiary penalty, will
remove the threat of arrest and detention that hampers media in
its functions without removing the burden of proof required (proof
beyond reasonable doubt instead of mere preponderance of

2. Consolidating venue for civil and criminal cases arising from the
same offense and requiring venue to be the Regional Trial Court where the principal office of business of the newspaper or broadcast station is located will remove a means of harassment and oppression by the complainant.

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, as it is hereby resolved, by the Cebu Citizens-Press Council,

[1] That it supports proposals to remove the jail term as main or
subsidiary penalty in the crime of libel;

[2] That in the prosecution of the offense, venue shall be the principal office of business of the newspaper or broadcast station and/or
its journalists and venue of any civil complaint arising from the same offense shall be the same as that of the criminal complaint.

RESOLVED FURTHER that the CCPC resolution of March 24, 2008
be made as annex to this resolution and copies of the documents be provided to pertinent House and Senate committees and national organizations involved in the campaign to decriminalize libel.

APPROVED this 29th day of March in 2012 at the MBF Cebu Press Center in Sudlon, Lahug, Cebu City, Philippines.

First Quarter Meeting
Cebu Citizens-Press Council
March 24, 2008

Knowing that

There are at least six (6) bills filed with the Senate: SB 918 (Sen. Edgardo Angara), SB 110 (Sen. Mar Roxas), SB 223 (Sen. Loren Legarda), SB 1403 (Sen. Francis Escudero), SB 5 (Sen. Jinggoy Estrada) and SB 2108 (Sen. Richard Gordon) and one bill with the House: HB 2802 (Speaker Prospero Nograles), all aimed to amend some provisions on libel in the Revised Penal Code and special laws.

All the bills are motivated by public good and aimed to enhance press freedom without diminishing press accountability;

The press and media organizations such as the Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC) are committed to protect freedom of the press and heighten journalists’ sense of responsibility;

Legislation affecting media also affects functions of the press in society, and thus newspapers, broadcast stations, and media-involved organizations like the CCPC, as well as media practitioners, have a large stake in how Congress will decide on those bills;

Affirming that

The CCPC works with the press and the public on issues affecting media, as in fact it has done with regard to the bills regarding libel in the Senate and the House, studying the proposals and consulting media practitioners about their experiences with libel complaints on their work and their personal lives;

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Cebu Citizens-Press Council, meeting en banc in its first regular quarterly meeting for 2008, as it hereby resolves,

That it inform the House and the Senate through the authors and sponsors of the pending bills on libel, that the Cebu press, comprising both print and broadcast, supports the provisions in the said bills:

[1] Removing the penalty of imprisonment from the crime of libel;
[2] Keeping libel as a crime but retaining only the penalty of fine;
[3] Raising the fine as penalty but not in large amounts that community journalists cannot afford to pay;
[4] Limiting the venue of libel to the court of the province or city where the principal office of work and business of respondent journalists is located;
[5] Reducing prescriptive period of libel from one year to six months from publication;

[6] Exempting from liability any editor, publisher, newspaper or station manager, or news director who has not reviewed the alleged libelous material before printing or airing.

RESOLVED FURTHER that the position paper adopted by newspaper and broadcast editors and representatives of the Cebu Media Legal Aid (Cemla) at a meeting held last March 12, 2008 at Cebu City Marriott Hotel be made as annex to and part of this resolution.

APPROVED AND SIGNED this 24th day of March, 2008 at the MBF Cebu Press Center in Sudlon, Lahug, Cebu City, Philippines.


(Adopted by newspaper and broadcast editors and representatives of the Cebu Media Legal Aid at a meeting held last March 12, 2008 at Cebu City Marriott Hotel)

[1] Removing jail term as penalty

No journalist wants to end up in jail for what he writes or says. Five bills in the Senate and one in the House all seek to abolish imprisonment as penalty for libel.  We agree with the legislators that removing the threat of jail term will enhance freedom of the press.

[2] Keeping libel as a crime

We are for retaining libel as a crime, not fully abolishing it, as Sen. Francis Escudero proposes. Freedom comes with responsibility and being made to account for excess or abuse helps to sharpen the journalist’s sense of responsibility.

Libel as a crime requires proof beyond reasonable doubt, which serves as safeguard for the journalist. We also want complainants of excess or abuse of the press to have means of redress in the courts instead of using violence or intimidation.

[3] Raising the penalty of fine but within range not oppressive to
community journalists

The fine under existing law of P200 to P6,000 is too low these days, but
the P100,000-P300,000 as proposed by Sen. Loren Legarda is
excessively high, considering the weak financial capability of
community journalists. Between the P20,000-P50,000 range proposed
by Rep. Prospero Nograles and Senator Legarda’s proposed P100,000-
P300,000, perhaps a range more realistic (to the journalist paying) can
be adopted.

[4] Limiting liability for libel to news reporter, opinion maker, or
author of the alleged libel. Editor, publisher, news director, or
station manager shall be liable only if he reviewed the alleged
offensive material before printing or airing.

All too often, a person in the paper or broadcast station is dragged to a libel case in which he cannot be found guilty under the law. Libel requires malice, which in turn requires at least knowledge of the “offensive” material.

[5] Limiting venue, in case of community journalists, to the
Regional Trial Court of the province or city where the
respondent holds office or conducts business

Existing law is used to harass community journalists. A public official
who resides in Cebu but holds office in Manila can file his complaint in
Manila. A private person who worked in Cebu and the alleged libel is
about his work in Cebu can file his complaint in Parañaque where he

Community journalists are oppressed not just by the hassle of
answering the complaint but paying for its much higher cost when the
venue is far from the place of work or business. Community journalists
can be found guilty by default, for not having resources to answer
complaints far from the newspaper’s or broadcast station’s home.

[6] Cutting prescriptive period of libel from one year to six months
from publication

The Cebu press appreciates the cut-off time. A person aggrieved by an
“offensive” material doesn’t even have to wait for a month to decide
whether to sue. Still, the Cebu press is comfortable with the six-month

Tags: CCPC Papers and Resolutions

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