NUJP Statement on the Deferment of the Libel Bill Passage

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines takes cognizance
of Speaker Prospero Nograles’ deferment of the passage on third
reading of House Bill 5760 because the measure, which is supposed to
consolidate several bills that seek to decriminalize libel, veered
away from the original intent.

We also express our appreciation for the withdrawal of authorship from
HB 5760 of party-list Representatives Satur Ocampo, Teodoro Casiño,
Liza Maza, Luzviminda Ilagan and Rafael Mariano, which called
attention to the fact that the bill, contrary to its original intent,
actually provided for even harsher penalties.

At the same time, while we thank Speaker Nograles for deferring
passage of the bill and ordering its review, we also reject the notion
forwarded by lawmakers that the decriminalization of libel is a
“companion bill” to the onerous and patently unconstitutional right of
reply bill, just as we dismiss the even more inane suggestion that
passing the right of reply bill will end the murder of journalists.

To allow this would be to submit to what can only be blackmail of the
lowest order.

Thus, while we urge the passage of a bill genuinely decriminalizing
libel, we will never submit that a right of reply bill, no matter how
amended or watered down, can ever be acceptable since the very idea of
such a legislation is in itself a direct assault on freedom of the
press and of expression, and of the people’s right to know.


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