Thursday, 02 February 2012 16:33
LIFE’S INSPIRATIONS: “… You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you…” (Psalm 86:5, the Holy Bible).
UN ORDERS RP TO DECRIMINALIZE LIBEL: Will the Philippines obey a decision coming from the United Nations (UN) which directs the decriminalization of libel? If yes, who has the obligation to carry out the decriminalization of libel here---President Aquino as the head of government, or the two houses of Congress, the House of Representatives and the Senate, where laws repealing libel should come from?
Can the President and our lawmakers simply ignore the United Nations decision, pretend that they are doing something about it even if they aren’t, in the hope that the issue will be forgotten somehow in the long run? If the President and the lawmakers fail to comply with the UN decision, can they be sanctioned by the world body, in one way or another?
UN HUMAN RIGHTS BODY UPHOLDS PLEA OF DAVAO BROADCASTER: I am asking these questions because just this week, the United Nations released a decision issued by its Human Rights Commission involving the case of Davao broadcaster Alex Adonis who complained that libel laws in the Philippines violated its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, because, he said, they were incompatible with the guarantees of press freedom under the covenant.
The UN said: "Defamations laws should not ... stifle freedom of expression. … Penal defamation laws should include defense of truth… in comments about public figures, consideration should be given to avoiding penalties or otherwise rendering unlawful untrue statements that have been published in error but without malice. In any event, a public interest in the subject matter of the criticism should be recognized as a defense…"
“State parties should consider decriminalization of libel,” the UN said. Noting that Adonis was imprisoned for two years after having been convicted of libel upon the complaint of then Speaker Prospero Nograles, the UN ordered the Philippines “to provide him with an effective remedy, including adequate compensation for time served in prison, and the State is also under obligation to take steps to prevent similar violations occurring in the future.”
SC REQUIRES FULL DISCUSSION OF PUBLIC ISSUES: Indeed, there is a need to decriminalize libel in the Philippines. In several cases, the Supreme Court recognized the need for a full discussion of public affairs, unfettered by fears of criminal libel cases.
"The interest of society and the maintenance of good government demand a full discussion of public affairs. Complete liberty to comment on the conduct of public men is a scalpel in the case of free speech. The sharp incision of its probe relieves the abscesses of officialdom,” the Supreme Court intoned.
Then, the court concluded: “Men in public life may suffer under a hostile and unjust accusation; the wound may be assuaged by the balm of a clear conscience. A public official must not be too thin-skinned with reference to comments upon his official acts.”
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