Journos may an­swer li­bel charges in near­est courts

The Freeman - - NEWS -

The House com­mit­tee on pub­lic in­for­ma­tion has ap­proved House Bill 685 which seeks to pro­vide a spe­cific venue of ac­tion in li­bel cases against a com­mu­nity jour­nal­ist, com­mu­nity pub­li­ca­tion, or com­mu­nity broad­cast sta­tion.

Cebu City North Dis­trict Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Raul Del Mar, au­thor of the bill, said there is no ques­tion that the right to one’s rep­u­ta­tion and honor is as much a con­sti­tu­tional right as the pas­sion for life, lib­erty and prop­erty.

In a state­ment re­leased by the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tive in­for­ma­tion of­fice, del Mar said the law and ju­rispru­dence rec­og­nize and pro­tect the value of such rep­u­ta­tion and sub­ject one who at­tacks it, by slan­der­ous words of li­belous pub­li­ca­tion, to the full crim­i­nal and civil sanc­tions.

“How­ever, there is like­wise the re­al­ity that li­bel, whether filed as a crim­i­nal or civil ac­tion, is like­wise used as a con­ve­nient le­gal tool to ha­rass jour­nal­ists, es­pe­cially the com­mu­nity news­pa­per and broad­cast prac­ti­tion­ers,” Del Mar said in a state­ment.

Del Mar ex­plained this is be­cause un­der the present rules, the com­plainant or of­fended party, if he is a pub­lic of­fi­cer, can file the com­plaint in Manila if his of­fice is in Manila or in the of­fice out­side Manila if his of­fice is lo­cated there.

Del Mar fur­ther ex­plained a news­pa­per or broad­cast sta­tion in Aparri, Jolo, or Davao can be made to an­swer a com­plaint filed in Metro Manila where the com­plaint re­sides al­though the sub­ject, the is­sue or the in­ci­dent pub­lished – in law the cause of ac­tion – did not arise in Metro Manila.

He said the pre­vail­ing le­gal rules on venue thus place these com­mu­nity jour­nal­ists and lo­cal broad­cast­ers in a sit­u­a­tion where they have to an­swer com­plaints or charges filed, rightly or wrongly, in re­mote or dis­tant places, de­lib­er­ately filed far away from their place of busi­ness or work.

“In this con­text, the el­e­ment of op­pres­sion is there. The toll of in­con­ve­nience, fi­nan­cial or oth­er­wise, is of­ten more oner­ous and bur­den­some than the penalty or fine pre­scribed by the law. This may even lead to a mis­car­riage of jus­tice in cases where the ac­cused or de­fen­dant fails to ap­pear be­cause of the dis­tance and travel con­straints,” Del Mar said.

The Ce­buano leg­is­la­tor said the crim­i­nal or civil ac­tion may even­tu­ally be thrown out by the court, but the dam­age has been done as it al­ready pun­ished the com­mu­nity jour­nal­ist and his pub­li­ca­tion by the ex­ces­sive cost of lit­i­ga­tion and in­con­ve­nience out­side the prin­ci­pal of­fice of pub­li­ca­tion or busi­ness of the said jour­nal­ist or pub­li­ca­tion.

“The com­mu­nity jour­nal­ist and his or­ga­ni­za­tion, mostly fi­nan­cially hand­i­capped and al­ready af­flicted with all sorts or pres­sures and threats, need im­me­di­ate re­lief from the present rule venue of li­bel cases, whether crim­i­nal or civil, which cre­ate an op­por­tu­nity for op­pres­sion," said Del Mar.

Del Mar's pro­posed bill seeks to pro­vide the re­lief sought to cor­rect the unfairness by clos­ing the loop­hole that is of­ten ex­ploited or taken ad­van­tage of by of­fended par­ties.

The bill pro­vides the crim­i­nal or civil ac­tion in cases of li­bel against a com­mu­nity jour­nal­ist, pub­li­ca­tion or broad­cast sta­tion shall be filed in the Re­gional Trial Court of the prov­ince or city where the prin­ci­pal of­fice or place of busi­ness of the said com­mu­nity jour­nal­ist, pub­li­ca­tion or broad­cast sta­tion is lo­cated, pro­vided the civil ac­tion shall be filed in the same court where the crim­i­nal ac­tion is filed.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Philippines

© PressReader. All rights reserved.