Jinggoy Estrada’s libel bill: No jail time but fine of up to P300,000

(INQUIRER) MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Jinggoy Estrada has filed a bill to eliminate imprisonment as a penalty in libel cases. It, however, recommends the imposition of up to P30,000 fine.

In lodging Senate Bill No. 2521, the lawmaker noted that civil damages may serve as enough penalty and deterrence to libel for those proven to have resorted to irresponsible reporting.ADVERTISEMENT

“While it is right of individuals to be protected from irresponsible reporting or commentary, imprisonment is not a just penalty for such,” Estrada stressed in his proposed law.

“Civil damages may be enough penalty and deterrence,” he added.

Instead of jail time, which varies from six months to six years in the existing rules, Estrada is proposing fines ranging from P10,000 to P30,000. He also suggested that the offense and penalty be applicable within six months of the libelous material’s publication, airing, or exhibition.

The senator further recommended replacing the current imprisonment penalty for reporters, editors, or managers of newspapers, dailies, or magazines who publish offensive facts concerning an individual’s private life that affect their honor, virtue, and reputation. Currently, punishment includes a jail term from one to six months, with fines ranging from P5,000 to P15,000.

Estrada likewise wanted a new provision in the Revised Penal Code to provide for the venue of civil action in libel cases.

READ: Legarda files another bill to decriminalize libel

Public officials can file complaints in Manila if their office is situated there or in courts outside Manila if their office is elsewhere. Private individuals, meanwhile, are required to file complaints in the trial court located in the area where they resided at the time of the alleged libel.

“However, this system is often abused by subjects of news articles, causing unnecessary harassment and inconvenience to journalists and media organizations. They file suits in distant locations, leading to unjust imprisonment or bail, even if the cases are later dropped, resolved, or dismissed,” Estrada pointed out.

Under his bill, cases involving community journalists, publications, or broadcast stations should be filed in the regional trial court of the province or city where their principal office or place of business is located.