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LETTER TO THE EDITOR

Decriminalizing libel not the answer

04:05 AM June 26, 2020

Because of the Maria Ressa conviction, some (like the Commission on Human Rights) are again issuing calls to decriminalize libel, as it is allegedly being weaponized to silence valid criticisms.

What they miserably fail to realize is that by doing so, they likewise deprive those with legitimate grievances, like Vice President Leni Robredo, of the legal remedy available to them against those who, with utter malice, besmirch their good name and reputation through the lies they spread on social media.

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No one has the right to besmirch the good name and reputation of persons. Decriminalizing libel is precisely to allow irresponsible persons to, so to speak, get away with murder without any accountability whatsoever.

It is to allow trolls and paid hacks to reign supreme and lord it over the internet. (Civil suits? But who can afford their prohibitive costs, thus making defamation suits just a privilege of the rich?).

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The law on libel was never meant to stifle the legitimate exercise of the right of free expression, but as a deterrent against its abuse. It is not the law itself but its misuse that sends a chilling effect on those who dare to speak the truth (an occupational hazard that they just have to live with).

But should there be a chilling effect, it is precisely what is needed against those who abuse their right of free expression. All penal laws have an inherent chilling effect, and to decriminalize libel is to render the state powerless in addressing and penalizing this socially harmful conduct.

Let them, however, now be forewarned, as the Vice President and even actress Sharon Cuneta are fighting back. The VP, through her spokesperson, has recently given notice that she will now sue those who are spreading false and malicious rumors against her.

Severo Brillantes,

[email protected]

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TAGS: anti-cybercrime law, cyber libel, cybercrime, decriminalize, leni robredo, Maria Ressa, press freedom
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