Court has itself to blame
The Center for International Law (CenterLaw), counsel for newsmen Alexander Adonis, Ellen Tordesillas et al., expresses its disappointment over the Supreme Court’s decision to dismiss all pending motions for reconsideration of its earlier decision declaring that the provision of law making libel in cyberspace a crime is constitutional.
CenterLaw believes that this latest decision repeats an affront to freedom of expression and blatantly disregards the UN Human Rights Committee’s (UNHRC) position declaring criminal libel in the Philippines incompatible with the freedom of expression.
As a result, more journalists face the possibility of spending time in jail for exercising their freedom of expression. Again, this violates Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and should be condemned vigorously.
In Adonis vs Republic of the Philippines, the UNHRC declared that criminal libel under the Revised Penal Code is contrary to the freedom of expression under Article 19 of the ICCPR because it is not necessary, the alternative being civil libel; and that the penalty of imprisonment is not proportionate to the means sought to be enforced by the law, which is the protection of the right of private individuals to privacy.
Be that as it may, as all domestic remedies have been exhausted with the denial of the motions for reconsideration, CenterLaw will again submit a communication with the UNHRC to complain that instead of taking steps to avoid the incarceration of journalists for criminal libel and prevent similar violations occurring in the future, including the review of relevant libel legislation, the Philippines breached its state obligation with the recent decision upholding the constitutionality of the crime of libel in cyberspace.
We gave our courts the opportunity to avoid the spectacle of another view deploring the Court’s misapprehension of human rights law. It will only have itself to blame if its latest decision is condemned by the international human rights community as a violation of human rights law. If this happens, the Philippines will be subjected to the embarrassment of being in breach of a treaty obligation.
Furthermore, the Philippines has also not complied with the view that journalist Alexander Adonis should be paid compensation for the one-year imprisonment he served for his conviction for libel.—PROF. H. HARRY L. ROQUE JR., chair, Center for International Law
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