MANILA, Philippines – In a landmark decision just recently released, the United Nation Human Rights Commission says Philippine laws criminalizing libel is “incompatible with Article 19, paragraph three of the International Covenant on Civil Political Rights (ICCPR)”, or freedom of expression.
This UNHRC’s view, adopted on October 26, 2011, was expressed in line with a complaint filed by Davao based broadcaster Alex Adonis. Adonis was jailed for more than two years pursuant to a conviction for libel in a complaint filed by former Speaker Prospero Nograles. In a radio broadcast in 2001, Adonis read and dramatized a newspaper report that then Congressman Nograles was seen running naked in a hotel when caught in bed by the husband of the woman with whom he was said to have spent the night with.
In a decision rendered by the Regional Trial Court of Davao, Adonis was sentenced to imprisonment from 5 months and one day to four years, six days and one day imprisonment. In the said decision, the local court concluded: “the evidence was sufficient to prove the authors guilt beyond a reasonable doubt for a malicious, arbitrary, abusive, irresponsible act of maligning the honor, reputation and good name of Congressman Nograles”.
After serving two years in prison, Adonis questioned the compatibility of criminal libel with freedom of expression under Article 19 of the ICCPR. Adonis, through his lawyer, Harry Roque of the UP College of Law and the Center for International Law (CenterLaw), argued that “the sanction of imprisonment for libel fails to meet the standard of necessity and reasonableness. Imprisonment is unnecessary since there are other effective means available for protection for the rights of others.”
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