SC Asked to Declare Libel Unconstitutional
Volume XVII NO. 50 October 4, 2014
A publisher-editor of a Tarlac weekly newspaper who is facing a string of libel cases in connection with articles that came out in his tabloid is joining calls for the Supreme Court to nullify the existing libel law in the Philippines, saying libel is unconstitutional and a violation of international agreements entered into by the country on press freedom and freedom of expression.
Ray Constantine U. Abagat, publisher-editor of Tarlac Forum, filed a 19-page petition with the tribunal, entitled “Ray Constantine U. Abagat vs. Hon. Jose S. Vallo, as the Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 68, Camiling, Tarlac, People of the Philippines, and Rey Christopher Fajardo.” It has been docketed as GR SP No. 214168.
Abagat’s plea for the nullification of libel in the petition is anchored on two main grounds: first, that libel contravenes the freedoms of the press and of speech guaranteed by the 1987 Constitution and, second, that it violates international treaties and agreements entered into by the Philippines pertaining to freedom of expression.
The petition arose from six libel cases that were filed by Rey Christopher Fajardo, a municipal council or Mayantoc, Tarlac, against Abagat. The cases were assigned to Judge Vallo. After the prosecution finished presenting its evidence, Abagat moved to dismiss them, on the grounds cited here.
Judge Vallo denied Abagat’s motion, prompting Abagat to file his petition with the Supreme Court.
Through lawyer Melanio Lazo Mauricio Jr., Abagat said there is now a need to remove restrictions on journalists and broadcasters posed by libel, on account of the need for a more aggressive and sustained fight against graft and corruption which has reached unprecedented heights in the country, where media is a great help and catalyst.
Abagat said: “The objective here is no longer just the nullification of existing libel laws to favor journalists and media personalities facing libel suits across the land, but, the realization of a more important objective which even this Honorable Court in a way recognized no less in its nationally and internationally well-applauded and well-received decisions on the controversial pork barrel cases of Philippine lawmakers, and on the cases involving the disbursement acceleration program or DAP of the Aquino government.
“This more important objective is this: stopping the scourge of corruption in the wrongful disbursement and utilization of government funds, which basically come from the taxes of ordinary Filipinos who literally have to shed their blood, sweat, and tears, just to earn a few pesos. Corruption indeed bleeds the nation dry, economically, financially, morally and spiritually,” he added.
For the complete petition, please go to the timeline of the Facebook account named “Melanio Lazo Mauricio Jr.” and search for “SC ASKED TO DECLARE LIBEL UNCONSTITUTIONAL”.?PR Batas Mauricio