Antique congressional aspirant wants to decriminalize libel

SAN JOSE DE BUENAVISTA, Antique – An Antiqueño lawyer aspiring to represent his province’s lone district in Congress will push to decriminalize libel against media practitioners once elected in the May 2022 elections.

Lawyer Abdiel Dan Elijah Fajardo, former national president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), filed his certificate of candidacy (COC) under the Liberal Party (LP) at the Commission on Elections (Comelec) provincial office here on Wednesday.

“My father and I had since been advocating for the decriminalization of libel against media practitioners, so hopefully I would win in the election so I could pursue it,” he said in a press conference that followed.

“Due to fear of libel suits, media practitioners could not freely express their opinions for they might be committing public and malicious imputation of a crime, or a vice or defect or to have caused dishonor on a person,” he added.

A media practitioner found to have committed libel, as provided for under Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code, has to face prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods or a fine ranging from PHP200 to PHP6,000 or both.

The media under Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code may also face civil action, which may be brought by the offended party.

“The media, who are already almost struggling in their economic existence also, would of course be cowered in expressing their opinions so as not to get a libel suit,” Fajardo added.

He said those who are also usually filing libel against media practitioners are only after the civil action because of the damage caused on their reputation and not really imprisonment of the media so there is a need for the decriminalization of libel.

Fajardo is the eldest son of the late Daniel Gumban Fajardo, who published the regional newspaper Panay News and served as president of the Iloilo Press Club (IPC), a media organization. 

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