The arrest of Malaya newspaper publisher Amado “Jake” Macasaet has once again justified the need to decriminalize libel, Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr said Thursday.
In a statement, Revilla said libel’s decriminalization will "address the dilemma of journalists who are threatened with imprisonment for doing their job as members of the Fourth Estate."
Revilla, chairman of the Senate committee on public information and mass media, said he is pushing for the decriminalization of libel alongside the proposed measures to guarantee an individual's right to reply.
"But right now, the government should take it easy with journalists who have been convicted or accused of libel," he said.
Macasaet was arrested Thursday inside the Malaya office in Port Area, Manila in connection with a libel suit filed by former Rizal governor Casimiro Ynares Jr nine years ago. He posted bail later for his temporary liberty.
The case stemmed from a series of articles written by Macasaet regarding two cockfighting groups, one of which allegedly headed by Ynares, in March and April of 1999 in Malaya and its Filipino-language sister publication Abante.
Revilla said defamatory and unfair reports against certain individuals are not enough reasons to curtail the press freedom.
He described Macasaet’s arrest, as well as that of Tribune newspaper publisher Niñez Cacho-Olivarez early this year, as a calculated move to curtail press freedom in the country.