MANILA, Philippines - Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Thursday said she supports President Benigno Aquino's stand that libel should be decriminalized.
She described Aquino's willingness to have libel decriminalized as "a very welcome development."
"It may also be construed as a signal from the President to Congress to give urgent consideration of appropriate amendatory legislation to the Cybercrime Law, especially pertaining to the libel provision, amidst the 120-day TRO issued by the Supreme Court," she said.
People can still be sued in a civil case if libel is decriminalized. People found guilty of libel will no longer be imprisoned but ordered by court to pay damages to their victims.
De Lima, who went to Switzerland to head the country's delegation in a United Nations Human Rights Committee convention, said members of the United Nations Human Rights Committee and a panel of international experts who evaluated the Philippines' periodic report on the ICCPR "showed very keen interest on the issues surrounding the recent passage of the cybercrime law, particularly the inclusion of a provision on libel."
"Given a discernible international trend towards the decriminalization of libel, I am quite certain that knowing that our President is, to say the least, open to considering the same, serves as a significant assurance to international human rights advocates and experts that the protection and promotion of civil and political rights in the Philippines is moving in the right direction," she said.
She also welcomed Congress' passage of the anti-enforced disappearance bill.
"The bill, which hopefull will be transmitted to the Office of the President for signature soon, is potentially the first of its kind in Asia and would undoubtedly be hailed as a victory by those who have, for decades, advocated for its passage, including the families of so-called 'desaparecidos' who have been missing since the Martial Law period," she said.
"By imposing the maximum penalty of reclusion perpetua, and by providing for the entitlement of victims and their kin to compensation, restitution and rehabilitation, this law shall serve as a recognition of the injury and torment that victims and families of desaparecidos are subjected to, bearing in mind that enforced disappearance is undoubtedly one of the worst forms of human rights violations," she added.
"We can be assured of the full support and approval from human rights advocates and experts, particularly those from the UNHRC, which has long been following-up on the progress of legislative measures such as this," de Lima said. "The bill, of course, shall be closely studied by the President before he sign it, but we in the Department of Justice join the rest of our people in eagerly anticipating its coming into law the soonest possible." - reports from Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News