In Philippines, the ‘Freedom of Speech or Expression’ is Not Always a Freedom

Ms. Isidro and VP Robredo
Ms Agot Isidro & VP Robredo – Photo Credits: FacebookGroupOfFriends

In the Philippines, the freedom of speech or expression is not always a freedom. When Ms. Agot Isidro has intentionally attacked President Duterte by calling him a ‘Psychopath’ can it be considered as ‘Libel’ punishable by law? According to medical definition, Psychopath is a person suffering from chronic mental disorder with abnormal or violent social behavior.

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, states that: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

According to Prof. Dr. Lyombe Eko, I quote “Different countries regulate media in different ways. This is because each country can interpret the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in different ways. The fundamental principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights include Freedom of opinion, Freedom of thought, Freedom of expression and Freedom of media added that there is no single universal definition of ‘Freedom of Expression’ which leaves room for interpretation by each country.”

In Article III, Section 4 of the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines specifies that no law shall be passed abridging the Freedom of Speech or of Expression. However, some laws limit this Freedom, for example:

  • Criminalizes libel and slander by act or deed – is about any act which shall cast Dishonor, Discredit or Contempt upon another person.
  • Blasphemy against decency and good customs – by public displays or exhibitions which glorify criminals or condon crimes; use of prohibited drugs and selling obscene literature.

I still remember, during the presidency of former President Joseph Estrada, there was a dispute between the Manila Times and the president. It started when the Manila Times published an article that pointing out Malacanang, behind the rumored ‘Book Scam’ that became such a big issue, that the latter sued the publisher of the newspaper, and had claimed 100 million php for the damages. However, Robina Gokongwei had apologized publicly to the president and the latter withdrawn the case filed in the court. But that incident had caused the newspaper’s curtailment and its sale to the new owner.

Sources of info: Medical Dictionary, Wikipedia Encyclopedia, Dr. Eko, FacebookGroupOfFriends, Philippine Constitution

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