MANILA, Philippines – While many media practitioners want libel decriminalized, former broadcast journalist Jiggy Manicad thinks libel should stay a crime in the Philippines to keep media practitioners in line.
"Dapat pa rin pong krimen siya para wala pong abuso sa hanay nating mamamahayag," he said Sunday, February 17, on the ABS-CBN senatorial forum "Harapan 2019." (It should be a crime so that there is no abuse among us journalists.)
Manicad was asked if he agrees with decriminalizing libel. Decriminalizing libel refers to making it a civil offense instead of a criminal offense. This means the penalty of imprisonment cannot be imposed.
The senatorial bet was also asked if he agreed with the arrest of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa over cyber libel.
"It's already in the courts," he said in Filipino.
Another senatorial candidate weighed in on Ressa's arrest during the forum.
Human rights lawyer Chel Diokno of the opposition slate slammed the arrest. "Bakit 'yung manunulat na nagsasabi lang ng katotohanan ay inaaresto, samantalang 'yung mga drug lord na 'yan ay hindi raw nila mahanap?" he said. (Why is the journalist who is only telling the truth arrested while they claim they can't find the drug lords?)
Foreign media companies
Manicad also does not want foreign media companies in the country, fearing their ability to get sensitive security-related information from the government.
"Hindi po dapat payagan ang mga dayuhang media companies sa Pilipinas dahil 'pag ho lumalim ang kanilang koneksyon sa pamahalaan, ang impormasyon ang magsu-suffer diyan. Maaari pong mag-leak ang mga security information na importante po sa atin," he said.
(We should not allow foreign media companies into the Philippines because if they deepen their connections to the government, information will suffer. Security information important to us may get leaked.)
The question he had been responding to was whether or not he thinks foreigners should be allowed to own media companies in the Philippines.
The Philippine Constitution bans foreign ownership and control of media companies. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had revoked Rappler's registration because of this provision.
The SEC said one line in Rappler's agreement with investment firm Omidyar Network appeared to give some level of control to a foreign entity. Rappler disputed this. But in February 2018, Omidyar donated their Philippine Depositary Receipts to Rappler's Filipino managers. Because of this, the Court of Appeals asked the SEC to review their decision to revoke Rappler's license.
Manicad is running as an independent candidate but is in the senatorial slate of Davao City mayor and presidential daughter Sara Duterte.
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.