Daily Archives: January 25, 2008

No Prison Term for Libel – Chief Justice

By Joel Roja/Asianjournal.com

MANILA — Chief Justice Reynato Puno Thursday confirmed that it will come out with an administrative circular for all judges stressing its preference for the imposition of fine only rather than imprisonment against those who will be found guilty of libel.

In an ambush interview after speaking before newly-inducted officers and members of the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (FINEX), Puno said the circular will be out either Thursday or Friday.

“These are interim measures that will help members of media that when there is conviction the penalty should no longer be imprisonment but only fine,” Puno told reporters.

He stressed that the circular is not intended to decriminalize libel since such action would come from the legislative department.

The Chief Justice explained that the Court decided to come up with such circular after reviewing libel cases brought before it and found out that a lot of them are committed “with honest intention.”

Under Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), a libel is committed by means of writing, printing, lithography, engraving, radio phonograph, painting, theatrical exhibition, cinematographic exhibition or any similar means, shall be punished by prison correccional in its minimum and medium period or a fine ranging from P200 to P6,000 or both in addition to civil action which may be brought by the offended party.

A draft copy of the circular noted that the administrative circular “does not remove imprisonment as an alternative penalty for the crime of libel under Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code.”

“The judges concerned may, in the exercise of sound discretion, and taking into consideration the peculiar circumstances of each case, determine whether the imposition of a fine alone would best serve the interests of justice or whether forbearing to impose imprisonment would depreciate the seriousness of the offense, work violence on the social order, or otherwise be contrary to the imperative of justice,” the circular stated.

It added that should only a fine be imposed and the accused be unable to pay the fine, there is no legal obstacle to the application of the provisions of the Revised Penal Code.

In the same interview, Puno also disclosed that the Supreme Court is set to issue within this month the Special Rules of Court on Alternative Dispute Resolution.

The special rules on ADR, according to Puno, will address “to a very large degree” the slow movement of cases in courts.

“Arbitration is the private system of justice that will complement the public system of government. It will speed up the disposition of cases,” Puno noted.



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Palace Downplays Impact of US Economic Downturn

by Joel Roja/Asianjournal.com

MANILA — The country’s expanded trade and economic ties with other countries will soften the impact of the US economic slowdown on the local economy, Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said on Tuesday.

President Arroyo, shortly before leaving for a seven-day trip to Switzerland and Dubai, for her part called for unity in the face of external challenges to the economy.

“With the continued improvement of our economy and its benefits felt by the people, it is very important that we work together, especially with the threat of the rising oil prices as well as the weakening of the US economy that might affect the Philippines,” Mrs. Arroyo said in Filipino.

“We assure you we will continue to work harder to sustain the economic growth in spite of the various threats to the international economy,” she said.

Reports of the US economic slump triggered massive selling in the equities market across the globe, with Philippine stocks plunging by more than five percent last Tuesday, its biggest single-day loss in five months.

Bunye said that while the US slowdown would affect the Philippines, the impact would be manageable.

“But the important thing and what is nice about the Philippines is we have broadened our ties with other countries,” he said.

He said the country is no longer dependent on western markets, citing trade opportunities with China and India.

“Our trade with China has grown by leaps and bounds and this will somehow cushion whatever negative impact the slowdown in the US economy would have on the Philippines,” Bunye said.

“And we have neighbors like China, India which are growing very, very fast. I believe there’s a lot opportunity if we are able to relate to these countries more broadly and more deeply,” he said.

He said the strategy of the Philippine government is global engagement.

“While the US will remain a very close ally, we are not overlooking opportunities for dealing with other countries, especially our neighbors,” he said.

Mrs. Arroyo also cited the latest Social Weather Stations survey showing that self-rated poverty incidence in December went down to 46 percent from 52 percent three months ago as solid proof that the administration’s anti-poverty and anti-hunger programs are on the right track.

“I am glad that the self-rated poverty incidence has gone down again, the lowest in 20 years. This is the result of the tough economic reforms we implemented, stability, and increased confidence of the international financial community in the country,” she said in Filipino.

She admitted that many Filipinos do not yet feel the benefits of the growing economy but that her administration is determined to address the problem.


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