Senate readies bill on libel for debates

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THE Senate is poised to begin plenary debates on a consolidated measure seeking to decriminalize libel and abolishing stiff fines and imprisonment on libel cases, independent Senator Richard J. Gordon announced yesterday.

Gordon said the Senate committees on constitutional amendments, revisions of codes and laws which he chairs, and on public information and mass media chaired by Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. are now on their penultimate stage of conducting joint public hearings on the proposed measure.

“We are now readying a consolidated version of the measure, and after one more public hearing, we shall report it out for plenary debates. We shall call on resource persons from the industry as well as from the academe early next week,” he said.

Among those invited to attend the next hearing are Publishers Association of the Philippines President Juan Dayang, Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas President Butch Canoy, National Press Club President Benny Antiporda, and National Union of Journalists of the Philippines Chairman Jose Torres Jr.

On the part of the academe, former Supreme Court Justice Vicente Mendoza, UP College of Law Dean Salvador Carlota, and Ateneo Human Rights Center Executive Director Carlos Medina are also invited to attend.

Also invited are Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) President Alexandria Prieto-Romualdez, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism Board of Director Malou Mangahas, Manila Bulletin Editor in Chief Cris Icban Jr., and Manila Overseas Press Club Chairman Tony Lopez.

According to Gordon, without prejudice to their libel cases, he is also seeking the invaluable inputs coming from PDI publisher Isagani Yambot and its editor in chief, Letty Magsanoc, as well as columnist Erwin Tulfo and Carlo Publishing House president Philip Pichay.

AFP, PNP asked to locate hostages

Meanwhile, Gordon expressed serious concern over the apparent failure of law enforcement authorities to determine the whereabouts of two women aid workers reportedly abducted by the Abu Sayyaf bandits.

Gordon made the call in the wake of reports that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) remain clueless about the hostage victims’ location four days since they were abducted in Basilan.

“All efforts should be exhausted in locating and securing the freedom of these two hostages. But we should act expeditiously and decisively because, needless to say, what is at stake here is the lives of innocent aid workers,” he said.

Law enforcement authorities have reportedly suspended all efforts to rescue the two remaining hostages to allow a team led by Spanish priest Fr. Angel Calvo to negotiate with their abductors widely believed to be Abu Sayyaf bandits.