Freedom of Expression in the Philippines

Topics: Human rights, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Rights Pages: 6 (1547 words) Published: September 21, 2014
Freedom of expression in the Philippines

“Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties. – JOHN MILTON


ndividual freedom and collective expression in the Philippines, I’d say, is the most exercised and an unmistakable sign of this country’s democracy. Our individual rights and freedoms, the most basic, the essential to the complex and critical ones define our identity as Filipinos, and the basic extension of our humanity. That need to express, to communicate, and to reach out to one another without the fear of judgment or even criminal prosecution. We have the freest press, the most uncensored and unrestricted provisions on our freedom to express ourselves, to seek other people’s take on relevant issues and sometimes just so, because we want to and because we can. And when these are stripped of us, we resist. We react, and to some extent violently and rebelliously just so we can send that fierce message that as a democratic country, with the collective freedoms and rights declared in our charter, no one has the right to deny us of those rights and freedoms.

But sometimes, too much freedom can mean abuse of freedom. And restrictions or not, these freedoms aren’t absolute. One is still liable to what he says, especially in public. As professionals and practitioners of the press, they are responsible for balanced views and opinions. Slander, libel, false accusations and any other form with malicious intent is tolerated by freedom of expression. One cannot accuse someone of something and invoke his freedom of expression, and expect it to give him immunity from the law. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “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.” Article 19 (2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights affirms: “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”

Under the Bill of Rights of the Philippine Constitution, Article III, Section 4 declares: “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.” But it wasn’t too long ago when the infamous Cybercrime Bill was signed by the president. It bore flawed provisions that largely outraged advocates of freedom of speech. It awakened this fire not only to these advocates but to ordinary Filipinos who was suddenly faced with the possibility of being denied of this freedom. It scared some. And now the Bill is on a temporary restraining order after much protest that involved hacktivists hacking government servers and websites. The President’s website down to other departments weren’t spared from their wrath. Rallies and demonstrations plagued the major government offices. Even the press expressed its dismay on the unreasonable grounds the bill imposed. And thus, this freedom prevailed.

Penalizing our Public Officials

Liberty means responsibility.
That is why most men dread it. – GEORGE BERNARD SHAW

How many times have we seen major political figures get away with it? How often have seen them actually pay for their wrongful actions?
Seldom, if not never.
I’m not going to expound much on the issue of legal independence, though it’s another critical criteria of good governance that somehow connects with this issue. The ‘influence’ of the executive and legislative branches respectively, to our judiciary, though less people wants to admit it, is not unheard of. I would...
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