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Aug 19th
Home Columns JGL Eye Chilling Right to Reply
Chilling Right to Reply PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - JGL Eye
Written by Joseph G. Lariosa   
Friday, 24 April 2009 22:04


By Joseph G. Lariosa

C HICAGO, Illinois (JGLi) – Sen. Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel, Jr. has a long track record as an advocate for the civil rights movement in the Philippines.

While a former Mindanao (Cagayan de Oro city) mayor, Mr. Pimentel earned his spurs as a vocal critic of the late President Marcos. Marcos would shut his mouth up when he was thrown to jail for three months.

But it now appears that among the civil rights issues, press freedom is not his strong suit.

Mr. Pimentel introduced the Philippine Senate Bill No. 1178, “An Act Granting the Right of Reply and Providing Penalties for Violation Thereof.”

* Editor's Note: Please click this Right to Reply bill to view the full text.


During the Kapehan (coffee talk) sponsored by the NPC-Phil. U.S.A. headed by Easimedia's Lourdes Ceballos at Fil-Am Delight restaurant in Chicago’s northwest side last Saturday (April 18), this bill was among the topics of conversation.


U nder this bill, “All persons natural or juridical who are accused directly or indirectly of committing, having committed or of intending to commit any crime or offense defined by law or are criticized by innuendo, suggestion or rumor for any lapse in behavior in public or private life, shall have the right of reply to the charges published or printed in newspapers, magazines, newsletters or publications circulated commercially or for free, or criticisms aired or broadcast over radio, television, websites, or through any electronic device.”

It added, “The editor-in-chief and the publisher or station manager and owner of the broadcast medium who fails or refuses to publish or broadcast the reply as mandated in the preceding section shall be fined in an amount not exceeding 10,000 pesos (US$200) in the first offense; 20,000 pesos (US$400) for the second offense; and 30,000 pesos (US$500) and imprisonment for not more than 30 days for the third offense.”

Immediate past NPC-Phil. U.S.A. President Yoly Tubalinal, publisher-editor of the Chicago-based The Fil Am Weekly Megascene, said this bill, if passed, is “thoughtless and infringement of freedom of speech.”


W hile Mariano “Anong” Santos, publisher-editor of Chicago-based Pinoy Monthly and vice president of Filipino American Media Organization of the United States (FAMOUS) and guest of Kapehan, called it an “explosive” that blasts the journalists, who don’t practice basic journalism. Mr. Pimentel should have instead asked the National Press Club of the Philippines “to educate its members to be ethical, fair, in practicing their trade carefully and professionally.”

Because I have a rare experience of being a journalist before, during and after Marcos imposed martial law in the Philippines, I told the Kapehan participants that this “Right To Reply” bill has reminded me of the chilling effect of the Mass Media Council (MMC) President Marcos put in place to control and silence the media.

This MMC was supervised by newsmen, who were displaced from their jobs following the closure of their newspapers, television and radio stations.


B ut the ones implementing its mandate were the military officers, who would visit newspapers allowed to publish, and would take with them the government press releases. These officers would be the ones to tell the editors, what page and what portion of the page the press releases would appear and how long should the press releases come out.

The slim difference between the MMC and the Right of Reply is that the MMC could fire an editor or close the newspaper and could send the editor to rot in jail indefinitely without the benefit of a bond hearing.

There was no doubt that when Marcos was toppled from power, the vestiges of Martial Law that trampled on the peoples’ civil rights, including press freedom, were roundly rejected by the Filipino people.

One of those who learned the lesson from Marcos’ fall was Philippine Chief Justice Reynato Puno.

Mr. Puno had to exercise “judicial activism” when the Philippine Congress was remiss in its duty to amend the pre-martial law Philippine Libel Law by decriminalizing libel.

Mr. Puno “legislated from the bench” when he urged judges to forego imprisonment as a punishment for journalists convicted of libel. Instead, they will just be required to pay a fine as practiced in the United States.

Instead of decriminalizing the Sotto Law, the Philippine Libel Law, Senator Pimentel’s  Right to Reply bill reinforced it by imposing a more punitive fine and imprisonment.

I hope Senator Pimentel, my friend, will withdraw the Right To Reply bill from the Senate calendar and let it gather dust and let it die.


T he Right to Reply bill is not only oppressing and suppressing press freedom, it is also duplicating the Sotto Law.

Politicians or some vested interests, who would like to score “pogi” points or would like to project wholesome or favorable images, should not be cheapie by turning to the government for help in muscling their press releases down the throats of editors.

They should, instead, retain the services of good public- or press-relations agencies, who specialize in handling “crisis management” or “damage control” issues that could sway the editors to give their clients good media play.

In this way, the public or press relations agencies as a profession will thrive and grow. And the government will stop encroaching on the jobs of editors of privately-owned newspapers that are necessary in a free society. (

Last Updated on Saturday, 25 April 2009 21:30
Comments (3)
1 Friday, 24 April 2009 22:58
Hi Joseph,

I got some comments too that you may forward to Senator Pimentel. First off, isn't it a redundancy? Based on my experience as editor here in San Diego, I guarantee as much space as my paper could accommodate to anyone who feels he has issues to ventilate vis-a-vis my articles.

However, I see to it that the privilege is not abused by those who stray from the issues and launch personal attacks. I wonder then if Sen. Pimentel's "right to reply" would give license to anyone who feels offended and then invokes such right as provided by the proposed law.

Freedom of the press is conferred on journalists and on media in general and not on those who want to clothe themselves with what is practically, conversely, the same press freedom. Freedom of the press is not the same as freedom of expression, the latter is inherently ours with or without a law to guarantee it.

Even if the senator defangs his proposal, I believe the bill in itself would open the floodgates to abuse, specially from people with interests to protect and agendas to pursue.

The "right to reply" is exacly the kind of thing we, as journalists, should guard against. In my opinion, it neutralizes an editor's or a journalist's better judgement, thanks to a guarantee of the "right to reply".

I have not read the full text of the bill so I will20limit my discussion from what I discern in Joseph's story. Thanks and best regards.

Romy Marquez
2 Saturday, 25 April 2009 20:36
Dear Senator Pimentel:

One of my outlets, GMANews TV, posted my story on its website.

Please click this link: Pimentel defends 'right to reply' bill as a balanced measure to view it.

I also sent it to my other outlets.

Please let me know if there is inaccuracy in my story.

This should add information and understanding on the ongoing discussion on your "Right to Reply" bill.

Thanks to your information and best wishes.

Joseph G. Lariosa
3 Saturday, 25 April 2009 21:58

Glad to know Sen. Pimentel has responded directly to you. If you wish, if I have the email address you used for him, I can write him to bolster your position and perhaps have more continuity and rapport with him and our NPCers. I have some comments too about the "Right to Reply" bill and related ones. You mean Sen. Pimentel's bill decriminalizes any "newspapers [who] should provide generous space" but who do not, to people who would like to defend themselves and whom the "press can continue attacking" ? How then does the bill help the people "mortified"--as you say--and where can they seek "freedom of the press" ? Amusing.

But the topic was a good one for the Kapehan, and let us invite Sen. Pimentel to join us perhaps, online. We appreciate the time he has given for his response to you.


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