“A threat to our press is a threat to our democracy.”
This was part of the answer of former Miss World Philippines Erika Kristensen of Carmona, Cavite when she was asked about the de-criminalizing libel in the Philippines.
Erika made it among the Top 11 finalists of the pageant’s coronation night that was held on June 5.
To advance to the next round, she was given the following question: “Should we decriminalize libel?”
In her answer, Erika said that libel should be decriminalized in the Philippines for the sake of “embracing press freedom.”
“Yes, I definitely think that we should decriminalize libel because especially in our day and age, we really don’t know if that person is actually saying something true or not. And I think that you know, we should start embracing press freedom,” she said.
Here’s a transcript of the rest of Erika’s response to the question:
“That, of course, includes libel because a threat to our press is, of course, a threat to our democracy. How can we move forward if we do not embrace this? So yes, definitely. I think everybody should have the right to, and the freedom rather, to say whatever they want but I think that it should be with responsibility and that I think we should decriminalize libel.”
Twitter users weighed in on her view about the issue.
Some users agreed that it is about time to decriminalize libel in the country.
“Sa isang bansang may poor justice system na nagseserve sa ruling class, evident na wineweaponize ng estado ang kalabnawan ng libel para i-silence ang media. Kaya tama lang na i-decriminalize ang libel at protektahan ang kalayaan sa pamamahayag!” one user said.
Others are opposed to it. They cited the rampant mudslinging of people online on why they think libel should remain a criminal act.
“We should not. May mga abusado lalo na marami sa Pinas na ginagawang hanapbuhay ang pananakit ng kapwa sa online,” one user said.
“Decriminalizing libel is like we can say anything we want even if we have to hurt a person or organization. So stop that kind of nonsense. Libel should be a criminal case. We’ve freedom to say anything but if it’s too low and offensive, legal action should be the option,” another user tweeted.
Erika, unfortunately, was not called among the winners for that night.
Gwendolyne Fourniol of Negros Occidental won the major crown as the new Miss World Philippines 2022, thus succeeding Trace Maureen Perez’s reign.
Below are the rest of the titleholders:
- Alison Black of Las Piñas City – Miss Supranational Philippines 2022
- Ashley Subijano Montenegro of Makati City – Miss Eco International Philippines 2022
- Ingrid Santamaria of Parañaque City – Reina Hispanoamericana Filipinas 2022
- Justine Beatrice Felizarta of Marikina City – Miss World Philippines Tourism 2022
- Cassandra Bermeo Chan of San Juan City – Miss World Philippines Charity 2022
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On libel in the Philippines
Libel in the Philippines is listed among the Revised Penal Code’s “Crimes against Honor.”
In Article 353, it is defined as a “public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead.”
It also has the same definition stated under the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.
Calls to decriminalize libel have been raised to the government for years.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and other pundits see libel as a threat to the right to free speech in the country, both for media and bloggers alike, as it is being used by those with money to harass journalists and media practitioners whose reporting they find unfavorable.