(The Philippine Star) | Updated September 1, 2017 – 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines – President Duterte signed into law this week Republic Act 10951, which includes a provision imposing penalties on a person found guilty of spreading fake news that might affect public order.
Amid the prevalence of false news in the country and elsewhere, Duterte signed the law that amended the 87-year-old Revised Penal Code and also placed penalties on unlawful use of publication and unlawful utterances.
Article 154, Section 18 of the act provides a penalty of arresto mayor and fine ranging from P40,000 to P200,000.
The punishment might be slapped against any person who by means of printing, lithography or any other means of publication shall publish or cause to be published as news any false report that might endanger public order or damage the interest or credit of the state.
RA 10951 penalizes any person who by the same means or by words, utterances or speeches shall encourage disobedience to the law or to the constituted authorities or praise, justify and extol any act punished by law.
It also covers any person who shall maliciously publish, or cause to be published any official resolution or document without proper authority or before they have been published officially.
Any person who shall print, distribute or cause to be printed, published or distributed books, pamphlets, periodicals or leaflets which do not bear the real printer’s name, or which are classified as anonymous.
The measure will take effect 15 days after its publication in at least two major newspapers. It will be applicable to pending cases before the courts where trial has started.
The act shall also have a retroactive effect “to the extent that it is favorable to the accused or person serving sentence by final judgement.”
Meanwhile, under Article 230, a public officer found guilty of revealing secrets of a private individual shall suffer the penalties of arresto mayor and a fine not exceeding P200,000.
Lawmakers also amended the penalties on malversation of public funds or property, which may suffer the terms ranging from prision correccional to reclusion temporal with penalty starting at P40,000 to P4.4 million, depending on the amount involved in the misappropriation or malversation of public funds.
In libel cases, the amended RPC also provides that a jail term of prision correctional and a fine ranging from P40,000 to P1.2 million or both.
The act of threatening to release to the public and offer to prevent such publication for compensation also gets a jail term and fine ranging from P40,000 to P400,000 or both.
Another pertinent provision focused on the “prolonging performance of duties and powers” that penalizes any public officer who shall continue to exercise the duties and powers of his office, employment or commission beyond the period provided by the law, regulation or special provisions. It provides penalties of prision correccional, disqualification and a fine not exceeding P100,000.
Early this year, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon pushed for the approval of Senate Bill No. 14, saying the bill sought to address the “outdated” penalties for certain crimes, which were based on the economic standards since the Revised Penal Code first took effect in 1930.
The Senate approved the bill with 21 ayes, zero nays and no abstention, which also found a counterpart measure at the House of Representatives.
In a statement, Drilon noted that in 2014, the Supreme Court, in the case of Lito Corpuz v. People of the Philippines (G. R.No. 180016, 29 April 2014), had asked Congress to amend the Revised Penal Code and “take into consideration the changed conditions since the law’s enactment.”
“The only remedy is to call for the much-needed overhaul of an archaic law that was promulgated decades ago when the political, socio-economic and cultural settings were very much different from today’s conditions,” Drilon said.
He said the measure essentially sought to “update the value of the damages used in determining the extent of liability and imprisonment; and adjust the amount of fines,” using a formula adopted from the Department of Justice (DOJ).
“The application of the DOJ formula yields adjusted rates that are more appropriate for the objectives of the law – one, to avoid the imposition of cruel and excessive punishment, and two, to make imposable fines an effective deterrent to crimes,” Drilon said.
For instance, Drilon said, a person found guilty of estafa, involving an amount of P250 would suffer a jail term or would be imprisoned for up to two years and four months. Under the proposed measure, the imposable penalty for such an offense involving the same amount “would be reduced to four months of imprisonment.”