Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lawmaker drops support for Right of Reply Bill

MANILA, Philippines - With the House leadership's announcement that the Right of Reply Bill (RORB) can be tackled "anytime" in plenary, Deputy Majority Leader Juan Edgardo Angara sought for a review of the current list of authors and co-authors as he reiterated that he has already withdrawn support for the measure.

Angara said he withdrew authorship to consolidated House Bill 3306, or "An Act Granting the Right of Reply and Providing Penalties in Violation Thereof" after realizing the overwhelming unity of campus press, media practitioners and concerned groups over the bill's threat to press freedom and freedom of expression.

"There is really a need to review the present list of authors and co-authors because despite the fact that I've already withdrawn authorship on the RORB since late 2007, I'm being treated as if I'm still one of the authors," Angara said.

"I have listened to feedbacks from different media groups around the country and their position seems to be that media groups, as a matter of practice and self-regulation, already extend this right of reply to persons who are the subjects of a negative story or article. This has led me to a decision to no longer pursue the bill," he added.

Angara made the statement as he cited reports in which he is still being acknowledged as one of the proponents of the bill.

Angara, a lawyer, stressed he realized “there may be some practical difficulties” in the implementation of the RORB once enacted into law.

"Nonetheless, we still appeal to our friends in media for fairness and judicious, as we believe that editorial functions are privately exercised prerogatives," he added.

House Bill 3306, under Committee Report No. 207, is currently up for consideration on second reading approval in plenary.

The bill mandates media companies, outfits and entities to provide “equal space or airtime” to anyone who is a subject of critical reports, to reply or react as form of the latter’s freedom of expression, thus, the right to reply. The bill, furthermore, stipulates that this be done within three (3) days of a news item’s publication or airing.

It also seeks to punish publisher and editor-in-chief of a publication or the owner and station manager of a broadsheet outfit if they fail to comply or give "equal treatment" to a complaint's right to a specific report.

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