CHR expresses 'grave alarm' over proposal to limit protection of free speech
MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Human Rights on Wednesday, January 24, expressed “grave alarm” over proposals in the House of Representatives to limit the freedom of speech.
“Not only is the current proposal vague in its definition of what ‘responsible exercise’ means, but it also allows for the subjective interpretation of the phrase,” CHR said in a statement.
On July 16, a House sub-committee that reviewed and proposed amendments to Article III of the 1987 Constitution proposed adding the phrase “responsible exercise of the” to Section 4 in the Bill of Rights.
It will then now read: "No law shall be passed abridging the RESPONSIBLE EXERCISE OF 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.”
CHR warned that pushing through with the restriction will go against the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in which the Philippines is a signatory.
Article 19 of the Covenant lays out safeguards to freedom of expression, “such as respect for the rights or reputations of others, national security, public order, public health and public morals.”
“Exercising freedoms of speech and expression is not about lessening offense to personal sensibilities,” the commission said. “It is about protecting our right to express and be heard in an exchange in pursuit of a better, dignified life for all.”
CHR reminded the public that the liberties we currently enjoy were products of struggle rooting from voices of dissent against abuses and inequalities, especially during Martial Law.
“A free, democratic society depends on the free exchange of ideas and speaking truth to power and fighting for one’s convictions are both anchored on our ability to exercise this freedom,” it said. “Needless to say, free speech is essential in bringing about change for social good.” – Rappler.com