( MANILA) – CEO-Editor of the country’s oldest national newspaper- The Manila Times- Dante Ang II is not in favor of what many journalists are asking for: the decriminalization of libel.
Other present Philippine laws, libel is a criminal offense which carries a jail and penalties for damages.
Ang II said that he wants libel to remain as a criminal offense because that would require a court judgment of “guilt beyond reasonable doubt” and feels that under the existing jurisprudence, it is difficult to be proven criminally guilty for libel.
Most courts, especially when the cases involve public officials would always say that ” the private reputation is overborne by the greater public good as enshrined in the Constitution.”
“Whereas”, he explains in the civil nature of the case – a conviction merely requires a “preponderance of evidence”. He cited examples that in many states in the United States where libel is a civil offense, the damages sought by the offended parties were so huge that the conviction led to the financial ruin and the bankruptcy of many media outfits.
While mainstream media thinks the libel law remains an abridgment of the freedom of expression, there are others think it’s criminal nature is a continuing “deterrent for people not to libel others.”
He spoke before media and businessmen at the New World Hotel recently.
Dante Ang II also believes there is still a high hope for the print media to remain as a viable business. It is still growing strong in “most of Asia, the Latin America and Africa.”
It is only in the western countries like the USA and Europe where “print media is a dying industry”.
Ang II succeeds his father who has been made a special envoy under the Duterte administration. The Manila Times started in 1945 and was closed down by the dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1972 when he declared Martial Law. It used to have the best set of opinion writers in the land that infuriated Marcos.
It opened again in 1986 after the EDSA Revolution. The Angs are the 4th owner of the Manila Times after 1986. It is considered a “niche newspaper” which has attracted seasoned opinion columnists like former senators Rene Saguisag and Kit Tatad and former ambassador and sharp analyst Rigoberto Tiglao. It operates The Manila Times College.