By Charissa Luci-Atienza
The House Committee on Justice approved on Monday a bill seeking to make libel case hearings more accessible to community journalists.
The House panel, chaired by Oriental Mindoro Rep. Doy Leachon, passed House Bill 6916, which substitutes House Bill 685, principally authored by Cebu Rep. Raul del Mar.
By approving the Committee Report No. 557 on HB 6916, the Leachon panel endorsed the bill for plenary approval.
House Bill 6916 seeks to provide a specific venue of action in libel cases against a community journalist, publication or broadcast station.
According to the bill, the civil action shall be filed in the same court where the criminal action is filed.
Last year, the House Committee on Public Information approved the bill. Del Mar laments that libel, whether filed as a criminal or civil action, is used as a convenient legal tool to harass journalists, especially the community newspaper and broadcast practitioners.
The current legal rules on venue compel community journalists and local broadcasters to answer complaints or charges filed, rightly or wrongly, in remote or distant places, deliberately filed far away from their place of business or work, the veteran lawmaker said.