The Philippine Press Institute, also known as the national association of newspapers which currently lists 71 members nationwide, has always stood by its position that any legislation that infringes on freedom of the press in the pursuit of ethical, responsible and excellent journalism violates the same right (that no law shall be passed abridging freedom of the press) that is constitutionally enshrined.
It expressed its opposition to the penalty clause of the “Data Privacy Act” on the Breach of Confidentiality of Senate Bill No. 2965 “AN ACT PROTECTING INDIVIDUAL PERSONAL DATA IN INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEMS IN THE GOVERNMENT AND IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR, PROVIDING PENALTIES IN VIOLATION THEREOF, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES”, that restrains journalists from being responsible and truthful in reporting based on facts, thus restricting them from performing their duty or function as bearers of truth. Imprisonment and monetary fines as penalties are more than enough to render chilling effect on the reporter, writer, president, publisher, manager and editor-in-chief — and the news organization in general, and thwart or prevent the very institution whose mandate is to provide the public with truthful information based on factual details in a news report.
Section 30 of Senate Bill No. 2965 on Breach of Confidentiality provides “the penalty of imprisonment ranging from two years and four months to five years and a fine not less than P500,000 but not more than P2 million, shall be imposed in case of a breach of confidentiality where such breach has resulted in the information being published or reported by media. In this case, the responsible reporter, writer, president, publisher, manager and editor-in-chief shall be liable under this Act.”
In his separate letters to Senator Edgardo Angara and Representatives Roman Romulo and Sigrido Tinga, PPI executive director Ariel Sebellino iterated that the ‘restrictive provision’ be deleted or stuck out from said Act.
In a phone interview by Manila Standard Today reporter Christine Herrera on May 30, he said that the bill directly and adversely affects the journalists. “This is a blatant attack on press freedom and meant to restrain journalists from being responsible and truthful in reporting based on facts,” Sebellino said.
A bicameral hearing will be held on Monday, June 2 for the ratification of the bill on or before June 6.