The other evening I heard a local commentator on Bombo Radyo saying that discipline in general in Filipino society is lax and that Filipinos clamor for freedom all the time but don’t match it with responsibilities and so “democrazy”.
Similarly, parents who follow a democratic line of parenting know too well the value and benefits of establishing house rules with their children if they wish to stay sane three years into child rearing. They give their children freedom to fully live their childhoods but keep the walls as they are please (children naturally look at a wall as this huge endless canvas for their doodles) and fill your plate with food you can finish yourself. Paradoxically in the absence of house (or even school) rules, children turn wild. (Is it the ape gene in humans?)
Libel law is basically about responsibility in the right to free speech. It also entails calculated risks. But as long as you keep within the bounds of responsible free speech, then everything’s fine. And anyway there’s the court where you can prove your defense.
This brings me to the most important – the thing that balances – in the libel law (as with all laws): the justice system. Suppose someone sues you for libelous speech (or for any other crime for that matter) but fact is it isn’t. If the court does its job, that is, true to the ideals of Lady Justice, the side who has consistently told the truth and nothing but the truth will always find justice.
Was there a libel law in the time of Solomon? Regardless, in the battle for custody between two women over a child, the judge (Solomon) showed the “court’s” integrity when he decided rightly (that is, he discerned the truth despite the (crocodile) tears).
The issue therefore is not the libel law (because its intention is protection of persons against those who really are libelous and so does real psychological, mental, and emotional damage; without such law, imagine the freedom of others in hurling all sorts of dirt at you whenever they feel like it and you’ve no resort but cry – or duel if that’s the case – because there’s no law to protect your right to reclaim and reparation) but the integrity of the court and the whole justice system. People (or legal entities e.g. corporations) can sue you all they like but you won’t be jailed if the court decided rightly. In fact, for dragging you to court and falsely accusing you, the other can be counter-charged and if the court decides rightly it will throw the right person to jail. If. So much of social (in)justice in Philippine society rests on this.