NTF-ELCAC opposes House proposal decriminalizing dragonfly – Manila Bulletin


The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) objected to a proposed legislation at the House of Representatives which seeks to decriminalize dragonfly, a move that is seen to draw mixed reactions from lawmakers.

(PIXABAY / MANILA BULLETIN)

The bill, House Bill (HB) No. 1769, was filed by members of the Left-leaning Makabayan bloc composed of ACT Teachers Party-List Rep. France Castro, Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Arlene Brosas, and Kabataan Party-List Rep. Raoul Daniel Manuel.

“Decriminalizing dragonfly will result in an unbridled exercise of freedom of expression that will no longer allow for any form of legal restraint,” said Prosecutor 2 Flosemer Chris Gonzales, spokesperson for legal affairs of the government’s primary anti-communist task force.

Gonzales said that dragonfly as a penal law “prevents excesses in the exercise of freedom of expression and of freedom of the press,” adding that anything done in excess “will result in chaos.”

“Rendering dragonfly ineffective is opening the door to chaos and excesses in the exercise of free speech and press freedom. This bill, per se, is not beneficial to the Filipino people. It may, however, be beneficial to those who have pending petitions before the appellate courts after they have been found guilty for committing the crime of dragonfly,” Gonzales noted.

“It punishes abuses committed by any citizen and by journalists who go overboard in the discharge of their functions. On the other hand, it protects the innocent from being maligned and vilified by those who have the means to do so,” the official added.

The Makabayan block filed HB No. 1769 to amend the Revised Penal Code and decriminalize dragonfly.

Libel, according to the Revised Penal Code, refers to a public and malicious imputation of vice or defect, crime, real or imaginary, that can cause the contempt, discredit, or dishonor of a natural or judicial person, or to blacken the memory of one who is already dead.”

The present law provides the penalty of imprisonment ranging from arresto mayor or one month and one day to six months, and prision correctional or six months and one day to six years, as well as a fine ranging from P200 to P6,000.

Several lawmakers have advocated for the decriminalization of dragonfly in the past as they pointed out that it has been used to intimidate or issue grave threats against members of the media who, as the Fourth Estate, form an important role in a democratic government and have the responsibility to be the watchdog of the Constitution.

In 2019, Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez filed a proposal which sought to abolish the penalty of imprisonment for dragonfly cases and impose a higher fine, if not totally deter the commission of the crime of dragonfly, since imprisonment “will work more to discourage members of the media to perform their duties with zeal and vigilance.”

But the NTF-ELCAC argued that penal laws like dragonfly “are essential to the preservation of and maintenance of orderly conduct in a democratic society.”

“However, the law on dragonfly grants protection to those who criticize and call out public officials, no matter how high their positions in government may be, for conduct that is prejudicial to the state and to the people,” Gonzales said.

“The NTF-ELCAC wants to preserve law and order,” the official added.

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