Cebu News

Media oppose proposed amendments to ordinance

Edwin Ian Melecio - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - The Cebu Citizens’ Press Council and the Cebu Media Legal Aid passed a resolution strongly opposing the proposed amendments on the existing Cebu City Ordinance 1408 or Anti-Indecency Ordinance which they said “unconstitutional.”

The resolution sees that the amendment which Cebu City Councilor Leah Japson wants to include in the existing ordinance deliberately abridges the freedom of expression.

In 2011, CCPC successfully prevented the Provincial Board from passing the so called “Anti-Tabloid Ordinance,” which gives the governor power to seize any materials or publication deemed indecent without court orders.

Ironically, the same contents of the ‘dead’ ordinance can be found in Japson’s proposed amendments to Ordinance 1408.

In its report dated August 20,2014, the City Council’s Committee on Laws, Ordinances, Public Accountability and Good Government, believes that amending the said ordinance is covered by its power as legislative body of the city.

Japson’s proposed amendments will give the Cebu City Anti-Indecency Board more ‘teeth’ by adding sections to the ordinance that includes giving them authority to conduct frequent inspections and investigations in all bookstores, magazine shops, newspaper stands, among others.

The amendments will also compel the owners, managers or promoters to give full and unconditional access to the board to conduct inspections of their establishments at any time of the day or night even without any prior court order.

Japson’s proposal also wants to expand the list on what they call “unlawful acts” to include: selling of magazines which contain sensual sexual stories/columns; selling of tabloids which contain lewd pictures or titillating stories/columns.

It said that “printed circulation obscene pictures, films, books, sex toys, shall be confiscated and used as evidence against violators.”

The additional sections and powers will automatically give the board authority to determine what is obscene and what is not.

However, according to the CCPC, the proposed amendments violate the rights to due process of the person or business establishments in question, a right that is guaranteed under the Philippine Constitution.

Last July 17,2014, the CCPC passed a resolution condemning CCAB’s “practice of unlawful seizures of published materials that would violate the Supreme Court guidelines for determining obscenity and confiscation of obscene materials” when it seized 237 magazines from BookSale located at a mall last June without search warrant and authority.

CCPC warned that the practice of CCAIB violated the Supreme Court dictum on seizures of printed materials that are suspected to be obscene.

The proposed amendments to the city ordinance were approved and set for public hearing on October 8, 2014.

“Basic reason that printed materials—unlike “sex toys” (with which newspapers and magazines are lumped in the proposed amendment)—cannot be confiscated outright is that they’re not contraband or illegal per se. This should not be lost on the Committee on Laws that is presumably composed of, or advised by, lawyers,” the CCPC reads.

Lawyer Elias Espinosa of CEMLA, who discussed the updates of the ordinance, said that the Cebu media is not against legislations and campaigns against obscenities and indecencies, provided that the rights of freedom of expression and the freedom of speech are not violated.

The resolution passed by the council members said they “strongly oppose the proposed amendments to the Cebu City anti-indecency ordinance on the power of CCAIB to confiscate without court order printed materials in bookshops and newsstands; request and authorize Cemla and CCPC representatives to present formally the position of the Council at the scheduled public hearing and lastly, include as attachment and part of this resolution the two CCPC resolutions of Dec. 6, 2011 and July 17, 2014.”

Cebu City Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella, who was present during the meeting to “listen and observe,” refrained from taking sides on the issue.

But as a former deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas before getting into politics, Labella said, local ordinances and laws should not contravene the Constitution.

Lawyer Jonathan Capanas, University of San Jose Recoletos Dean of College of Laws, moved to pass the resolution and was seconded by Ruben Almendras who represented the citizen’s side.  (FREEMAN)


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