SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
A lawmaker is pushing for the immediate passage of the proposed "Anti-Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation (Anti-SLAPP) Act of 2010," which encourages people to participate in issues of vital public concern.
"An Anti-SLAPP statute would prevent the use and abuse of judicial processes to suppress the right of people to participate in matters of public concern and their access to information on issues that affect them," said Rep. Teddy Casiño (Party-list, Bayan Muna), one of the authors of House Bill 3593.
Casiño said SLAPP is a judicial mechanism initiated by influential entities like corporations, government officials, politicians, landlords, or employers against community residents, indigenous peoples, environmentalists, members of the press, peasants workers, students, or even against ordinary citizens to prevent them from fully exercising their right to participate in matters of public concern.
"People may not be fully aware that for several years past, we have witnessed the proliferation of a special kind of harassment suit called SLAPP as a powerful mechanism for stifling the inherent rights of freedom of speech, expression, or of the press, and the right of the people to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances," Casiño said.
Casiño explained that the term SLAPP was coined in the 1980s by University of Denver professors Penelope Cana and George W. Pring, and originally defined as a lawsuit involving communications made to petition for a governmental action or outcome, which resulted in a baseless suit filed against individuals or non-governmental organizations, on a substantive issue of some public interest or social significance.
Casiño said SLAPPs are designed and intended to intimidate and silence certain public constituencies by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their advocacies and concerns.
"Winning the lawsuit is not necessarily the intent of the plaintiff or complainant because their goals are accomplished if the defendant, respondent or accused succumbs to fear, intimidation, mounting legal costs or simple exhaustion and thereby abandons the public advocacy," Casiño said.
Under the bill, SLAPPs may come in the guise of claims or accusations for multi-million libel suits, slander, grave coercion, nuisance, illegal assembly, direct assault, resistance and disobedience and injunction.
"To prevent any abuse of the judicial process and encourage participation of people in matters of public interest, prohibits the filing of SLAPPs and establishes the speedy dismissal of like cases,"
The bill allows award of damages, litigation costs, attorney's fees, and other relief to the defendant, respondent, or accused, as the case may be, upon the final and executory dismissal of SLAPPs.
Furthermore, the bill provides the defendant, respondent, or accused the right to recover separate damages, litigation costs, attorney's fees, and other relief by filing a SLAPPBack action against the complainant upon the final and executory dismissal of SLAPP case.
The co-authors of the bill are Reps. Neri Colmenares (Bayan Muna), Luzviminda Ilagan and Emerenciana de Jesus (Gabriela), Raymund Palatino (Kabataan), Rafael Mariano (Anakpawis) and Antonio Tinio (ACT).