Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Shield Law VII: How it all started

I found it interesting to dig into the history of the Philippine Shield Law.
Today I made some research, to find out how the Philippine Shield Law came to be.
It was the Philippine Press that pressed for the passage of a shield law to protect practicing journalists.
The defunct Manila Post published an editorial on its June 4, 1946 issue voicing the need to protect working journalists in the exercise of their profession. It was a protection "demanded by preponderant public opinion."
This prompted Senator Vicente Sotto to file Senate Bill No. 6 during the First Congress of the Republic.
Now I understand why the Philippine Shield Law is also known as the "Sotto Law".
The title of the Senate Bill No. 6 filed by Senator Sotto shows clearly the legal basis upon which the shield law originally relied---the concept of "privileged communications".
The title originally stated:
"An Act to exempt the publisher, editor or reporter of any publication from revealing the source of published news or information obtained in confidence."
The explanatory note of Senate Bill No. 6 states:
"We are simply putting in a crystallized form what seems to be demanded by preponderant public opinion. The Manila Post in its editorial of June 4 1946, has given us notice that the time has come that press freedom should be acknowledged in a positive manner by placing news-reports or information among the "privileged communications" side by side with those given by the clients of an attorney or of a doctor, or to a priest in the confessional. The importance of the role of press in our political set-up warrants such a privilege so that it can function free from fear or intimidation. Incidentally it will also infuse among the members of the fourth estate a sense of responsibility which they owe to their constituents, the public."

Snippet: Biography of Senator Vicente Y. Sotto :
Senator Vicente Sotto was born in Cebu City on April 18, 1877 to Marcelino Sotto and Pascuala Yap. He finished his secondary education at the Colegio de San Carlos in Cebu City. He obtained the degree of Bachelor of Laws and Judicial Science and passed the bar examinations in 1907. In 1902, Senator Sotto entered politics when he ran for the municipal councilorship of Cebu and won. In 1907, he was elected mayor despite his absence during the election owing to his involvement in a court battle caused by a kidnapping suit lodge against him by his opponent, and was forced to stay in Hongkong. After seven years in the Crown Colony, Senator Sotto decided to return to the country in 1914. In 1922, he was elected representative of the second district of Cebu until 1925. On November 1946, he ran for Senator and won and served as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance until 1950 (Source: )

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