‘Black Tuesday’ protest set on Edsa anniversary

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Monday, February 24, 2014

MILITANTS and some media groups will hold a protest on Tuesday against the Supreme Court's (SC) decision, which declared the libel provision in the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 as constitutional.

The "Black Tuesday" protest will coincide with the 28th anniversary of the Edsa People Power that brought down then President Ferdinand Marcos, whose 20-year rule was blighted by human rights violations and media censorship.

Gathering at Edsa Shrine in Pasig City will start at 3 p.m. to be followed by a candle-lighting ceremony at 7 p.m., according to a media advisory sent by Kabataan party-list, one of the petitioners against Republic Act 10175.

"We need to show the Philippines and the world how ironic it is to commemorate the 28th anniversary of the Edsa People Power that toppled down the Marcos dictatorship while e-Martial Law exists and poses a grave threat to our civil liberties," said Kabataan party-list Representative Terry Ridon.

The SC agreed to extend the scope of libel into the cyberspace, earning the criticism of press freedom groups and even Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Justices Arturo Brion and Marvic Leonen.

Sereno and Leonen are appointees of President Benigno Aquino III, who allayed fears that online libel may be used to stifle freedom of expression.

The President said citizens have nothing to be afraid of if they speak the truth.

Leonen described libel as an "anachronistic tool" and a "monkey wrench that will steal inspiration from the democratic mob."

"Libel law now is used not so much to prosecute but to deter speech. What is charged as criminal libel may contain precious protected speech. There is very little to support the view of the majority that the law will not continue to have this effect on speech," he said in an opinion against the constitutionality of online libel.

The SC justice said it is better to make libel a civil liability, where an offender will only be required to pay damages instead of spending time in jail.

"Libel is an element of civil liability makes defamation a matter between the parties. Of course, because trial is always public, it also provides for measured retribution for the offended person. The possibility of being sued also provides for some degree of deterrence," said Leonen. (Sunnex)

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