Militant lawmakers disappointed over SC’s upholding of online libel

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

MILITANT lawmakers have expressed dismay over the recent ruling by the Supreme Court (SC) declaring the online libel provision in the controversial Cybercrime Prevention Act as constitutional.

Senior Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Party-list Representative Neri Colmenares said they haven't read yet the entire context of the high court's ruling but they will definitely file a motion of reconsideration since they believed that the online libel provision will suppress the constitutional right to free expression of every individual.

Colmenares and other members of the minority bloc in the House of Representatives believed that inserted libel provision will restraint people who were commenting or expressing their view in various high profile issues in the government through the Internet by threatening them with criminal charges stated in a section of that law.


"Ang aming analysis, ang talagang puntirya nila na eh hinde na nila gusto itong maraming pagbatikos ng public officials sa gobyerno na maraming problema sa katiwalian, sa pork barrel, sa Yolanda relief or kung ano pa mang issue," Colmenares said.

He said the country should instead decriminalized libel since expressing one's feeling is a civil liability and not a criminal offense.

"Dapat civil liabilities 'yan. You don't send to prison nga, sabi nga namin, a person merely exercise the constitutional right to free expression or free press," Colmenares said.

He added that there is no need of the new Cybercrime Law since there were other laws even in the Revised Penal Code that are already applicable in the various problems the Aquino administration recently said.

The lawmaker noted that it was a big mistake by the both chambers of Congress that they passed the law since there's a penalty provided in each offenses except for libel.

"Actually nagkamali sila sa Cybercrime Law eh. Nagpo-provide sila ng penalties in each and every offense, ngayon pagdating sa libel wala sila pinrovide kasi ang libel, inserted yan eh… so badly drafted siya, wala siyang pinrovide. At dahil wala siyang pinrovide na penalty, pupunta ka sa General Provision under Section 6 and 7 of the Cybercrime Law," Colmenares said.

The militant legislator noted that the recent upholding of the online libel provision means bigger penalty compare to the traditional libel since potential offender can be imprisoned for a maximum of 12 years (prison mayor).

"Ang mangyayri diyan, ikaw na nagsalita ka sa TV, puwede ka kasuhan under the Revised Penal Code. Four years [ang] maximum mo [pero] ako naman, dinaan ko sa internet, 12 years ang aking penalty, ang followers ko, sampu. Pero ikaw na nagsalita sa TV, millions ang nakarinig sayo, anong absurdity 'to? Parang evil ba ang technology ng internet? Is this evil na dahil ginamit niya ang internet magdusa ka?" he said.

Violators who are found guilty in the traditional libel case can be jailed only to a maximum period of four years (prison correccional).

He also feared that that anyone of could commit online libel "without the violators actually knowing it."

Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) party-list Representative Antonio Tinio has already filed House Bill 466, which seeks to repeal the Internet libel provision in the Cybercrime Law, which he described as a "direct threat" to the every expression of every individual.

Tinio noted that internet base means of mass communication is very different to the traditional one since it has a "more direct approach" to every netizens.

"Kasi sa new media, direkta ang komunikasyon ng [bawat] indibidwal sa marami. It’s a direct mean of mass communication unlike sa traditional media, kapag ako nagpahayag dito, depende pa sa inyo, kung lalanding nga at makakarating sa masa, meron pa mediation, pamamagitan ng inyong mga insititusyon [or media outfits]," Tinio said.

He said the social media website paved the way to address and enlighten people in every issue surrounding the government using lively online discussion approach.

"Alam naman natin na yung August 26 protest [last year] against PDAF, nagsimula yan at nagorganize online. So nakikita natin yung bisa nito, at ayaw natin na mangyari at magkaroon ng chilling effect dahil sa pagkakapasa ng particular na probisyon na ito," Tinio said. (Sunnex)

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