MAGANES: Anti- Cybercrime Law

February 24, 2014 at 3:07 am Leave a comment


virThe Supreme Court has spoken. The Anti-Cybercrime Prevention Law or Republic Act No. 10175 was declared a valid although some portions of it have been considered as unconstitutional. However, the magistrates sustained the part on the provisions of online libel that has elicited wide reactions from journalists, academe and netizens in the entire country, includin some members of the Senate House and House of Representatives.
What is libel? A libel is a malicious, false statement in written media, a broadcast, or otherwise published words. In other words, “online or internet libel” refers to those malicious and defamatory statements against any person posted in social media sites, websites or blog sites. In said provision, it is stated that only those primary sources of defamatory statements are liable for libel and those who shared such could not be indicted of the same crime.
Personally, I find that provision amusing. How can the Courts and even the prosecutors determine primary sources? Supposed the defamatory statements are “copied and pasted” on the walls of social media sites by other persons, can they identify the primary and secondary sources?
Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago has recommended that to have the Anti-Cybercrime Law to be thoroughly reviewed by the Supreme Court, a case must be properly filed in Courts, otherwise the Supreme Court could slap a penalty on those who questioned it outside of the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction. She said the High Tribunal erred in declaring the constitutionality of said provision.
The upholding of “online libel” by the magistrates is understandable. Most of them if not all are not techie-savvies as they are already old. They are not exposed to the intricacies of the cyberspace and internet. Although they have legal researchers, they are confined to legal aspects, not focusing much on the technology. While most solons are pushing for decriminalizing libel under the Penal Code, here comes the Supreme Court deciding otherwise.

Among the senators, Senator Aquilino Pimentel is pushing for the status quo. He said libel is to be retained as a criminal offense with prison penalties that to “decriminalize it, people would feel that they’re victims of injustice.” Senators Santiago,Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Alan Peter Cayetano, Francis Escudero, Edgardo Angara and Teofisto Guingona III called for the decriminalization of libel.
Senator Cayetano has been pushing a bill that seeks to decriminalize libel much so the “online libel” provision of the Anti Cybercrime Prevention Act. Senate Bill No. 249, which in part mandates the repeal of Sec. 4 (c) 4 of Chapter II of RA 10175 or the online libel provision of the anti-cybercrime law.
He said: ” What is constitutional and what is legal is not necessarily what is moral and what is right. The Supreme Court based it on the legality of the provision. But on the wisdom of the law, that is for Congress to determine. Libel and all forms of criminal defamation is restrictive of the freedom of expression.”

Freedom of expression to some is not absolute. However, it is the first to be cited in the Bills of Rights in the Constitution. It says ” no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech and expression.” It is this constitutional provision that democracy works. It guarantees full freedom of the people. But I believe that freedom of expression and speech although guaranteed by the Constitution should be exercised with prudence. In exercising said freedom, it does not also follow that we are given the privilege and right to defame or destroy the reputation of other people.

The Anti- Cybercrime and Prevention Law although declared by the Supreme Court as constitutional has still be remedied. There are groups from the journalism industry, academe and netizens that filed “motion for reconsideration” that the “online libel” provision be taken out from said law.
We have to wait again the next chapter of Republic Act No. 10175. Does the Supreme Court uphold its decision? Or, will it side to the clamor of the netizens to take out the provision of “online libel.? We must realize that the internet is another kind of medium of communication.

The legal battle continues and we must watch.

(For comments, email me at emperorvirgil@yahoo.com. Visit my blog, The Roving Pen at http://www.virgilmaganes.wordpress.com).

Entry filed under: News.

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