Oversensitive Sotto is Dangerous to Our Rights and Freedom!
Sen. Tito Sotto, who opposes the controversial Reproductive Health bill on religious grounds, is baffled. He just doesn’t understand all the fuss about the growing public uproar against the recently passed Cybercrime
The controversial law seeks to criminalize certain cybercrimes like illegal access, illegal interception and online libel. Sotto drew a lot of flak from the general public and Internet users for inserting the Orwellian libel clause at the last minute.
Yet it now appears that the controversial senator, who was accused of plagiarism, was motivated by personal grudge, as he claimed in a privileged speech to be the first senator in the country “to become a victim of cyber bullying”.
“Through the blogs, Facebook and Twitter, I became the center of a smear campaign and malicious attacks by various people. This is probably their strategy especially since they have millions in funds. If you can’t kill the message, kill the messenger.”
That is probably part of the reason why he doesn’t get it.
Consider this report from the Inquirer:
“I can’t see the logic,” said Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III when asked to react to media protests regarding the dangers and possible unconstitutionality of extending libel laws to new social media in the new Cybercrime Prevention Act.
“If mainstream media are prevented by law from cursing and engaging in character assassination, why should those in the social media and in the Internet be exempted from such accountability,” said Sotto, who had proposed the extension of the Act’s coverage to include libel.
“What’s so special about (mainstream journalists) that they have those prohibitions, and that they (social media bloggers) don’t?” Sotto had insisted in a recent interview.
Sotto had complained of being the victim of “cyber bullying” after he was pilloried in social media for allegedly “plagiarizing” online blogs in support of his objections to the reproductive health (RH) bill.
“All the crimes punishable under the Revised Penal Code are included. Now just because they (bloggers) are now accountable under the law on libel, they are again angry with me? Libel has always been a crime,” Sotto told reporters before the start of a Senate session last week.
“The regular media can’t curse and can’t engage in character assassination because they have accountability. Those in the social media don’t have that… Now that they are already covered, pumapalag sila (they are protesting)? I can’t see the logic.”
Indeed, Sotto doesn’t get it.
The new law is very dangerous to individual rights and freedom because it was poorly crafted and that many of its provisions are vague, poorly defined, arbitrary, non-objective and ambiguous.
For example, the new law’s “take down” clause under Section 19 states that the Department of Justice has the power to issue an order to “restrict or block access” to computer data considered as “prima facie” in violation of the law’s provisions. This means that any blog post, Facebook status or note, or video clips, which appear to be in breach with the law could be easily ordered blocked by the justice department.
Here’s a good explanation from a Filipino lawyer:
Why is Section 19 dangerous? Consider the following:
You are an ordinary citizen enjoying the interactive power of your computer and the social media. You share an article in Facebook posted by somebody strongly criticizing a high public official. You share it everyday for one week so that, in case, some of your contacts miss it, there will always be an opportunity to immediately find and read it. The article included some unpleasant remarks directed toward the criticized public official.
Then the criticized-public official reads the article in your Facebook page.
He then approaches the Secretary of Justice. He shows the messages to the Secretary who agrees that there appears to be prima facie evidence (not even proof beyond reasonable doubt) of a libelous statement in the article which is punishable under Section 4 (4) of the new Cybercrime Law. The Secretary, using his or her Section 19-power under the Cybercrime Law, issues an ORDER blocking access to your computer data. Immediately, without any warning, your right to communicate was abated and the opportunity to access and see your stored-information snuffed.
What senator Sotto and his colleagues do not understand is that the new law is all about state control and arbitrary limitation of individual rights and freedom.
Sotto argued that since the “mainstream media are prevented by law from cursing and engaging in character assassination”, anyone who goes online should also be covered by our libel laws. Worse, the law increases the penalty for online libel to “one degree higher than provided for by the [RPC for libel committed in traditional media].”
But I do get it.
Sotto simply wants to criminalize ‘online libel’ to promote responsible speech and to prevent ‘irresponsible speech’. Perhaps he strongly believes that ‘freedom’ must be abridged or limited to protect other people from being victimized by cyber-bullies and irresponsible bloggers and online users.
Yes, to statists like Sotto, freedom is the enemy that must be effectively controlled by the state in the name of the greater good. This is why touchy and oversensitive people should not be running for public office. If Sotto can’t take the political heat, then he should step down. Imagine if we keep on electing oversensitive politicians. That means we would have more laws in the future designed to rob us of our remaining rights and freedom.
Here, I’d like to inform my readers that I am strongly against libel laws because they limit people’s right to free speech.
I stated in a previous blog the following:
Free speech has two underlying attributes— man’s freedom to think and to act. The first attribute postulates that man cannot be free if priori restrictions were imposed on him in order to control his thoughts or cognition. Before man can express his views or opinions about any social, political, religious or scientific issues, he must first exercise his freedom of thought. The second attribute posits that man should be free to act or to express his views or opinions without any form of restriction. Thus, free speech means freedom from restraints and freedom from subsequent retribution.
The ongoing attack on free speech in many countries today is mainly due to people’s ignorance of the proper concept of rights and freedom. There are two types of enemies of free speech who seek to rob the individual of his freedom to think and to act: first, the advocates of political correctness, and second, the advocates of thought control. It is important to grasp the nature of the battle of these two anti-free speech camps in order to properly understand their strategic means to attack rights and freedoms.
Very clearly, Sotto, President Aquino and the lawmakers who voted for the law are proponents or advocates of thought control.
The new law is a prior restraint, and I strongly agree with Sen. Teofisto Guingona III that it simply seeks to legislate morality. It is designed to legislate people’s behavior according to the will or whims of its makers.
In the words of Guingona, “No one has the right to say what is moral and what is immoral and impose it and it make it a crime.”
Senator Edgardo Angara said that new law seeks to protect our cyberspace. This blogger strongly disagrees. The cyberspace must first be protected against our own government!
Unfortunately, we have politicians and a President who naively believe they have a right to legislate not only morality, but also how and what we think.