Stupid, Totalitarian Cybercrime Law Backfires!
I don’t know if the lawmakers who pushed and voted for the controversial Cybercrime law that penalizes online libel and other poorly, vaguely defined cyber crimes are either stupid or have totalitarian tendencies– or both.
A few days after the passage of the Orwellian measure that gives both prosecutorial and quasi-judicial power to the Department of Justice to issue an order to “restrict or block access” to computer data considered as “prima facie” in violation of the law’s provisions, a number of senators who supported the new law have started to distance themselves from it. To appease the outraged public, some senators, like ‘high class trapo‘ (translation: traditional politician) Francis Escudero, even claimed they failed to actually read some of the law’s most contentious provisions. Who are they trying to fool?
Escudero now proposed to change some of the law’s most punitive provisions like the provision that imposes criminal liability in online libel. The law increases the penalty for online libel to “one degree higher than provided for by the [RPC for libel committed in traditional media].” Escudero wants to replace criminal liability with ‘civil liability’, which means there will be no penalty of imprisonment for those found guilty of online libel.
It was a mistake, he said. But still I am not buying it! He simply had to recant his position for political self-preservation. What a typical ‘high class’ trapo.
“I don’t want to give any reason or motive (why some senators inserted that provision),” Escudero explained.
“I will just admit our shortcomings, personally, because I can’t speak for other senators,” he added.
Escudero, who filed a separate bill decriminalizing libel, confessed his failure to notice the new law’s provision imposing criminal liability on libel.
But he vowed to make up for his mistake, disclosing he has taken steps to file another bill that would amend the recently-signed law.
“We are now studying filing an amendatory law this early to repeal that provision just to be consistent with my bill,” Escudero revealed.
He expressed hope it would replace criminal with civil liability on those who will commit libel under the anti-cybercrime law.
“I’ll take out the criminal liability but the civil liability provision will be intact, meaning no jail penalty,” said the senator.
On the other hand, controversial Sen. Tito Sotto has finally admitted he is one of two senators who inserted the libel clause in the law.
From this source:
In a September 28 article, cbsnews.com’s Barnaby Lo quoted Sotto saying, “Yes, I did it. I inserted the provision on libel. Because I believe in it and I don’t think there’s any additional harm.”
Sotto earlier said he supports the libel clause in the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 (Republic Act 10175) to “level the playing field” between journalists and social media users.
Sotto was involved in a controversy recently for allegedly plagiarizing blog posts of American blogger Sarah Pope and a speech of the late US Senator Robert Kennedy.
The senator claimed he became a victim of “cyber-bullying” following uproar from netizens.
But Sotto has said the libel clause, under Section 4-C(4), is not meant to “curtail press freedom” but to protect ordinary people who are “victims of online attacks, character assassination and the like from people who do not observe the standards of journalism.”
Perhaps Sotto thought his decision would serve his self-interest. What he didn’t know is that his stupid decision is utterly politically self-destructive. It would not serve his political or personal interest in the long run.
Sotto said that “once the Cybercrime bill is enacted into law, they (bloggers and netizens) would be responsible for what they say and write.” Yeah right! And it’s our responsibility as voters to see him go.
Hit the road, Tito!
Meanwhile, self-confessed ‘libertarian’ Sen. Teofisto Guingona, filed a petition before the Supreme Court to contest the legality or constitutionality of some of the law’s questionable provisions that violate the constitutional-guaranteed freedom of speech and expression.
Sen. Guingona made the petition to correct the overly vague and oppressive provisions on libel, which makes a fatal step backwards.
He opposed the passage of the bill in the Senate but was outvoted. Now, he is pushing to strike the contested provisions in the newly-enacted law through the Supreme Court.
However, the Senator clarified that a cybercrime prevention act is necessary in the Philippines. Unfortunately, the recently-passed law contains confusing and vague provisions that suppresses the citizens’ right to freedom of speech and expression.
Sen. Guingona pinpointed that he is contesting the particular law, first due to its vagueness where there is no limitations against liability,” he said. “Without a clear definition of the crime of libel and the persons liable, virtually, any person can now be charged with a crime -even if you just like, retweet or comment on an online update or blog post containing criticisms.
Second, Sen. Guingona added that the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 is unfair because cyber-libel gets graver punishment. It also demonizes technology and sends the message that the computer user is more evil than those who write on traditional media.
Punishment for traditional print media libel is up to four years and two months while online libel is punishable by 12-year imprisonment period.
Third, Sen. Guingona said that this new law is oppressive. A person can be prosecuted for libel under the Revised Penal Code and libel under the Cybercrime Prevention Act. This is contrary to the 1987 Constitution which protects its people against double jeopardy.
He encourages the online community to join in the protest in order for their voices to be heard against the new oppressive law.
The Cybercrime law must be repealed, not changed or amended, because it is a very dangerous political measure that can be used by any potential tyrant or ideologue to limit or even negate our constitutionally-protected rights and freedom.
Here is the list of the totalitarian Senators who voted for the Cybercrime Law:
- Loren Legarda
- Francis Escudero
- Gregorio Honasan II
- Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III
- Pia Cayetano, Bong Revilla Jr.
- Jinggoy Ejercito-Estrada
- Panfilo Lacson
- Lito Lapid
- Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos
- Ralph Recto
- Manny Villar
- Tito Sotto