Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Philippine Cybercrime Law Impedes Freedom of Speech, Might be Declared Unconstitutional


With online protest over the enactment of RA 10175 reaching a height with anonymous hackers maiming the websites of several major government agencies, several groups have filed before the Supreme Court of the Philippines in order to nullify it and declare it void.

The primary content of the complaints involves the “libel” provision of the Philippine Cybercrime Law, which falls under Section 4 for punishable offenses.

The main attack lies in the impediment of free speech in the Internet as the libel clause is generally vague and unspecific about the acts to be prohibited considering that millions of netizens post and “published” innumerable amount of messages and ideas on a daily basis especially in networking accounts such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as thousands of bloggers and post commenters having their own personal Internet interface accounts.

As the “libel” clause may indeed impede basic freedom as guaranteed by our Constitution, then it may be in direct violation of it and may be declared unconstitutional.

The SC may declare the whole law as void and ineffectual or may just declare portion of it as unconstitutional and the law remains in effectivity for the remainder of its undisputed portions.

The Revised Penal Code defines “libel” as:

Art. 353. Definition of libel. — A libel is public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead.

Furthermore:

Art. 355. Libel means by writings or similar means. — A libel committed by means of writing, printing, lithography, engraving, radio, phonograph, painting, theatrical exhibition, cinematographic exhibition, or any similar means, shall be punished by prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods or a fine ranging from 200 to 6,000 pesos, or both, in addition to the civil action which may be brought by the offended party.
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Definitely, postings such as in Facebook and Twitter become public enough as this would be read and consumed by great number of readers.

In Daez vs. Court of Appeals (191 SCRA 61), the elements of libel had been laid down. "Thus, the elements of libel are: (a) imputation of a discreditable act or condition to another; (b) publication of the imputation; (c) identity of the person defamed; and, (d) existence of malice."

In the case of Alonzo vs. Court of Appeals (241 SCRA 51) for example, there is considered to be publication when the libelous remark had been communicated to a third person so written publication is not ultimately necessary for the crime of libel to take place.

And so with these provision of our penal laws, it is feared and anticipated that RA 10175 might be abused and utilized for harassments when certain comments and postings online would now be specifically be a source for cause of action in a libel case, when in fact our courts have been mounted with myriads of libel cases already, even portions of these complaints are of not legit causes but merely embarked upon for intent of harassment.

The instance of “online libel” would surely increase these species of actions ten-folds and would merely increase the backlogs of our courts.

These conditions are certainly detrimental to the public and to our legal system. It should be wise for the Supreme Court to nullify the libel clause of the Philippine Cybercrime Law.

(Graphics courtesy of 1M Filipino Netizens Against the Cybercrime Law Facebook Page)

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13 comments:

  1. I find it selfishness the author have obviously want to protect themselves

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    Replies
    1. That's a possible angle Chrisair...i should have thought about that.

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  2. I hope the new SC under Sereno's term make a stand on the unconstitutional provision of the law. I am wondering why nobody from the government has made a stand at this point.

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    Replies
    1. Maybe they themselves see the flaw. I am sure Sereno and the Supreme Court would soon act upon this monumental flaw in the cybercrime law...

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  3. i went emotional about this yesterday. And I told myself if this gets worse, i will deactivate my facebook account. Andaming magkakasakit sa puso nito. Itatago nalang ang galit.

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    1. Indeed Amor, these controversies concerning online libel brings lots of online anxiety.

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  4. This is really heart-breaking and alarming. The freedom that our ancestors have fought for - for centuries would be futile because of this selfish law.
    Let's pray that this will be amended with fairness to everyone.

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    Replies
    1. It's kind of careless for our lawmakers to ever have made this stupendous error, one that had become a big flak on their faces.

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    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete
  7. Glad that this law has not been enacted. By the way, for legal assistance, visit NDV Law.

    ReplyDelete