Cybercriminals-A A +A
Sunday, September 30, 2012
WHAT nutcase would oppose the fight against online pornography, hacking, identity theft and spamming? Or disagree to equip the Philippine National Police with the legal tools to stamp out internet crime?
But maybe we should, since the letter of Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 (RA 10175) has gone overboard with a last minute clause. Sen. Vicente “Tito” Sotto inserted a rider that lumped online libel with cybersex, child porn and advertising spam. Talk about mixing apples and oranges, oil with water.
Why the big to-do with Sotto’s libel clause which, save for Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, all senators and PNoy have approved? A chill in our spine. Exactly how Brad Adams, Asia director for New York-based Human Rights Watch, described RA 10175’s “chilling effect” on Filipino netizens.
The Philippines has one of the world’s highest per capita rates of Facebook and Twitter users. A third of the country’s nearly 100 million people use the internet, with 96 percent of them on Facebook. Millions of users are about to be classified as “criminals” starting this month for the flimsiest reasons.
Facebook friend and blogger journalist Raissa Robles wrote in 2006 how then Presidential spouse José Miguel Arroyo filed an P11 million libel damages suit against columnist Lito Banayo for denigrating his “rotundity” by describing Mike Arroyo as “el esposo gordo” (the fat spouse). That’s libel, huh?
I maintain a Facebook account that I use to pursue my causes on the environment, human rights, peace and good governance. Now after October 3, 2012 when Malacañang starts to enforce this harsh law, I face the possibility of getting sued because I posted something on Sotto or Associate Mariano del Castillo on their plagiarism. Why, I could get hauled to the courts if I call PNoy a “calvo.”
Sed lex, dura lex. The law is harsh but it is the law. RA 10175 is harsh, indeed. If convicted on the basis of my Facebook posts, I could spend a maximum jail time of 12 years and pay P1 million, all because some onion-skinned government official disliked my Facebook posts.
Compare that to newspaper editors, reporters and columnists in print or broadcast media who get a slap on the wrist with prison terms of just four years and fines of P6,000.
Maybe I should stick to writing columns in Sun Star Bacolod. On the other hand, I’ll be in the privileged company of the country’s best intellectuals and libertarians who will find themselves in the same fix.
Criminal cases under oral defamation, slander or even grave threats are “mediatable” cases forwarded to the Philippine Mediation Center because their jail terms go for months—far less than the maximum penalty of six years. But libel under the Cybercrime law could land straight in the courts.
Netizens, refuse to play the role of the three monkeys who refuse to see, hear or speak no evil. My Facebook friend UP law professor Harry Roque Jr. and a group of journalists, bloggers and lawyers filed a protest in the Supreme Court, slamming the government for criminalizing libel on the internet, when the United Nations had already pointed out that our libel law under the Revised Penal Code is “incompatible” with the Filipino’s freedom of expression.
It gets worse. In telephone wiretapping, police authorities need a court warrant. But the new law allows authorities to collect data from personal user accounts on social media and listen in on voice/video applications, such as Skype, without a warrant.
The libel clause violates our Bill of Rights whether Section 1 (8) of the 1935 Commonwealth Constitution, Section 9 of the 1973 Marcos martial law constitution, or Section 4 of the current version that say “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the Government for redress of grievances.”
Let us heed Thomas Paine, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, who said: “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” A sound piece of advice if we want to retain our freedoms—whether in the real or online world.
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Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on October 01, 2012.