Online libel 2

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By Carlos Legaspi Jr.

Questions that Matter

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


MY CONGRATULATIONS to the new set of officers of the oldest Philippine press club – the Negros Press Club (NPC) led by Ms. Carla Cañet. It is timely that the issue of the “Cybercrime Law and the online libel” is still on the hot pan or grid iron during their induction last Saturday, March 1.

I wish that the members and officers have discussed thoroughly the implications of the cybercrime law to the media profession. The provision on “online libel” is not so fearsome but it really destroys and encroaches our freedom of speech, expression and press. I cannot understand what this government is afraid of. I cannot see the reason why until today, no action has been done for the passage of the “Information Bill.” It seems that there are more priority bills than the most needed “Information Bill.”

Anyway back to the game board. There are provisions of the Cybercrime Law that were declared constitutional and there are others declared negative or unconstitutional but the High Court did not make a final conclusion as to the constitutionality of the whole law. I am not sure today, if one could really be hurt by this law.

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For the sake of argument, the media should be alarmed by the passage of the provision. Members of media should be aware of their roles. A good friend of mine shared to me that in the work of mass media one should take into consideration the hazards of the profession and should always be ready to back up their opinions with data and information.

Libel could be done to public person on public affairs; private person on public affairs; public person on private affairs; and private person on private affairs. Media should be concerned of public persons doing public affairs and private persons on public affairs. Matters on private lives and private actions are left alone and are not media concerns. I think if we follow this, we have no worry as to accusation of whether direct or online libel charges. We, in media, should always practice prudence in delivering information to the public. If we encroach the privacy of whether public or private persons, then we are now liable for libel.

The role of the media is to inform, to educate and to entertain. Information dissemination or access to public information is a right of every individual in a democratic society thus, we in media should deliver proper and correct information to the listeners or to our clientele. We must be very careful that the issue we tackle are issues of public concern. With this, we are doing our duty to deliver information to the public. To educate is a great role. This is an offshoot of our inherent right to access to public information.

In democratic states, the government has the obligation to inform the people. Media is one of the tools in the dissemination of information. For this, media is considered the fourth estate. So, we need to deliver and educate the public. The data should be complete and well researched so as not to mislead the people. The last role needs no explanation and expansion for it is really a very simple role – to entertain.

With the foregoing arguments, it is clear that the declaration of the constitutionality and legality of the online libel provisions, violates the basic rights of every journalist, columnist, commentator, broadcaster, and social media user. I rest my case.

St. Ezekiel Moreno, St. Lorenzo Ruiz and St. Pedro Calungsod, Blessed John Paul II, Mons. John Liu and Su and Sir Faraon Lopez, pray for us.

Belated birthday greetings to UNO-Recoletos president, Rev. Fr. Emeterio Buñao, OAR.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on March 04, 2014.

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