SC defers action on petitions vs cybercrime law-A A +A
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
MANILA (Updated 1:37 p.m.) -- Justices of the Supreme Court called for more time to deliberate the contentious provisions of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, which will take effect on Wednesday.
Court sources said the magistrates deferred the discussion on the request of seven different petitioners to stop government agencies from implementing the law recently signed by President Benigno Aquino III.
Four of the 14 justices were absent during the Court's regular session on Tuesday with Associate Justices Mariano del Castillo and Diosdado Peralta on official business trip abroad.
The petitions specifically challenged the constitutionality of Sections 4, 5, 6, 7, 19 and 20 of the law, which they saw as violations of freedom of speech, right to privacy, illegal searches and seizures and double jeopardy.
Section 4(c)4 provides the definition of internet libel; Section 5 deals with aiding, abetting or attempting the commission of cybercrime. Sections 6 and 7 provide for penalties for violations of traditional crimes committed using information communication technology and the relationship with existing crimes.
Section 19 allows the restriction or blocking access to computer data found to be in violation of the law, while Section 20 penalizes failure to comply with orders from law enforcement authorities.
As this developed, Senator Francis Escudero filed Senate Bill 3288 aimed at decriminalizing libel under the cybercrime law.
Speaking to reporters after formalizing his reelection bid at the Commission on Elections (Comelec), the senator said the proposed measure will push for fines rather than jail terms for those found guilty of libel.
For traditional print media, the penalty for libel is up to four years and two months while online libel is punishable by 12-year imprisonment period.
"A strong media could give great service to the Filipino people in providing an effective mechanism of complete and fearless transparency over the excesses of government in the exercise of its powers and prerogatives," the bill's explanatory note read.
Section 4 (c) of the law also broadens the coverage of libel which now includes those with the use of "computer system or other similar means that may be devised in the future."
Escudero had said it was a personal oversight on his part that the above clause was inserted in the committee report when the Senate voted for its passage.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima meanwhile on Monday said her department has opposed Internet libel since 2007. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)