Oro lawmaker ‘defends’ Cybercrime Prevention Act-A A +A
Friday, October 5, 2012
A CO-AUTHOR of the controversial Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act said Thursday that the new law should not be seen as a cause of offense to the Filipino people’s freedom of speech.
Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus B. Rodriguez (second district) defended the new law and said the provisions are “constitutional.”
Rodriguez co-authored the law along with his brother, Abante Mindanao Representative Maximo B. Rodriguez.
A clause in the law, particularly Section 4, Paragraph 4 of 10175 that broadens the coverage of libel, which now includes those with the use of computer system or other similar means, has sparked rage and resentment among different media organizations in the country, particularly bloggers.
A day after the Cybercrime Prevention Act took effect, 18 netizens, mostly bloggers, filed their own petition at the Supreme Court seeking to nullify the controversial new law signed by President Benigno Aquino III in September.
The group instantly served the President a copy of their petition via the Internet.
They also sent tweet to Aquino and also posted copies of the petition on President’s Facebook page.
Lawyer Bobby Goking, former president of the Cagayan de Oro Press Club (COPC), said what makes the new law more tragic is it incorporated libel of the Revised Penal Code.
Goking said the inclusion of libel among the crimes that may be committed with the use of computers poses a threat among media outlets with websites.
He pointed out that the cybercrime law is vague and there is no limitation against liability.
He added it is also oppressive as it can charge with two counts of libel and has graver punishment.
“Example, in the print media, if you are charged with libel because of the news report that was published in the newspaper, you can also be charged with another libel if the story is posted in the website,” Goking said.
Senator Francis Escudero filed a bill on Wednesday amending or repealing the provision of libel as a crime in the law.
Escudero, chair of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, said the particular provision in RA 10175 should be repealed as it runs contrary to his position as a principal author of a bill decriminalizing libel.
Section 4, Paragraph 4 of the Cybercrime Prevention law 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.”
According to Escudero, 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.
“This move is just being consistent with my original bill to decriminalize libel. At the very least, if at all, libel should just be made a civil liability,” he said.
Escudero added that if a person is proven to have besmirched someone, let the guilty party pay for damages.
However, he said it should be remembered that in libel, proof of the truth is defense.
But Rodriguez explained that all provisions included in the law are well within the Constitution.
In 2010, Escudero filed Senate Bill 2162 decriminalizing libel to accord greater protection to freedom of speech and expression, either those done in writing or other similar means, by taking away the threat or fear of incarceration, restraint of liberty and fine.
“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,” he said. (Annabelle L. Ricalde)
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on October 05, 2012.