Resolution of the Cebu Citizens-Press Council questioning provisions on Internet libel in the new Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012-A A +A
Sunday, September 30, 2012
 The Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 signed into law by President Benigno Aquino III on Sept. 12, 2012 penalizes online libel;
 Republic Act 10175 merely refers to Art. 355 of the Revised Penal Code and applies it to acts "committed through a computer system or any other similar means which may be devised in the future" without clearly defining the crime, a serious omission since Internet libel, given the technology's peculiarities, is different from other kinds of libel;
 The new law would punish anyone using the Internet, without specifying whether a person who merely tweets or otherwise comments on an "offensive" material is liable, and is thus ambiguous;
 The said law inexplicably also increases the penalty for computer-related libel, as aptly noted by the Human Rights Watch based in New York:
the minimum raised 12 times, from six months to six years; the maximum doubled from six years to 12 years. It is oppressive and discriminatory as it makes Internet libel a bigger crime than print or broadcast libel. A complainant would use the law, instead of the Revised Penal Code, to go after a journalist whose work is also published online;
 It runs counter to the growing consensus in Congress, as evidenced by various bills filed for the purpose, and the increasing clamor of the press and other sectors for the Philippines to honor the guarantee of free expression in the Constitution and human rights treaties signed by the Government;
 Republic Act 10175 also empowers the Department of Justice, on its own and without court process, to order the shutdown of any website it finds libelous, which will have the same effect as padlocking a newspaper plant or broadcast station.
The Internet, as a media platform or vehicle, is equally protected under the constitutional guarantee of free speech and free press.
Considering further that
 CCPC in a resolution adopted during its 10th quarterly en banc meeting on March 24, 2008 urged Congress to retain libel as a crime but remove the jail sentence as penalty, which, the Council believes, would temper the law's harshness without losing accountability;
 The Council agrees with the need to curb excesses in the social media, as it is regulated in mainstream media, but the law on Internet libel must be so crafted as to consider unique attributes of the platform or vehicle, not only to balance right to free speech against right to protect one's integrity and privacy but also to assure enforcement in the new media;
 The provision on Internet libel under the new law violates the constitutional guarantee of free speech and free press, due process of law, and equal protection of the law, aside from being unclear about innocent participants in the conversation on the web.
NOW THEREFORE be it RESOLVED, as it is hereby resolved by members of the Cebu Citizens-Press Council that:
 It strongly and earnestly ask the President and Congress to review the Cybercrime Act of 2012 and amend the objectionable provisions in it, especially those on Internet libel, with regard to definition, penalty, and the power of DOJ to shut down a website;
 It suggest that Congress hold more public hearings, if necessary, for the disputed portions of the law to be discussed with affected stakeholders, including journalists, bloggers and other Internet users and media organizations and technical groups that have been studying the Internet technology and its impact on society and government;
 Copies of this resolution be provided to legislators and media organizations concerned and publicized in regular media and the CCPC website.
APPROVED THIS 28th day, of September 2012, after it was circulated among members of the Council in Cebu City, Philippines.
Pachico A. Seares