Social media ‘need rules’-A A +A
Monday, October 8, 2012
CEBU – Governor Gwendolyn Garcia supports the inclusion of online libel in the Cybercrime Prevention Act, saying the law should be enforced and tested before any amendments are pursued.
“I support President (Benigno) Aquino’s stand. Freedom of speech and expression must always be tempered with responsibility and accountability,” said the governor in a text message to Sun.Star Cebu.
At least 10 petitions have been filed asking the Supreme Court to strike down Republic Act 101751, which the president signed into law in mid-September. The law also provides penalties for cybersex, identity theft, and online fraud.
Interviewed separately, former Akbayan party-list representative Risa Hontiveros-Baraquiel said the law should be amended right away because of its unconstitutional provisions.
“The cybercrime bill started with a good intention, which was to combat cyber-bullying, crimes in the Internet, including the terrible crime of human trafficking. But what happened is that not only was the provision on cyber-bullying removed, unconstitutional provisions were also inserted,” Baraquiel said in an interview.
“While there is a libel law that can be applied against broadcast or print, the social media are practically unregulated,” Governor Garcia said in an interview after she filed her certificate of candidacy last Friday. She is running for the third district’s congressional seat, which will be her first legislative position if she wins.
The controversial law expands libel, as defined in the Revised Penal Code, to the Internet but provides for penalties one degree tougher. In the code, the penalty for a libel conviction is six months and a day up to six years of imprisonment or fine of P200 to P6,000, or both penalties.
In the Cybercrime Prevention Act, the prison term is six to 12 years in jail, in addition to other penalties.
Garcia said the uproar of the bloggers and users of Twitter and Facebook users is understandable, yet she believes it is time that regulations on social media be introduced. The governor is also a Twitter user (@gwengarcia1ph).
“Perhaps, it’s really (the) time that there must be some form of regulation because while we will always uphold the freedom of expression, such freedom comes with responsibility and accountability,” she said.
“All other freedoms are guaranteed by the Constitution but at the same time, there are laws that define our freedom; we need parameters and standards by which freedom may be exercised,” the governor added.
The governor’s brother, Rep. Pablo John Garcia (Cebu Province, 3rd district), earlier said he voted for the passage of the House’s version of the cybercrime law.
He is favor of amending it to harmonize with the Revised Penal Code and the pending bills to decriminalize libel.
The provision on Internet libel was not included in the House version of the Cybercrime Prevention Act whose main authors included Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. It was introduced in the Senate.
“Let the law first take its course. Then we will see if amendments are in order,” Governor Garcia said in a text message.
The law took effect last October 3, after the Supreme Court deferred discussion on the petitions filed by different groups.
The petitions questioned some provisions that violate the freedom of speech, right to privacy, illegal searches and seizures and double jeopardy.
Baraquiel, who was in Cebu last Saturday, said that under the law, authorities can access private data or block access to databases even without a court order. The Senate candidate said the law also violates the people’s right to information.
She said that Akbayan has called on President Aquino to convene different sectors to craft the law’s implementing rules and regulations.
“Ang pinakamagandang nangyari in the aftermath of this danger is that ipinakita talaga ng mamamayan lalo na ng mga netizens yong pagpapahalaga sa kalayaan (The best thing that happened is that in the aftermath of this danger, the public, especially the netizens, were able to show how they value freedom),” she said.
Baraquiel said that though she is confident the Aquino administration will not use the law against the people, it still remains a threat to people’s constitutional rights. (FMG/RSB of Sun.Star Cebu)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 08, 2012.