Netizen relieved SC struck down auto takedown clause in Cybercrime Law

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014


A BLOGGER expressed relief that the Supreme Court (SC) found unconstitutional a provision in the cybercrime law that allows authorities to take down or block online content without a court order.

Kevin Ray Chua described the SC decision in his Facebook account as a “good move.”

But lawyers have differing views on the SC decision upholding the constitutionality of all except three provisions of Republic Act (RA) 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

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Lawyer Francis Euston Acero, in his Twitter account, pushed for the passage of the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom (MCPIF) as an alternative to RA 10175.

Exemption

Acero, part of the group that drafted the MCPIF, said the proposal exempts expressions of protest and dissatisfaction with government from online libel.

Section 4 of the MCPIF “protects and promotes freedom of speech and expression on the Internet and protects the right of the people to petition the government through the Internet for redress of grievances.”

Acero said the MCPIF is the first crowdsourced bill in the country as it was prepared with inputs from different sectors and the online community.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago filed the proposed magna carta as Senate Bill 3327 on Nov. 12, 2012.

In a decision released yesterday, the SC declared most of the provisions of RA 10175 constitutional but struck down three provisions as unconstitutional.

Unconstitutional

Provisions declared unconstitutional apart from the automatic takedown clause are those pertaining to real-time collection of online data and on unsolicited commercial communication, like spam.

The SC upheld the Internet libel provision in RA 10175 but limited it to the author of the libelous statement. Those who comment on the statement or article cannot be held liable.

Joan Largo, dean of the University of San Carlos College of Law, said the discussion should be on whether or not government should penalize online statements and content.

“The question is whether government should penalize, given that most of the enlightened countries in the world have long decriminalized libel,” said Largo.

This, she added, should be tackled in Congress not in courts.

Abuses

Lawyer Mae Elaine Bathan, a law professor and Integrated Bar of the Philippines Cebu City Chapter head, welcomed the SC decision because it would “address abuses in the social media and the Internet.”

“However, I believe that a person who received and made comments to a libelous post should, to some extent, be made liable, but not necessarily at the same degree as the author,” she said.

She said a person who makes an equally libelous comment to a libelous online statement harbors malice, an important element in libel.

Lawyer Inocencio dela Cerna share’s Bathan’s opinion on the liabilities of those who comment or pass on a libelous statement.

Lawyer Democrito Barcenas said the SC decision “attempts to strike a balance between basic freedoms and the right of the State to control or supervise online technology.”

Jonathan Capanas, University of San Jose Recolletos College of Law dean, finds the SC
decision “reasonable” but he pointed out that finding the original author of a libelous statement or content can be difficult.

“It might end up as another law good only for the books but hard to enforce,” he said.

Lawyer Earl Bonachita said he advocating for the decriminalization of libel, which “unduly curtails one's freedom of expression.”

But even before the RA 10175 was passed on Sept. 12, 2012, some persons were charged in court in Cebu City for their posts in Facebook, a social networking site.

In July 2012, a woman faced trial after she allegedly posted messages on Facebook accusing another woman of immorality.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 19, 2014.

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