Faulty legislation-A A +A
Sunday, September 30, 2012
IF legislators were students, they would have received a failing mark and their work would have been returned to them for lack of effort or thought in their output.
Five petitions have been filed, so far, questioning before the Supreme Court the logic and constitutionality of a new law, the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 or Republic Act 10175. With online users, lawyers and journalists opposing provisions of the new law, calls have been made for voters to not re-elect these senators and congressmen in the elections in May 2013.
The law created online libel as a cybercrime but was vague on its definition, coverage, jurisdiction and penalty. The law goes against the call to decriminalize libel because it expands libel to online content. It makes online libel a bigger crime with a stiffer penalty than libel in newspapers and broadcast as defined in the Revised Penal Code. It empowers the Department of Justice (DOJ) to take down a website or any online account without need for a court order and block access to a website. Blocking access to a website is similar to government padlocking a newspaper’s printing plant.
The Cebu Citizens-Press Council joined those opposing the law when it issued last Friday a resolution calling on Congress and President Benigno Aquino III to review the law and amend it, especially the provisions on “Internet libel, with regard to definition, penalty, and the power of DOJ to shut down a website.”
Congress members who crafted the law have mostly been silent on their participation, except for Senator Francis Escudero who admitted to a “personal oversight” when the online libel clause was inserted in the committee report when the Senate voted for its passage. Escudero, in his blog at www.chizescudero.com, said he would file a bill to amend or repeal the provision on libel as a cybercrime.
Sen. Teofisto Guingona, the lone opponent to the bill when it was voted on in the Senate, was one of those who filed a petition before the Supreme Court to void questionable provisions in the law.
Sen. Vicente Sotto III, who had promised to fight back at cyber bullies, denied he inserted the libel clause in the deliberations at the last minute. He said he had no participation in the crafting of the law, except during plenary debates.
What happens during Congress deliberations on a proposed law? Do our legislators thoroughly study and discuss items on the table or do they simply follow party lines and sentiments in deciding for or against a new law? To write laws is still the main job of legislators. With the outcry against the cybercrime law, it seems they may be better at conducting investigations before television cameras and not at writing laws.
The controversy points to the need for vigilance in monitoring the work of Congress members in legislation.
The case of the faulty legislation on online libel raises the need to monitor the work of Congress members in making laws, in addition to looking into their net worth.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 30, 2012.