Lawmaker to file changes to anti-cybercrime law-A A +A
Thursday, September 27, 2012
MANILA -- Senator Francis Escudero said he will file an amendatory bill to the controversial Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, whose provision on online libel has pushed different groups to question its legality before the Supreme Court.
Section 4 (c) of the law broadens the coverage of libel to include those committed through a "computer system or other similar means that may be devised in the future."
Escudero said Thursday 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. If a person is proven to have besmirched someone, let the guilty party pay for damages. But it should be remembered that in libel, proof of the truth is defense," he said in a weekly press forum at the Senate.
Reports said it was Senate Majority Floor Leader Vicente Sotto III who inserted the provision on online libel but Escudero declined to confirm this.
"I don't have any personal knowledge why that provision was inserted. If I was aware about the clause, I could have opposed it outright because of my position on the libel law," he said.
For his part, Senator Teofisto Guingona III asked the High Court to stop the implementation of Sections 4 [c) 4, 5, 7 and 19.
Among others, Section 6 raises by one degree higher the penalties provided for by the Revised Penal Code for all crimes committed through and with the use of information and communications.
Section 7, meanwhile, provides that apart from prosecution under the assailed law, the offender can still be prosecuted for violations of the Revised Penal Code and other special laws.
Guingona said the law is unfair because cyber-libel gets graver punishment.
For traditional print media, the penalty for libel is up to four years and two months, while online libel is punishable by 12-year imprisonment period.
Also, Guingona said a person can be prosecuted for libel under the Revised Penal Code and libel under the Cybercrime Prevention Act. This is contrary to the 1987 Constitution, which protects an individual against double jeopardy.
"Our people, especially those in social media should not be forbidden from expressing their thoughts and opinions in cyberspace whether critical or not for fear of being labeled as cyber criminals," the 39-page petition read.
Earlier, similar petitions were filed by businessman Louis Biraogo, a group of journalists belonging to Alab ng Mamahayag and Jose Jesus Disini, the director of the Internet and Society Program of the University of the Philippines College of Law.
All petitions asked the SC to issue a temporary restraining order enjoining respondents, such as the Department of Justice and the Philippine National Police, from implementing the law. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)