TARLAC -- A House bill draft amending two laws penalizing cybercrimes seeks the repeal of provisions on libel.

The draft bill merging four House bills amending Republic Act 10175, known as the “Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012”, and RA 8792 or the “Electronic Commerce Act” and repealing Section 4 (c)4 of RA 10175 and Section 33(a) of RA 8792.

A technical working group (TWG) of the House committee on information and communications technology chaired by Representative Victor Yap (Third District, Tarlac) is now in the process of drafting the bill consolidating House Bills 2096, 6881, 3295 and 6342 authored by representatives Antonio Tinio (Party-list, ACT Teachers), Yap, Evelina Escudero (1st District, Sorsogon) and Rodel Batocabe (Party-list, AKO Bicol), respectively.

The TWG is co-chaired by representatives Mariano Michael Velarde, Jr. (Party-list, Buhay) and Xavier Jesus Romualdo (Lone District, Camiguin)

The bills are seeking the repeal of the provisions on libel over its chilling effect on the exercise of free online expression.

“It is submitted that any form of libel is a form of abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, of press (Section 4, Article III of the Constitution). Nonetheless, the bill does not negate civil liability in case the elements of libel subsist, which is but in consonance with the provisions of the Civil Code on Human Relations, specifically Articles 19 to 21 thereof,” said Escudero.

Tinio said his proposal seeks the repeal or amendment of what they consider as contentious provisions of RA 10175 which cast a chilling effect over the exercise of free online expression.

Yap, meanwhile, said the bill intends to empower law enforcement agencies by mandating the Philippine National Police, National Bureau of Immigration, and the Department of Justice to create their own cyber-crime divisions to ensure the strict implementation of RA 10175.

Batocabe, Escudero, Tinio and Yap are seeking the repeal of Section Sec. 4(c)4 and amendment of Sections 3, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 15, 19, 23, 24, 25, 26, and 28 of RA 10175 in their respective bills.

In the 2016-2017 Cybercrime Report, Yap said the NBI Cybercrime Division and the PNP Anti-Cyber Crime Group received a total of 3,951 complaints and cyber-related offenses in 2016.

“This is more than 50 percent higher than the number of complaints received in 2015 which totaled 2,567. We can only expect this number to rise as people are becoming more and more dependent on the internet,” said Yap. (PR)