Cayetano: Repeal online libel clause in cybercrime law

Saying it is one of the reasons he did not sign the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano is strongly urging his colleagues in the 16th Congress to repeal the online libel provision in the controversial law recently upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court.

In an interview with Senate reporters, Cayetano pointed out that the said provision suppresses internet users’ freedom of speech.

At the same time, Cayetano pushed for the enactment of his bill which seeks to decriminalize libel and all forms of criminal defamation as it is restrictive of the freedom of expression, much like the provisions on online libel in the much-debated Republic Act 10175.

“What is constitutional and what is legal is not necessarily what is moral and what is right. The Supreme Court based it on the legality of the provision. But on the wisdom of the law, that is for Congress to determine,” Cayetano said.

“Kung magiging final yan, trabaho ng Kongreso kaagad na i-repeal o i-modify iyan nang hindi naman ganoon ang epekto.”

Cayetano is pushing for the approval of Senate Bill No. 249, which in part mandates the repeal of Sec. 4 (c) 4 of Chapter II of RA 10175 or the online libel provision of the anti-cybercrime law.

The bill, which he filed in July 1, 2013 during the first day of the 16th Congress, also calls for the repeal of Sections 5 and 7 of RA 10175 which was already declared as unconstitutional in part by the SC in its decision last Monday.

He also filed SB 248, which also seeks the repeal of the “take-down” provision of the law that is now also rendered unconstitutional by the High Court.

In urging his colleagues to support SB 249, the Senate leader warned of the dire effects of the online libel provision not only on the freedom of speech of netizens, but on the Philippine justice system in general.

“Napakahirap ng magiging epekto noon. Kahit anong sabihin mo na mao-offend ang ibang tao, pwede kang kasuhan ng libel. That will kill the freedom of speech and the creativity that we have in the internet,” he said.

“Kung magkakasuhan tayong lahat – halimbawa, kung may nilagay sa Twitter tapos ni-retweet mo, o kaya may nilagay sa website – mapupuno ang mga korte, walang mangyayari kung hindi ang mga piskalya, walang ibang gagawin kung hindi mag-prosecute ng internet at social media libel cases.”

Cayetano further noted that although people are discouraged from making defamatory statements against others online, the internet should still be regarded as a different kind of medium in which anyone has the right to express their views and opinions.

“True, we should not libel each other in the internet. But it is also true that the internet is a different kind of medium… Hindi katulad yan, halimbawa, ng dyaryo. Kapag nilagay sa dyaryo, people will believe the credibility of the story, kaya dapat i-check muna ng mabuti ng mga journalist ang kanilang facts. But in the internet, anyone says anything,” he said.

On the other hand, Cayetano is also pushing for the enactment of Senate Bill 245, which seeks to decriminalize libel and defamation.

The bill, he said, will pave the way for the creation of a Civil Defamation Law which will only impose civil penalties in the stead of criminal sanctions on all forms of defamation.#