Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Cybercrime Law and its Onerous Provisions on Libel

On Cybercrime Law of the Philippines

The Cybercrime Law and its Onerous Provision on Libel

The netizens of the Philippines expressed disgust in 2012 when President Benigno Aquino III signed into law Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of the Philippines and otherwise known as the cybercrime law. People from various groups --- journalists, bloggers, online writers, and internet users of social media sites, raised a howl in protest on the libel provision of the aforementioned law, fearing that the freedom of expression will be curtailed to silence the opposition.

Several court cases were filed in the Supreme Court to delete the onerous provision on libel, or if not, to totally scrap the entire cybercrime law.  Deliberations were made and it took two years for the high court magistrates to come up with a decision. The bad news for the protesters, is that the Supreme Court embank upheld the constitutionality of the provision for libel.  What this means is that, any write-up or statement in media that may be considered as unfounded or malicious can be subjected to infractions in libel law.

Filipino protest in opposition of Cybercrime Law
by Enigma=Chadto group/  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

The magistrates ruled that the filing of libel is made towards the original author of the article and not those who commented and share it in cyberspace. However, if additions were made to the post to insinuate additional materials to what was originally written, the republished article will be considered as an original material and the new author would likewise be subjected to libel charges.

Several journalists like the group, submitted questions for clarification from the magistrates. Among those that were touched, are public officials who are oftentimes subjected to intensive scrutiny by the public, due to the sensitivity of their positions. It was, however clarified that, the weight to negate the allegations for libel rest more on the government officials than those making the accusations. When the accused is a private citizen, the weight to negate the libel charges lies more on the accuser than the accused.

The implication of the cybercrime law still remains to be seen. How it will impact on the citizen’s right to free expression would lie entirely on how the law is applied. Meantime, everything is quiet until another unraveling hits the front pages to test the applicability of this law.


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