Petitioners vs cybercrime law to ask SC to reconsider online libel ruling

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/21 February) – Groups opposing Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 today said they will ask the Supreme Court to reconsider its ruling that online libel as provided for in said law is constitutional.

Nica Dumlao, Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA) program coordinator, said in a phone interview they will file a motion for reconsideration, as the law threatens to “harass human rights defenders or anyone critical of the government.”

“If this is upheld, what will happen to freedom of expression?”

Dumlao said the internet is a different playing field where the subjects of statements deemed libelous may answer at once unlike in channels mentioned in the Revised Penal Code, the law that defines traditional libel.

She added the petitioners will meet on Saturday, Feb. 22, in UP-Diliman for their next move on the case.

FMA is part of the Philippine Internet Freedom Alliance, a nationwide coalition of internet freedom advocates and one of the petitioners in the SC case.

The High Tribunal on Tuesday handed down the decision declaring as constitutional the provisions on online libel in RA 10175.

But Bayan Muna Rep. Karlos Isagani Zarate called the law a “curtailment of freedom of expression” and vowed that the battle to decriminalize libel will continue in Congress.

“We should not criminalize the act of expressing one’s opinion,” Zarate said in a phone interview. “If we feel slandered, one should only file civil damages against a person.”

He noted that several bills seeking to decriminalize libel have been filed in the House of Representatives.

He said the petitioners would still push for the repeal of the law, calling it “Jurassic” and a product of colonial jurisprudence. “We are in a modern world. Filipinos are now more assertive.”

The problem, he said, was in the implementation of existing national laws.

Zarate said other laws such as the Electronic Commerce Act and Anti-Wiretapping Act already protect citizens from abuse.

“What is lacking is the implementation of law enforcement agencies such as the Department of Justice. For example, for protection against sex videos, we have the Anti-Voyeurism Act,” the lawmaker said.

He added Bayan Muna and other petitioners have not officially received a copy of the decision.

The Philippine Press Institute (PPI) also called RA 10175 “Jurassic” and called for its repeal.

In a statement, PPI chair Jesus Dureza said his group was supporting the move to file a motion for reconsideration “to enable the Supreme Court to take a second look at its ruling.”

He added the people can also ask Congress to decriminalize libel and “remove the penal sanctions in all statute books that impinge on our inalienable freedom of the press and freedom of expression.”

Some senators, including the usually feisty Miriam Defensor-Santiago, have declared support to calls for the decriminalization of libel.

Santiago said the right to freedom of expression occupies the highest spot in the Bill of Rights, and that any law that curtails such right should be declared unconstitutional.

Meanwhile, Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte said he would “strictly implement” RA 10175 to protect women and children against abuse.

Aside from online libel, the SC decision also upheld the provisions penalizing cybersex.

“I will give no quarters,” Duterte said in an interview last Wednesday at the SMX Convention Center, SM Lanang Premier.

The mayor said he personally detests child abuse cases. “You are making a capital out of them,” he said. (MindaNews)