Libel in cyberspace
Published by the Visayan Daily Star Publications, Inc.
|NINFA R. LEONARDIA|
Editor-in-Chief & President
NIDA A. BUENAFE
MAJA P. DELY
ANTONIO L. LEONARDIA|
Outrage is growing over the new cybercrime law among netizens and rights groups protesting the blanket provision that puts the country’s outdated criminal libel law into force in cyberspace. The law will allow authorities to collect data from personal user accounts on social media and listen in on voice/video services without a warrant. It will also impose tougher penalties compared to libel in traditional media, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has assured that the public that constitutional rights will be protected under Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act.
Five groups have already filed petitions before the Supreme Court questioning the constitutionality of some provisions of the cybercrime law, saying that they infringe on the freedom of expression, due process, equal protection and privacy of communication. In response, De Lima says that any power or authority granted to the Department of Justice will be exercised judiciously and prudently within the standards set forth in the law and with due regard to fundamental, human rights of individuals.
Until the Supreme Court comes up with a decision regarding the questioned provisions of the cybercrime law, the Filipino online community, which is ironically among the most progressive and the biggest in the world; will have to take De Lima’s word that she will not allow the abusive provisions of the law to be used to cow what used to be free and vigorous online discussions among Filipinos.
The questioned contents of the new cybercrime law puts at stake the credibility of many of our Senators when it comes to the task of legislation. Only one Senator, Teofisto Guingona, opposed the law while the rest signed it, only to disassociate themselves from it after the public backlash erupted. If our senators were doing their job properly, how could such a contentious provision slip through? Are they that negligent when it comes to due diligence or were they trying to protect selfish interests by consciously allowing to the cyber libel provision slip through?
Protestors claims that instead of propelling our country forward, its provisions can send us back to the Dark Ages. The three branches of government need to listen to the people and act accordingly on the points aired for and against this cybercrime law.*