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Manila Standard Today - Solons to de-criminalize libel in cybercrime law

In The News
3 July 2013

By Macon Ramos-Araneta | Manila Standard Today

Featured-image-Manila-Standard-TodayTwo senators are moving to delete certain provisions of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, which was signed into law by President Aquino in September last year but its implementation was deferred by the Supreme Court on the strength of a temporary restraining order.

One of them is Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. whose proposal will likely trigger renewed debates on the anti-cybercrime law.

The other is Senator Francis Escudero, who like Marcos, is pushing to de-criminalize the libel provision.

Marcos, in the explanatory note to the bill, said he wanted to delete the provision which imposes a penalty for cyber libel higher than the penalty imposed under the Revised Penal Code for libel committed through the traditional media like print (newspaper) and broadcast (radio and television).

“Imposing a higher penalty on crimes defined under the Revised Penal Code and special laws committed through the Internet is not in accordance with the principle of justice and equality, and sound public policy,” he said.

Escudero for his part had filed an amendatory measure to the Cybercrime Law to remove the criminal liability on libel.

He said this would be in consonance with his bill filed in 2007 seeking to de-criminalize libel. “If there’s a liability on the part of media people, it should only involve the civil aspect and not criminal. It should only be damages and no imprisonment,” he said.

He said there was an oversight when he signed the final copy of the proposed measure submitted to the Palace and approved by the President. In his bill, Escudero noted that “any form of libel is a form of “abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, of press .”

With today’s modern technology, he noted that the crime of libel does not only prove antiquated but to the contrary even overarching as a state tool to restrain freedom of speech.

“This is quite evident with the passage of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, Republic Act (RA) No. 10175, which broadens the coverage of the crime of libel to include even those with the use of “computer system or other similar means that may be devised in the future,” said Escudero.