InterAksyon – Marcos bill lightening penalties for online offenses stuck at committee level

By Ernie Reyes | InterAksyon

Featured-Image-Journal-OnlineMANILA, Philippines — A bill filed by Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. that seeks to bring down the penalties for crimes committed online to make these at par with those in the Revised Penal Code has been stuck at the committee level, with no hearing scheduled since the measure was filed almost eight months ago.

According to Senate Legislative Information Service, Marcos filed Senate Bill No. 11, or “An Act Amending Section 6 of Republic Act 10175 (the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012), otherwise known as An Act Defining Cybercrime, Providing for Prevention, Investigation and Imposition of Penalties Therefore and for Other Purposes,” was filed on July 1, 2013.

Twenty-two days after, the bill was referred to the committee on science and technology, chaired by Senator Ralph Recto, as the primary committee, and the committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes.

Explaining why he filed the measure, Marcos said Marcos imposing stiffer penalties for crimes defined under the Revised Penal Code and special laws but committed on the Internet goes against the principle of justice and equality, as well as sound public policy.

“The Internet, particularly social media, is the closest thing we have to Athenian brand of democracy where everyone can speak his mind freely. I think the Senate should give a high priority to bills seeking to protect freedom of expression in cyberspace,” Marcos said.

“If a crime is committed by, through and with the use of information and communications technologies, then the penalties provided under the present laws should be imposed accordingly and should not be increased solely on the ground that the crime was perpetrated through the use of cyberspace,” Marcos said.

Following the outcry against the Supreme Court ruling on the cybercrime law, which upheld most of the controversial statute’s provisions, including the stiffer penalties for offenses committed online, Marcos urged the committee on science and technology to immediately tackle his bill.

Much of the outrage has focused on the provision on online libel, which imposes far harsher penalties for the offense if committed on the Internet than if through the traditional media.

The high court did strike down the “take-down clause” that would have allowed government agents to block or restrict access to online materials even without a warrant, and the provision allowing “real-time” data collection.

“With the far-reaching effects of cyberspace, almost everything could be committed through the list of information and communications technologies. Such broad nature of the Internet however, should not serve as a blanket authority on the part of the government to transgress the rights of its citizens,” Marcos said.

He said that advanced technology should not be considered as a threat or bane that should be avoided.

“Instead, it should be utilized as an instrument in reaching out to a greater number of people for a common welfare,” Marcos said.

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