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Outrage over cybercrime law

MANILA, Philippines—A new cybercrime law in the Philippines that could see people jailed for 12 years for posting defamatory comments on Facebook or Twitter is generating outrage among netizens and rights groups.

The stated aim of the wide-ranging law is to tackle a multiplicity of online crimes, including pornography, hacking, identity theft and spamming, following police complaints that they lacked the legal tools to combat them.

However, the act also includes a provision that puts the country’s criminal libel law into force in cyberspace — but with far tougher penalties for Internet defamation than in traditional print media.

Anyone posting a libellous comment online, be it on Facebook, Twitter or anywhere else, faces a maximum prison sentence of 12 years and a fine of P1 million ($24,000).

Meanwhile, newspaper editors and other trained professionals working in traditional media face prison terms of just four years and fines of P6,000 for defamation.

The Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 also allows authorities to collect data from personal user accounts on social media and listen in on voice/video applications, such as Skype, without a warrant.

Prominent Manila blogger Noemi Dado, who edits a citizen media site called Blog Watch, said unwary teenagers retweeting or re-posting libellous material could find themselves facing the full force of the law.

“Not everyone is an expert on what constitutes libel. Imagine a mother like me, or teenagers and kids who love to rant. It really hits our freedoms,” Dado told Agence France-Presse.

While harsh criminal libel remains in force in other parts of Asia, Dado said the new law sent the wrong signal in a country that overthrew the military-backed Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship just 26 years ago.

Dado, a lawyer’s wife known online as the “momblogger”, is among a group of critics campaigning for the libel element of the cybercrime law to be repealed.

Bruce Adams, Asia director for New York-based Human Rights Watch, said the law was having a chilling effect in the Philippines, which, with its population of almost 95 million, is one of the world’s biggest users of Facebook and Twitter.

“Anybody using popular social networks or who publishes online is now at risk of a long prison term should a reader — including government officials — bring a libel charge,” Adams said.

Five petitions claiming the law is unconstitutional have been filed with the Supreme Court. The petitions all say the law infringes on freedom of expression, due process, equal protection and privacy of communication.

The lone opponent when the bill was voted on in the Senate, Senator Teofisto Guingona, filed one of the petitions.

“Without a clear definition of the crime of libel and the persons liable, virtually any person can now be charged with a crime — even if you just re-tweet or comment on an online update or blog post,” Guingona told the Supreme Court. “The questioned provisions… throw us back to the Dark Ages.”

The petitions all state that the law infringes on freedom of expression, due process, equal protection and privacy of communication.

Law professor Harry Roque from the University of the Philippines, who filed another, said the country was one of a shrinking number worldwide where defamation remained a crime punishable by prison.

He said the Philippines libel laws — part of a penal code that was drawn up 82 years ago — go against the trend in many advanced democracies, such as the United States and Britain, where defamation is now punished with fines rather than imprisonment.

Amid the public backlash, a number of senators who voted for the Cybercrime Act have started to disassociate themselves from it, with some even saying they did not read the provision on libel.

However presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda has defended the law.

“The Cybercrime Act sought to attach responsibilities in cyberspace… freedom of expression is always recognised but freedom of expression is not absolute,” he told reporters on Thursday.

Nevertheless, Lacierda said the law could yet be refined. He has called for critics to submit their concerns to a government panel that will issue by the end of the year specific definitions of the law, such as who may be prosecuted.

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Tags: Cybercrime , Cyberspace , Facebook , Internet , Laws , Twitter

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_44QGTQXFYHNVPNMX453LWBPMXM Opel

    The application of the law will again be selective, only the rich and well connected would pursue the filing of criminal charges against unwary critics to deter any other person from expressing their sentiments online. all of the jails in the country will not be able to accommodate all the bloggers who in one time used harsh and scathing language in their post.  

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/7QZGSD2PKH75PUIZY5TVTQJKTI Broton

    This law is more likely to favor to those who are in power . . . and they will become untouchable!  The lawmakers are actually insinuating a cyberggedon era here in the Philippines.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lolo.mo.73997 Lolo Mo

    I challenge the Legislature to jail me for libel. I would not even post a bail to prove my conviction that we will no longer be in Democracy if the Angara Bill pushes through. These stupid Legislature forget that in the 1987 Constitution, freedom of decent is guaranteed by it. And it says, no other laws should supersede these freedom of expression.

    Come on you stupid Legislature, may they be Senators or Angara himself, jail me!

  • http://www.facebook.com/lolo.mo.73997 Lolo Mo

    He heh e! First these crooks enacted a law to have a pork barrel which is not their function as legislature. Then they augment their funds in keeping their office such as travel allowances, fuel allowances, then there is the free SUV complement of Juan dela Cruz, not one SUV but five expensive SUV. Then they also have foreign travel privileges including their wives, children, and yayas. Remember Gloria one time went to China with her  grand Children and three yayas? Again Complement of Juan de la Cruz. The salary of a Congressman is only 40 thousand pesos, but to maintain their office and function, with plenty of free privileges  it runs to 32 million pesos each congressmen.  This is on top of their 70 million pesos soft pork barrel. The word “soft pork barrel” means COA is liniment in it’s accounting on the 70 million pesos pork barrel. Of course, there is the additional Pork Barrel when ever the President bribes them to get his demand like the impeachment of former CJ Corona. At that time, 3.5 billion pesos was suddenly and mysteriously withdrawn from the Department of Agriculture, so fast that even the Head of the DA was later on scratching his head how it came about. Anyway, that withdrawal was made 3-4 days before the voting whether to impeach Corona or not. Remember, the entire members of the Congress trying to claw each other to sign in favor of the Impeachment even if they do not know what the reason was all about. And that is a violation. You can not impeach a guy without reading the entire Complaint Affidavit. These greedy bunch. And it turn out that the 3.4 billion pesos DA funds was suppose to be use for “Farm to market road.”


  • Malik62





  • Hagler

    12 years and a fine of one million peos if an ordinary people is convicted , a traditional media professional faces only 4 years and 6 thousand fine, whoa It should be the other way around!

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