MANILA, Philippines—With or without the cybercrime law, Internet users could still be charged with libel under the Revised Penal Code, Senate Majority Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said on Tuesday.
And Sotto admitted that he was not aware of the existence of the online libel law when he proposed it to be included in the cybercrime act.
“There are studies that are being conducted now. And I am informed that if it would be stricken down (libel provision in the cybercrime law), there’ll be no problem. The libel stays in the Revised Penal Code so it can still be used whether you use a computer or not,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
“That’s according to my source in the Department of Justice,” he said.
Asked by this reporter why Congress then still included online libel in the cybercrime law, Soto said, “E hindi namin alam dati. Ngayon lang nalalaman (We didn’t know that before. We just learned about it now).”
“Siguro reiteration lang ‘yon (Maybe it is just a reiteration). Libel has always been there,” he pointed out.
Asked again if the online libel was clear in the Revised Penal Code, the senator said, “Parang ganon e.. ‘Yon ang interpretation ng DOJ. I’ll look into it to make sure.”
But Sotto said he would still leave it up to the Supreme Court to decide whether or not to keep the online libel provision in the new law.
He also remained hopeful that the high tribunal would not strike down the entire law as demanded by netizens.
The senator was notably careful to comment on the Supreme Court’s decision to stop the implementation of the cybercrime law specially when asked if the ruling might have been influenced by strong opposition from various sectors.
“I told you I’d rather not comment. I’m having second thoughts,” he said in between laughs.
Asked if he has been affected by criticisms he is getting, Sotto answered no. However, he pointed out that he has always been caught in the middle so he would rather let the main authors of the law to comment on the issue.