DOJ wants online libel junked

MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Justice (DOJ) will present to the next Congress “enhancements” to the controversial Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, which would include junking the provision that makes online libel a crime.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima announced on Thursday at a workshop on protecting children against sexual violence in Southeast Asia that her department has drafted “the latest version” of the Cybercrime Act, or Republic Act No. 10175.

She said the new version “[enhances] the current version” and the DOJ will endorse it to the new Congress.

The justice department is proposing amendments to the controversial law even as the Supreme Court has yet to rule on pending petitions questioning its constitutionality.

De Lima said that regardless of how the high court rules on the 15 petitions questioning the cybercrime law’s constitutionality, the DOJ is determined to propose these amendments.

She did not specify which provisions the DOJ is proposing to remove, but Justice Assistant Secretary Geronimo Sy told reporters that the libel provision in the law was “definitely… out” in the DOJ’s “enhanced” version.

“The provision on libel will not be there for sure which the DOJ in the first place never supported,” Sy said.

Online libel was not part of the original bill proposed by the DOJ but was one of the amendments inserted by the Senate as proposed by Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto II.

Under the Cybercrime Act, online libel, defined as an offense committed “through a computer system or any other similar means which may be devised in the future,” is a crime whose penalty is one degree higher than ordinary libel.

Ordinary libel is punishable with imprisonment of six months to four years.

Sy said the DOJ was taking out the Senate amendments in its proposed version. These include provisions on child pornography and cybersquatting which Sy said was not needed in the Cybercrime Act because “these are punishable under other laws already.”

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