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Cotabato vice mayor claims being maligned on Sulit.com

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Muslimin Sema. AFP FILE PHOTO

COTABATO CITY, Philippines—The vice mayor of this city could possibly become the first government official to benefit from the libel provisions of the cybercrime law.

Muslimin Sema initially sought help from Malacañang and other government agencies in looking into the operations of a “classified ads website” that besmirched his reputation via four libelous articles describing him as kidnapper and murderer.

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In a privilege speech before the city’s legislative council on Tuesday, Sema called on the Office of the President, the Department of Justice and the Department of Transportation and Communication to look into the operations of www.sulit.com.ph.

Sema said he learned of the damaging articles, allegedly prepared by a Ricky Matalam, through friends abroad.

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But, Matalam, a native of Maguindanao, appeared before the council on the same day to deny any involvement in the preparation and publication of the articles.

“I am not involved and I believe  I was framed up using my name and photo,” said Matalam, a known crooner, who claimed to have been promoting peace in his musical repertoire. “I deny the articles here, and this I swear to Allah that I’m innocent.”

Sema wondered how websites such as sulit.com.ph with a claimed daily viewership of half million worldwide could come up with such damaging articles “without verification and get away with it.”

The vice mayor, who also heads a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front, was portrayed as the  brains of kidnap-for-ransom activities  assassination plots in the city in the past.

He had repeatedly denied the allegations.

Sema said he believed the black propaganda against him had something to do with the 2013 local elections.

Sema is trying to get back to his old post, now held by Mayor Japal Guiani Jr.

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City Administrator Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi said the vice mayor’s complaint was valid and should be pursued.

Sema said he will pursue his complaint to protect other possible victims of libelous articles on the Internet.

“No one is exempted;  any Tom, Dick and Harry can just write a damaging articles without the benefit of verification,” he said.

Meanwhile in Iligan City, Philippine Red Cross chair Richard Gordon added his piece of criticism of the cybercrime law, saying that instead of decriminalizing libel, the government had expanded its coverage.

“Here we are under so much pressure for our outdated libel law and we upgraded it to include the Internet,” Gordon said after leading the awarding of 320  houses to Typhoon Sendong victims in the village of Digkilaan on Tuesday.

Gordon agreed that the Cybercrime Act of 2012 should be amended or  totally “junked” as the law “violates the very essence of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution.”

“What the government did was to put the country in the limelight when it gagged the freedom of speech on the Internet, which no country has ever tried to control,” he said.

Gordon said that if he is successful in his bid to return to the Senate on United Nationalist Alliance ticket he would immediately seek amendment of the cybercrime law.

But one of the law’s authors, Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez, said that the cybercrime law did not violate the Constitution. He said the measure went through “stringent legal scrutiny.”

TOPICS: Cybercrime law, elections, Internet, Libel, politics, sulit.com
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