Senators yesterday expressed disappointment over the decision of the Supreme Court to defer deliberations on the numerous petitions filed by different groups against the newly enacted Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 or Republic Act No. 10175.
“As the lone opposition to the Republic Act 10175, otherwise known as the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 in the Senate, and one of the petitioners against the law in the Supreme Court, I am disappointed that our justices have deferred the hearing of the petitions to next week,” Sen. Teofisto “TG” Guingona III yesterday said.
Guingona is just one of the personalities who questioned the constitutionality of some provisions of the law and called on the SC to impose a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the cybercrime act. Six other groups have called on the high court to stop its implementation.
“I respectfully ask the High Tribunal to resolve the issues and act on the petitions immediately to prevent further harm to our cyber users,” Guingona said.
“The implementation of the law tomorrow (October 3) will take back our citizens to the Dark Ages where freedom of speech and expression were not recognized,” he added.
Aside from Guingona, Sen. Francis Escudero also recognized the “flaws” in the cybercrime bill saying he also opposes the inclusion of online libel.
As this developed, Escudero filed Senate Bill No. 3288 asking the Senate to repeal Section 4 of the Cybercrime law pertaining to a libel provision.
In the explanatory note of the bill, Escudero stressed that “any form of libel is a form of abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, of press.”
In filing the measure, Escudero said this provision in the cybercrime law may supersede another bill pending in the Senate, Senate Bill No. 2162 which seeks to decriminalize libel under Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code to accord greater protection to freedom of speech and expression, specifically those done by means of writing and other similar means, by taking away the threat or fear of incarceration, restraint of liberty and fine.
“However, with today’s modern technology, the crime of libel does not only prove antiquated but to the contrary even overarching as a state tool to restrain freedom of speech,” Escudero said.
“This is quite evident with the passage of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, Republic Act (RA) No. 10175, which broadens the coverage of the crime of libel to include even those with the use of a computer system or other similar means that may be devised in the future. This must never be countenanced if only to remain consistent to the constitutionally prescribed freedom of the press,” he said.
Nonetheless, he said the bill “does not negate civil liability in case the elements of libel subsist, which is but in consonance with the provisions of the Civil Code on Human Relations, specifically Articles 19 to 21.”
Despite this, Guingona said he would continue to join the cause of groups and Internet users critical of the newly passed law and ask the SC to issue a TRO and to finally repeal some vague and oppressive provisions of the Cybercrime Act.
“Let me say this once again, the state has no right to gag its citizens and convict them for expressing their thoughts. The Philippines is a democratic country. The Filipinos should never be left to cower in the sidelines –their thoughts and voices should not be shackled by fear and intimidation. The people should not be afraid of its own government,” Guingona said.
By HANNAH L. TORREGOZA