SC'S LONE DISSENT: ASSOCIATE JUSTICE LEONEN SAYS ONLINE LIBEL UNCONSTITUTIONAL

Only Associate Justice Marvic Leonen (photo) voted for the decriminalization of libel online and in the Revised Penal Code when the Supreme Court (SC) deliberated on the constitutionality of the Cybercrime Law last week. The SC’s youngest member dissented from the majority decision of 12 other justices declaring the libel provision in the Cybercrime Law as constitutional. “Criminalizing libel contradicts our notions of a genuinely democratic society... The Constitution requires that libel... be struck down as infringing upon the guarantee of freedom of expression,” he said in his opinion. Leonen, whom President Aquino named to the SC in November 2012, defined libel as an anachronistic tool that may have had its uses in older societies: a monkey wrench that will steal inspiration from the democratic mob. “Given the statutory text, the history of the concept of criminal libel, and our Court’s experience with libel, I am of the view that its continued criminalization, especially in platforms using the Internet unqualifiedly produces a chilling effect that stifles our fundamental guarantees of free speech,” he said. Leonen said the threat of being prosecuted for online libel under Republic Act No. 10175, the Cybercrime Law, stifles the dynamism of conversations in cyberspace. “These conversations can be loose yet full of emotion,” he said.

ALSO: Moves to decriminalize libel pushed in Senate

MARCH 3 -Moves to decriminalize libel have gained in the Senate with the filing of a measure seeking to “revisit and recalibrate” the country’s defamation laws.Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph G. Recto has filed Senate Bill 2146 to delist libel from the book of crimes. “It is high time for Congress to revisit defamation laws, and recalibrate them in a manner that they can prevent and penalize malicious and unfounded attacks on a person’s reputation without stifling free speech and the open discussion of policies that affect the public,” he said. “Even if we take out libel, there should remain a shield which a private, ordinary citizen can use when he is assaulted by harsh tags. We need these safeguards because one of the best apps of a civilized society are laws which allow a private individual robbed of honor to seek restitution,” he explained. Recto pointed out that the cyberlibel provision in the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, which gained the nod of the Supreme Court, would be best addressed by taking a second look at the Revised Penal Code. He said “scurrilous and defamatory remarks damaging to one’s reputation” can be addressed even without a law criminalizing libel. “The institution of civil action for damages can restore a sullied reputation,” he said.

ALSO: Senators push for bills to counteract SC ruling on online libel

Senators on Thursday pushed for bills meant to counteract the recent Supreme Court decision upholding the online libel provision in the anti-cybercrime law. Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Teofisto Guingona III separately called for immediate action on measures they filed seeking to decriminalize libel. Cayetano, author of Senate Bill 245, said the SC ruling on online libel will just further clog the country's courts. “Kung magkakasuhan tayong lahat, mapupuno ang mga korte. Walang mangyayari kung hindi ang mga piskalya, walang ibang gagawin kung hindi mag-prosecute ng Internet and social media libel cases,” Cayetano said in a statement. Guingona, who filed Senate Bill 2128, meanwhile said the Philippines, as a democratic country, should promote freedom of expression and not dangle the “threat of jail” to those who want to speak out through any medium. “We must not forget how hard we fought for the democracy that we now enjoy, and that includes our freedom to speak against erring public officials. It is counter intuitive therefore for us to have come this far and yet have the cloud of possible imprisonment impinge on the liberties that the very democracy we have fought for seeks to protect,” Guingona said in a separate statement.

ALSO: Miriam: SC ruling on online libel erroneous

Internet is a different universe. Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago called the Supreme Court ruling upholding the legality of online libel in the anti-cybercrime law erroneous. In a press briefing on Thursday, February 20, Santiago said the provision on online libel violated two principles of constitutional law against vagueness and overbreadth. "So for these two reasons, the void for vagueness doctrine and overbreadth doctrine, I humbly submit that the Supreme Court ruling on this particular provision is erroneous,” said Santiago, a constitutional law expert and former trial court judge. Santiago said the ruling posed "a very significant constraint" on the fundamental rights to free speech and free expression enshrined in the Constitution.

ALSO: 'Black Tuesday' by anti-cybercrime law marks edsa rites

Critics set ‘Black Tuesday’ protest to mark EDSA rites. CRITICS of the Cybercrime Law will stage the first-ever ‘Black Tuesday’ simultaneous with the 28th anniversary celebration of the 1986 People Power in EDSA today, as they denounced the Aquino government for betraying the spirit of EDSA.” To dramatize their opposition against the new law, which they likened to an E-Martial Law, members of different media organizations and sympathizers will march at EDSA while calling on “netizens’ to stage their own offline protests. Petitioners against the Cybercrime Law also plan to file separate motions for reconsideration on the Supreme Court’s ruling to uphold the online libel provision of the Cybercrime Law. Rowena Paraan, chairperson of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said they plan to organize various activities to oppose the Supreme Court decision. She added that different actions would be held both on the cyberspace and in real time. Paraan said the Cybercrime Law was not an issue for journalists alone, because this “this will also affect the ordinary citizens.”


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SC’s lone dissent: Leonen says online libel unconstitutional

MANILA, march 3, 2014 (PHILSTAR) By Edu Punay - Only Associate Justice Marvic Leonen (photo) voted for the decriminalization of libel online and in the Revised Penal Code when the Supreme Court (SC) deliberated on the constitutionality of the Cybercrime Law last week.

The SC’s youngest member dissented from the majority decision of 12 other justices declaring the libel provision in the Cybercrime Law as constitutional.

“Criminalizing libel contradicts our notions of a genuinely democratic society... The Constitution requires that libel... be struck down as infringing upon the guarantee of freedom of expression,” he said in his opinion.

Leonen, whom President Aquino named to the SC in November 2012, defined libel as an anachronistic tool that may have had its uses in older societies: a monkey wrench that will steal inspiration from the democratic mob.

“Given the statutory text, the history of the concept of criminal libel, and our Court’s experience with libel, I am of the view that its continued criminalization, especially in platforms using the Internet unqualifiedly produces a chilling effect that stifles our fundamental guarantees of free speech,” he said.

Leonen said the threat of being prosecuted for online libel under Republic Act No. 10175, the Cybercrime Law, stifles the dynamism of conversations in cyberspace.

“These conversations can be loose yet full of emotion,” he said.

“These can be analytical and the product of painstaking deliberation. Other conversations can just be exponential combinations of these forms that provide canisters to evolving ideas as people from different communities with varied identities and cultures come together to test their messages.”

Leonen, the only SC member to publicly and actively use social media sites, specifically Twitter, voted to grant the prayer in 15 consolidated petitions to strike down section 4 (c) (4) of the Cybercrime Law penalizing acts of libel as defined in the Revised Penal Code committed through a computer system.

All the other 12 justices present in voting agreed that the assailed provision is legal.

The SC ruled that cyber libel when imposed on “original author of the post” is constitutional, but that it is unconstitutional when those who simply receive the post and react to it are penalized.

Among the key provisions declared constitutional were the sections penalizing illegal access, data interference, cybersquatting, computer-related identity theft, cybersex, child pornography and allowing search and seizure of computer data.

Leonen also objected to the majority ruling on the cybersex provision as unconstitutional.

He believes the criminalization of cybersex under RA 10175 stifles speech, aggravates inequalities between genders and will only encrust the views of the powerful.

“Sexual expression can be titillating and engaging,” he said.

FROM MANILA BULLETIN

Moves to decriminalize libel pushed in Senate by Charissa Luci March 3, 2014

 

Manila, Philippines — Moves to decriminalize libel have gained in the Senate with the filing of a measure seeking to “revisit and recalibrate” the country’s defamation laws.

Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph G. Recto has filed Senate Bill 2146 to delist libel from the book of crimes.

“It is high time for Congress to revisit defamation laws, and recalibrate them in a manner that they can prevent and penalize malicious and unfounded attacks on a person’s reputation without stifling free speech and the open discussion of policies that affect the public,” he said.

“Even if we take out libel, there should remain a shield which a private, ordinary citizen can use when he is assaulted by harsh tags. We need these safeguards because one of the best apps of a civilized society are laws which allow a private individual robbed of honor to seek restitution,” he explained.

Recto pointed out that the cyberlibel provision in the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, which gained the nod of the Supreme Court, would be best addressed by taking a second look at the Revised Penal Code.

He said “scurrilous and defamatory remarks damaging to one’s reputation” can be addressed even without a law criminalizing libel.

“The institution of civil action for damages can restore a sullied reputation,” he said.

SB 2146 seeks to repeal Articles 353,354,355,356, 357, 360, 361 and 362 of the Revised Penal Code and Section 4 (c) 4 of the Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Law.

Recto noted Justice Marvic Leonen’s dissent on the Cybercrime Law “that libel prosecution has evolved from protecting both private citizens and public figures to its modern notion of shielding only private parties from defamatory utterances.”

Today, March 3, the Senate committee on Science and Technology, chaired by Recto, is set to tackle Senate Bills 11, 126, 248 and 249, which seek to amend or repeal the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 or Republic Act 10175. The hearing will be jointly conducted by the Senate committees on constitutional amendments and revision of Codes; on civil service and government reorganization and on finance.

The Senate panels will also discuss Senate bills 53 and 1091 which calls for the establishment of the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom. These bills also seek to repeal RA 10175, which was recently upheld in part by a Supreme Court ruling last Feb. 18.

Also included in the agenda are bills establishing the Department of Information and Communications Technology and the National Council for Information Technology and Development.

Among those who confirmed their attendance to the hearing are Undersecretary Louis Napoleon Casambre of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), executive director of the Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO); Assistant Secretary Geronimo Sy of the Department of Justice (DOJ); National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Director Virgilio Mendez; and Ronald Aguto, chief of the Cybercrime Division (CCD).

FROM GMA NEWS TV

Senators push for bills to counteract SC ruling on online libel By ANDREO CALONZO, GMA NewsFebruary 20, 2014 4:14pm 808 32 0 847


Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Chairperson Teofisto Guingona III with Senate Majority Floor Leader Alan Peter Cayetano

MANILA -Senators on Thursday pushed for bills meant to counteract the recent Supreme Court decision upholding the online libel provision in the anti-cybercrime law.

Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Teofisto Guingona III separately called for immediate action on measures they filed seeking to decriminalize libel.

Cayetano, author of Senate Bill 245, said the SC ruling on online libel will just further clog the country's courts.

“Kung magkakasuhan tayong lahat, mapupuno ang mga korte. Walang mangyayari kung hindi ang mga piskalya, walang ibang gagawin kung hindi mag-prosecute ng Internet and social media libel cases,” Cayetano said in a statement.

Guingona, who filed Senate Bill 2128, meanwhile said the Philippines, as a democratic country, should promote freedom of expression and not dangle the “threat of jail” to those who want to speak out through any medium.

“We must not forget how hard we fought for the democracy that we now enjoy, and that includes our freedom to speak against erring public officials. It is counter intuitive therefore for us to have come this far and yet have the cloud of possible imprisonment impinge on the liberties that the very democracy we have fought for seeks to protect,” Guingona said in a separate statement.

On Tuesday, the high court declared the online libel provision in the cybercrime prevention law as constitutional, “with respect to the original author of the post.”

The court, however, struck down the provision that empowers the Department of Justice (DOJ) to restrict or block access to data violating the law.

Senators Juan Edgardo Angara and Francis Escudero have also earlier called for immediate action on bills seeking to remove prison terms for those found guilty of libel.

Magna Carta for Internet Freedom

At a separate briefing, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago agreed that decriminalizing libel is the “optimum” way of counteracting the SC ruling on Internet libel.

“That is the international trend today. Various states in the world have already passed legislation on their respective penal codes decriminalizing the statute,” she said.

She added that Congress should also prioritize her Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom, which seeks to uphold the right to security of Internet data, and the protection of the Internet as an open network.

“I call on all netizens to magnify all efforts to either file a motion for reconsideration or we can speed it up here at the Senate that I filed from crowdsourcing," Santiago said.

For her part, Senator Grace Poe, who heads the public information committee handling bills to decriminalize libel, agreed that these measures need to be fast-tracked in the light of the recent SC ruling on the anti-cybercrime law.

“I think it is important to pass a bill to decriminalize libel immediately in order to encourage participative democracy. We need to protect free expression,” Poe said in a text message. — KBK, GMA News

FROM RAPPLER.COM

Miriam: SC ruling on online libel erroneous BY AYEE MACARAIG POSTED ON 02/20/2014 11:05 AM | UPDATED 02/24/2014 3:36 PM 54 Comments 10K


'VAGUE, TOO BROAD.' Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago says the SC ruling on online libel in the cybercrime law is erroneous because the provision is too vague and too broad. Photo by Ayee Macaraig/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) - Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago called the Supreme Court ruling upholding the legality of online libel in the anti-cybercrime law erroneous.

In a press briefing on Thursday, February 20, Santiago said the provision on online libel violated two principles of constitutional law against vagueness and overbreadth.

"So for these two reasons, the void for vagueness doctrine and overbreadth doctrine, I humbly submit that the Supreme Court ruling on this particular provision is erroneous,” said Santiago, a constitutional law expert and former trial court judge.

Santiago said the ruling posed "a very significant constraint" on the fundamental rights to free speech and free expression enshrined in the Constitution.

“In case of doubt, the doubt must be resolved in favor of freedom and against restriction. That is the meaning of that wording. Otherwise, there is no reason why the framers would have used that kind of terminology and would have placed it as Section 1 of the Bill of Rights," she added.

Santiago said the ruling is vague, even if it limited the liability for online libel to the original author of the post.

“Of course, the Supreme Court said it is only the sender who is liable, not the person who is commenting or who is receiving. But what do these words mean? Who is the sender? The service provider? The individual netizen? Or if they’re a group, how do we identify them? Or even worse, if they are not using their true identities, how are you going to go beyond what they profess to be their identities on the Internet? That is the main problem today.”

Santiago called on netizens to rally against the decision by filing a motion for reconsideration, and supporting her crowdsourced bill, the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom (MCPIF). Santiago said netizens from different professions, lawyers and engineers, crowdsourced the measure and submitted it to her office to establish a framework for information and communication technology (ICT) in the Philippines.

“I support fully a motion for reconsideration to reconsider the ruling with respect to online libel and then with respect to congressional action, I have already filed my bill. I will now redouble my efforts to convince the chair of the committee, the members of the committee and the entire Senate in plenary session that we have to pass a new law that will in effect overturn the decision of the Supreme Court but only with respect to online libel.”

Santiago's statement comes two days after the Supreme Court upheld most provisions of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, including the provision that online libel is a crime. The Court though struck down the provision allowing the secretary of justice to take down online content without a court warrant, and that allowing the real-time recording of "traffic data."

The Court has yet to release the text of the decision.

‘Internet a different universe’

Santiago said the SC decision mistakenly treated the Internet as similar to traditional media when they are “two completely different universes.”

“I just think it was a bad idea for the Supreme Court to look at the Internet as another form of publication.”

"The Supreme Court is treating social media as if it were just a scion, a successor, or just another classification of traditional media. It is not! Here, we have a case where unfortunately, jurisprudence trailing after technology because of lack of information about how the Internet operates in society."

Santiago said the Supreme Court and the public have to "acquaint your self with the power of the Internet and the way that it regulates its own dynamics."

She said in print and broadcast media, it is difficult for aggrieved parties to have equal time and space to air their side because of factors like money. The Internet is “unlike the restricted universe of traditional media.”

“In the Internet, if someone posts a blog, or a tweet or some comment against you, you have the full right to answer him in kind and you don’t have to pay him anything.”

"Someone calls you names? Then you call him back with names too and all the rest will fill in with their own opinions. That is the basic idea of the marketplace of ideas,” she said. “If you limit the conversation to what you think should be the proper subject of civil discourse then in that sense you are limiting the people’s right to express themselves."

Santiago noted that revolutions all around the world including the French Revolution “arose because the monarch or the executive insisted or denied the people their right to free speech.”

“You began to realize this should have been handled more gently by the Supreme Court and not just dismissed as another form of publication.”

‘Impractical for libel to be crime’

Besides appealing the decision and pushing for the MCPIF, Santiago called for the decriminalization of libel, meaning the removal of the prison penalty. She cited the global trend to do so.

Santiago joined her colleagues in the call. The lone senator who voted against the law, Teofisto “TG” Guingona III, filed a bill Thursday to decriminalize libel.

Senators Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, Alan Peter Cayetano, Pia Cayetano and Francis Escudero previously filed similar measures. Cayetano also wants to repeal the online libel provision in the cybercrime law. Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr filed a bill lowering the penalty for online libel.

Santiago said that aside from the legal grounds, libel should be decriminalized because of practical purposes.

“There will be extreme difficulty in law enforcement and if you cannot enforce a law, you better strike it off the records because it promotes contempt for the law.”

“Number two, it will add to the burgeoning prison population of this country …Is it practical? How many people are using the Internet every day, day to day?”

Santiago said that in holding protests or mass demonstrations against the Court ruling, netizens are not at risk of libel but of contempt from the Supreme Court.

“If you review the decisions of the Supreme Court, if you call other agencies names, the Supreme Court will say, 'We uphold freedom of speech.' If you call the Supreme Court names, the Supreme Court will say, 'We hold you in contempt,'” she quipped and laughed. – Rappler.com

FROM MANILA STANDARD

Black colors cyber law protest By Maricel Cruz | Feb. 25, 2014 at 12:01am


Critics set ‘Black Tuesday’ protest to mark EDSA rites

CRITICS of the Cybercrime Law will stage the first-ever ‘Black Tuesday’ simultaneous with the 28th anniversary celebration of the 1986 People Power in EDSA today, as they denounced the Aquino government for betraying the spirit of EDSA.”

To dramatize their opposition against the new law, which they likened to an E-Martial Law, members of different media organizations and sympathizers will march at EDSA while calling on “netizens’ to stage their own offline protests.

Petitioners against the Cybercrime Law also plan to file separate motions for reconsideration on the Supreme Court’s ruling to uphold the online libel provision of the Cybercrime Law.

Rowena Paraan, chairperson of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said they plan to organize various activities to oppose the Supreme Court decision.

She added that different actions would be held both on the cyberspace and in real time.

Paraan said the Cybercrime Law was not an issue for journalists alone, because this “this will also affect the ordinary citizens.”

Aside from the NUJP, other media groups which will join the protest include the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.

The CMF and the PCIJ also agreed to come up with a pooled editorial about online libel and the higher penalty that was upheld as constitutional by the high court.

PCIJ executive director Malou Mangahas, meanwhile, said that there is a need for the public to understand the issue, as they will also be severely affected by the online libel provision in the law.

She added that the online libel provision of the law contradicts the supposed transparency campaign of the government, particularly with the recent launch of the open data website.

The media groups are among the 15 petitioners that questioned the constitutionality of Republic Act 10175, also known as the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, before the SC.

The Philippine Press Institute, meanwhile, also rallied behind the petitioners to the high court to review its decision.

PPI chairman Atty. Jesus Dureza said the organization would also ask lawmakers to amend the law to remove the provisions on online libel, Dureza asked the high court to “take a second look at its ruling’ and noted that “it is not only in the Supreme Court where we can seek relief from the unconscionable provisions and jurassic penal sanctions of this new law. We can also go to Congress.”

He also urged the public to “unite and support the move in Congress to decriminaqlize libel and remove the penal sanctions in all statute books that impinge on our in inalienable freedom of the press and freedom of expression.

Opposition to the Cybercrime Law also gained significant support from Congress, as several lawmakers hailed organizers of Black Tuesday for organizing the protest.

Representatives Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna, Silvestre Bello III of 1-BAP party-list, Gabriela party-list Rep. Luz Ilagan and House Deputy Majority Leader Sherwin Tugna of Citizen’s Battle Against Corruption (Cibac) all said the protest action was a good sign for the Aquino government to get the public pulse on the CyberCrime Prevention Act.

Zarate said: “I support the Black Tuesday protest to register our outrage against a draconian law ironically rammed to us by the main beneficiary of EDSA People Power.”

Zarate said the Black Tuesday is an ‘indictment of the betrayal of the EDSA spirit’ by President Benigno Aquino III.

Bello, for his part, said that “online libel not only has a chilling effect on the Fourth Estate. It also violates our constitutional freedom of speech and expression.”

“This law has no place in a truly democratic free and civilized society,” he added.

Tugna, an administration ally, said the protest is a good support to the various motions for reconsideration to be filed in the SC against the constitutionality of libel in the internet.

“Freedom of expression should not be curtailed, especially in a medium (internet) that fosters citizens’ scalpel against government abuses,” Tugna added.

Ilagan, meanwhile, said the Black Tuesday protest is a legitimate protest.

“Other countries, far more developed are reviewing their libel laws and decriminalizing libel. It has a chilling effect on media, netizens and ordinary citizens who want to express their freedom of expression. The democratic space gained after Edsa is lost,” she said.

But Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III, an oppositionist, said that critics have nothing to fear with the online libel if they think they do nothing wrong.

“Why are they scared of libel if they won’t say anything that is libelous,” Albano said.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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