SUPREME COURT OF PHL:  ONLINE LIBEL LAW LEGAL

The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the constitutionality of a provision in the controversial Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 penalizing online libel amid fears it infringed on Internet freedom. Likewise, the high court endorsed a provision that seeks to penalize authors of libelous online content but not those receiving and reacting to it.
The court, however, struck down a section in the law that allows the Department of Justice (DOJ) to block access to online content. After more than a year, the high tribunal finally ruled on the constitutionality of certain provisions in the cybercrime law that were raised by 15 petitioners. The implementation of Republic Act No. 10175, which President Aquino signed into law in September 2012 to fight crimes committed on the Internet, like cybersex and child pornography, had been suspended for over a year. The law can now be implemented without the provisions that were struck down. Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza, who was at the high court to attend the last oral arguments on the Disbursement Acceleration Program, refused to comment on the ruling until he has read it. At a media briefing, Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te said the tribunal had “partially granted” the relief sought by the petitioners.

ALSO: Cybercrime law foes unhappy over SC ruling

It was described as a step backward that can only end in “cyberauthoritarianism.” Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello said he was disappointed by the Supreme Court decision on Tuesday supporting the imposition of penalties for online libel in the new cybercrime law. “This is most unfortunate. The Supreme Court has just legislated a massive restriction on the freedom of speech. The justices are light years behind the practitioners of the social media. They simply do not understand how Internet exchange quickly separates truth from falsehood, how the Internet has a wonderful capacity for self-policing,” Bello said in a text message. More worrisome: Their move constitutes one giant step toward state policing of the Internet. It is incumbent on us all to resist such a regressive move that can only end in cyber-authoritarianism,” Bello said. Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon said that the ruling would have “chilling effect” on netizens who value their freedom to express their views on social media. “From Facebook to Twitter to Instagram and other social media, the decision will silence the netizens whose last recourse to evade culpability is probably to declare that their accounts had been hacked,” Ridon said.

FROM WIKIPEDIA: Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012
Revision of the law: On May 24, 2013, The DOJ announced that online libel provisions of the law have been dropped, as well as other provisions that "are punishable under other laws already", like child pornography and cybersquatting. The DOJ will endorse the revised law to the next 16th Congress of the Philippines. Supreme Court Ruling: On February 18, 2014, The Supreme Curt ruled the online libel provision of the act is constitutional, although it struck down other provisions, including the ones that violated the provisions on double jeopardy. The petitioners are planning to appeal the decision. Repeal of the law: A Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom has been crowd-sourced by Filipino netizens with the intent of, among others, repealing the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012....FULL REPORT BELOW


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS:

SC: Online libel law legal: Only authors of libelous content face penalties


Militants gather in front of the Supreme Court building in Manila on Tuesday to protest against the cybercrime law. INQUIRER PHOTO/NIÑO JESUS ORBETA

MANILA, FEBRUARY 24, 2014 (INQUIRER) Originally posted: 9:09 pm | Tuesday, February 18th, 2014 - By Christine O. Avendaño —The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the constitutionality of a provision in the controversial Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 penalizing online libel amid fears it infringed on Internet freedom.

Likewise, the high court endorsed a provision that seeks to penalize authors of libelous online content but not those receiving and reacting to it.

The court, however, struck down a section in the law that allows the Department of Justice (DOJ) to block access to online content.

After more than a year, the high tribunal finally ruled on the constitutionality of certain provisions in the cybercrime law that were raised by 15 petitioners.

The implementation of Republic Act No. 10175, which President Aquino signed into law in September 2012 to fight crimes committed on the Internet, like cybersex and child pornography, had been suspended for over a year.

The law can now be implemented without the provisions that were struck down.

Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza, who was at the high court to attend the last oral arguments on the Disbursement Acceleration Program, refused to comment on the ruling until he has read it.

At a media briefing, Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te said the tribunal had “partially granted” the relief sought by the petitioners.

Of the 19 questioned provisions, the court declared four unconstitutional: Sections 4(c)(3), which penalizes the posting of
unsolicited commercial communications (or spam); Section 12, which authorizes the collection or recording of traffic data in real time; Section 19, which authorizes the DOJ to restrict or block access to suspected computer data; and Section 7 “as far as it authorizes the prosecution of an offender under online libel and libel under the Revised Penal Code (RPC) and also where it pertains to child pornography for being in violation of the prohibition against double jeopardy.”

The court noted that "online libel is admittedly not a new crime but one already punished under Article 353 (which defines libel in the RPC); Section 4(c)(4) (or online libel) merely establishes the use of a computer as another means of publication. For this reason, charging the offender under both laws would be a violation of the guarantee against double jeopardy under Article III Section 27 of the 1987 Constitution,” said the statement released to the media.

Te said the court upheld the constitutionality of online libel as a cyberoffense. It said that online libel was “not unconstitutional with respect to the original author of the post but unconstitutional only when it penalizes those who simply receive the post or react to it.”

Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, one of the petitioners, said they would challenge the ruling.

“No one should go to prison just for expressing oneself, especially on the Internet, where people express their frustration with government,” he said.

“Under cybercrime law, tweets, likes, shares, comments crimes. Everyone under surveillance,” activist Vencer Crisostomo said in a tweet.

Also, the court qualified that Section 5 of the law, which penalizes anyone who aids or abets the commission of cybercrimes and anyone who attempts to commit cybercrimes was “not unconstitutional” in connection with the commission of the following: illegal access, illegal interception, data interference, system interference, misuse of devices, cybersquatting, computer-related fraud and identity theft and cybersex.

But this was deemed unconstitutional “only in relation to offenses punished by child pornography and unsolicited commercial communications and online libel.”—With a report from AFP

Cybercrime law foes unhappy over SC ruling ... Akbayan legislator seeks to decriminalize libel, prevent ‘cyber-authoritarianism’ By Inquirer Staff Philippine Daily Inquirer 5:00 am | Wednesday, February 19th, 2014


http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/files/2014/02/Bello-Ridon-021914.jpg

Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello (left) and Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon: Disappointed. FILE PHOTOS

MANILA, Philippines—It was described as a step backward that can only end in “cyberauthoritarianism.” Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello said he was disappointed by the Supreme Court decision on Tuesday supporting the imposition of penalties for online libel in the new cybercrime law.

“This is most unfortunate.

The Supreme Court has just legislated a massive restriction on the freedom of speech.

The justices are light years behind the practitioners of the social media. They simply do not understand how Internet exchange quickly separates truth from falsehood, how the Internet has a wonderful capacity for self-policing,” Bello said in a text message.

“The justices who voted for retaining the libel provisions obviously have not graduated to the digital age.

More worrisome: Their move constitutes one giant step toward state policing of the Internet. It is incumbent on us all to resist such a regressive move that can only end in cyberauthoritarianism,” Bello said.

Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon said that the ruling would have “chilling effect” on netizens who value their freedom to express their views on social media.

“From Facebook to Twitter to Instagram and other social media, the decision will silence the netizens whose last recourse to evade culpability is probably to declare that their accounts had been hacked,” Ridon said.

“The fight against e-martial law is far from over. We call on everyone to up the ante and once again show our collective dissent against this repressive law,” Ridon said.

“While the high court reportedly aimed to strike a balance between the protection of civil liberties and government control, we still believe that the law is potent enough to impede our freedom of expression,” he added.

“We respect the decision of the Supreme Court but there is still the need to pass the amendments as regards the removal of libel from the said law,” Sen. Francis Escudero told reporters.

“I already filed the bill for the decriminalization of libel from the Revised Penal Code. That is only being consistent with our position on libel,” he said.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said: “We will await the full decision of the Supreme Court to be able to understand its implications on public policy. We hope that this decision will strengthen government’s position in fighting cybercrime and upholding the people’s welfare.”

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the decision was “timely” as the government needed it to deal with the growing number of cybercrime cases.

“In the intervening period when the (law was suspended), cybercrime in its many forms was continuing and even escalating,” she said. “A clear legal framework is necessary to protect citizens and balance the state’s duties.”
Bayan Rep. Neri Colmenares, who was among those who challenged the law, said they might appeal.

“The government should not be the prosecutor of stained reputations,” Colmenares said, branding it a “draconian law.”
“No one should go to prison just for expressing oneself, especially on the Internet, where people express their frustration with government,” he said.

Lawyer Harry Roque, one of those who petitioned against the law, hailed the decision striking down the powers to take down websites and monitor Internet traffic.

“This is indeed a major victory for privacy and the right of the people to be secure in their communications,” he said in a statement.

But he said the fight to nullify the provisions on criminal libel would continue.

Social media users expressed anger at the upholding of the libel provisions.

“Under cybercrime law, tweets, likes, shares, comments crimes. Everyone under surveillance,” said activist leader Vencer Crisostomo in a tweet.—With reports from Gil C. Cabacungan, Michael Lim Ubac, Norman Bordadora, Christine O. Avendaño and AFP

FROM WIKIPEDIA

Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012


Coat of Arms of the Philippines.svg

Congress of the Philippines: An Act Defining Cybercrime, Providing for the Prevention, Investigation, Suppression and the Imposition of Penalties Therefor and for Other Purposes

Citation Republic Act No. 10175
Territorial extent - Philippines
Enacted by House of Representatives of the Philippines
Date enacted June 4, 2012
Enacted by Senate of the Philippines
Date enacted June 5, 2012
Date signed September 12, 2012
Signed by Benigno Aquino III
Date commenced October 3, 2012

Legislative history
Bill introduced in the House of Representatives of the Philippines
An Act Defining Cybercrime, Providing for the Prevention, Suppression and Imposition of Penalties Therefor and for Other Purposes
Bill citation -House Bill 5808
Bill published on February 9, 2012
Introduced by Susan Yap (Tarlac)
First reading February 13, 2012
Second reading May 9, 2012
Third reading May 21, 2012
Conference committee bill passed June 4, 2012
Bill introduced in the Senate of the Philippines
An Act Defining Cybercrime, Providing for Prevention, Investigation and Imposition of Penalties Therefor and for Other Purposes
Bill citation -Senate Bill 2796
Bill published on May 3, 2011
Introduced by Edgardo Angara
First reading May 3, 2011
Second reading January 24, 2012
Third reading January 30, 2012
Conference committee bill passed June 5, 2012
Date passed by conference committee May 30, 2012
Committee report -Joint Explanation of the Conference Committee on the Disagreeing Provisions of Senate Bill No. 2796 and House Bill No. 5808
Keywords -Aiding and abetting, defamation, fraud, obscenity, trespass to chattels
Status: Not fully in force

The Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, officially recorded as Republic Act No. 10175, is a law in the Philippines approved on September 12, 2012. It aims to address legal issues concerning online interactions and the Internet in the Philippines.

Among the cybercrime offenses included in the bill are cybersquatting, cybersex, child pornography, identity theft, illegal access to data and libel.

While hailed for penalizing illegal acts done via the internet that were not covered by old laws, the act has been criticized for its provision on criminalizing libel, which is perceived to be a curtailment in freedom of expression.

On October 9, 2012, the Supreme Court of the Philippines issued a temporary restraining order, stopping implementation of the Act for 120 days, and extended it on 5 February 2013 "until further orders from the court."

On May 24, 2013, The DOJ announced that provisions of the law have been dropped, namely, the contentious online libel provisions.

On February 18, 2014, the Supreme Court decision is constitutional on section 5 of the law, while Sections 4-C-3, 7, 12 and 19 was unconstitutional.

History

The Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 is the first law in the Philippines which specifically criminalizes computer crime, which prior to the passage of the law had no strong legal precedent in Philippine jurisprudence.

While laws such as the Electronic Commerce Act of 2000 (Republic Act No. 8792) regulated certain computer-related activities, these laws did not provide a legal basis for criminalizing crimes committed on a computer in general: for example, Onel de Guzman, the computer programmer charged with purportedly writing the ILOVEYOU computer worm, was ultimately not prosecuted by Philippine authorities due to a lack of legal basis for him to be charged under existing Philippine laws at the time of his arrest.

Although several cybercrime-related bills were filed in the 14th and 15th Congress, the Cybercrime Prevention Act in its current form is the product of House Bill No. 5808, authored by Representative Susan Yap-Sulit of the second district of Tarlac and 36 other co-authors, and Senate Bill No. 2976, proposed by Senator Edgardo Angara.

Both bills were passed by their respective chambers within one day of each other on June 5 and 4, 2012, respectively, shortly after the impeachment of Renato Corona, and the final version of the Act was later signed into law by President Benigno Aquino III on September 12,

Provisions

The Act, divided into 31 sections split across eight chapters, criminalizes several types of offenses, including illegal access (hacking), data interference, device misuse, cybersquatting, computer-related offenses such as computer fraud, content-related offenses such as cybersex and spam, and other offenses.

The law also reaffirms existing laws against child pornography, an offense under Republic Act No. 9779 (the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009), and libel, an offense under Section 355 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines, also criminalizing them when committed using a computer system.

Finally, the Act provides for a "catch-all" clause, wherein all offenses currently punishable under the Revised Penal Code are likewise punishable under the Act when committed using a computer, with corresponding stricter penalties than if the crimes were punishable under the Revised Penal Code alone.

The Act has universal jurisdiction: its provisions apply to all Filipino nationals regardless of the place of commission.

Jurisdiction also lies when a punishable act is either committed within the Philippines, whether the erring device is wholly or partly situated in the Philippines, or whether damage was done to any natural or juridical person who at the time of commission was within the Philippines. Regional Trial Courts shall have jurisdiction over cases involving violations of the Act.

A takedown clause is included in the Act, empowering the Department of Justice to restrict and/or demand the removal of content found to be contrary to the provisions of the Act, without the need for a court order. This provision, originally not included in earlier iterations of the Act as it was being deliberated through Congress, was inserted during Senate deliberations on May 31, 2012.[8] Complementary to the takedown clause is a clause mandating the retention of data on computer servers for six months after the date of transaction, which may be extended for another six months should law enforcement authorities request it.

The Act also mandates the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police to organize a cybercrime unit, staffed by special investigators whose responsibility will be to exclusively handle cases pertaining to violations of the Act, under the supervision of the Department of Justice.

The unit is empowered to, among others, collect real-time traffic data from Internet service providers with due cause, require the disclosure of computer data within 72 hours after receipt of a court warrant from a service provider, and conduct searches and seizures of computer data and equipment. It also mandates the establishment of special "cybercrime courts" which will handle cases involving cybercrime offenses (offenses enumerated in Section 4(a) of the Act).

The Supreme Court of the Philippines declares on February 18, 2014 that the libel provisions of this act is now legal.

Reactions


Screenshot of the social networking site Facebook, as the Filipinos changed their profile pictures into black in protest against the Cybercrime Prevention Law of 2012

The new Act received mixed reactions from several sectors upon its enactment, particularly with how its provisions could potentially affect freedom of expression, freedom of speech and data security in the Philippines.

The local business process outsourcing industry has received the new law well, citing an increase in the confidence of investors due to measures for the protection of electronic devices and online data.

Media organizations and legal institutions though have criticized the Act for extending the definition of libel as defined in the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines, which has been criticized by international organizations as being outdated:

the United Nations for one has remarked that the current definition of libel as defined in the Revised Penal Code is inconsistent with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and therefore violates the respect of freedom of expression.

Senator Edgardo Angara, the main proponent of the Act, defended the law by saying that it is a legal framework to protect freedoms such as the freedom of expression.

He asked the Act's critics to wait for the bill's implementing rules and regulations to see if the issues were addressed.

He also added that the new law is unlike the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act and PROTECT IP Act.

However, Senator Teofisto Guingona III criticized the bill, calling it a prior restraint to the freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has also expressed concern about the Act, supporting local media and journalist groups which are opposed to it.

The Centre for Law and Democracy also published a detailed analysis criticizing the law from a freedom of expression perspective.

Petitions to the Supreme Court

Several petitions have been submitted to the Supreme Court questioning the constitutionality of the Act.

However, on October 2, the Supreme Court deferred on acting on the petitions, citing the absence of justices which prevented the Court from sitting en banc. The lack of a temporary restraining order meant that the law went into effect as scheduled on October 3.

In protest, Filipino netizens reacted by blacking out their Facebook profile pictures and trending the hashtag #notocybercrimelaw on Twitter.

Anonymous also defaced government websites, including those of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System and the Intellectual Property Office.

On October 9, 2012, the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order, stopping implementation of the Act for 120 days.

In early December, 2012, the government requested the lifting of the TRO.

Petitioners
1 Sen. Teofisto Guingona III
2 Group of lawyers from the Ateneo School of Law
3 Journalists led by Alab ng Mamahayag (ALAM)
4 Kabataan party-list Rep. Raymond Palatino
5 National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera et al.
6 Technology law experts led by UP Law professor JJ Disini
7 Louis Biraogo
8 National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
9 Bloggers and Netizens for Democracy (BAND) led by Tonyo Cruz, "The Professional Heckler” and 18 more bloggers 
10 Philippine Bar Association
11 Paul Cornelius Castillo and Ryan Andres
12 Bayan Muna. Rep. Neri Colmenares
13 National Press Club
14 Philippine Internet Freedom Alliance
15 Harry Roque et al.

The Supreme Court has scheduled the same amount of time for oral arguments on Tuesday, 15 January 2013 by the petitioners and on 22 January by the Solicitor General.

On 5 February 2013, The Supreme Court extended the temporary restraining order on the law, "until further orders from the court."

Revision of the law

On May 24, 2013, The DOJ announced that online libel provisions of the law have been dropped, as well as other provisions that "are punishable under other laws already", like child pornography and cybersquatting.

The DOJ will endorse the revised law to the next 16th Congress of the Philippines.

Supreme Court Ruling

On February 18, 2014, The Supreme Curt ruled the online libel provision of the act is constitutional, although it struck down other provisions, including the ones that violated the provisions on double jeopardy.

The petitioners are planning to appeal the decision.

Repeal of the law

A Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom has been crowd-sourced by Filipino netizens with the intent of, among others, repealing the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
© Copyright, 2014 by PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS ONLINE
All rights reserved


PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS ONLINE [PHNO] WEBSITE