Lawmakers want to junk libel in Cybercrime Law as public says Ouch
The Internet had always been considered by many as a safe venue to air personal sentiments, criticism and dissatisfaction against people and institutions like government. But since online libel had been approved by the Philippine Supreme Court under the revised Cybercrime Law last month, many are now concerned if their status messages and comments would one day bring them in court.
Today, a number of lawmakers are siding with the public who believe that online libel is strangling everyone’s rights. In an October 2011 ruling, the UN Human Rights Committee said Philippine laws against libel violated international laws on freedom of expression.
To address the problem, Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto has just introduced Senate Bill 2146 that would remove libel as a crime in both the Revised Penal Code and the Cybercrime Law. He said defamation laws should be modified in a way that would still protect people against malicious attacks to reputation but ‘without stifling free speech.’
He added that, even if libel were removed, there should still be a measure in place that would prevent people from damaging others’ reputation, like civil action asking for damages.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Internet Freedom Alliance (PIFA) cautioned that even if online libel were decriminalised, mass surveillance will not be stopped since government officials can still hire super networks like Five Eyes to spy against people and groups.
The Five Eyes club was exposed by ex-US computer specialist Edward Snowden and refers to the countries that are part of the UKUSA Agreement on signals intelligence, which include America, Australia, Britain, Canada and New Zealand.