Online bashing may now lead to jail sentence in the Philippines
by FFE PH News Staff
The Supreme Court yesterday ruled online libel as constitutional. This means that posting hateful and offensive messages in sites like Facebook and Twitter can lead a person to jail.
The new measure has been approved under the revised Cybercrime Law, which also covers cybersex, child pornography and identity theft. The Cybercrime Law can also now be implemented after the Supreme Court struck down other provisions they deemed unconstitutional.
The court clarified that the clause on online libel is merely an extension of the existing law against libel (Article 353). The court also clarified that only the original posters of the libelous message will be penalised and not those who react to it unless the second person adds something new and libelous to the original message. This means that liking, favouriting or retweeting libelous messages is not considered a libelous act.
Lawmakers and activists said the new law could lead to greater online surveillance of the public. Bayan Muna partylist Representative Neri Colmenares said ‘No one should go to prison just for expressing oneself, especially on the Internet, where people express their frustration with government.
‘The government should not be the prosecutor of stained reputations.’
Still others said the new ruling is a form of ‘cyberauthoritarianism’ that would restrict freedom of speech. Akbayan partilist Representative Walden Bello said ‘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.’
Meanwhile, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said the public should wait for the Supreme Court’s full decision to understand the implications of the policy.
The libel clause was not part of the original Cybercrime Law proposed by the Department of Justice. Senator Vicente Sotto III inserted this amendment into the bill in 2012 after claiming he was being subjected to cyber bullying at the height of the RH Bill debates.