The Republic Act 10175 – Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 has been effective today in the Philippines. Certainly excellent against heinous cyber crimes but it is not a really good news considering its section on libel. It surely is time to be very careful online, even with the simple things that we post; or does this mean “it is time to shut up!?”
In relation, there are some posts from around the world such as Forbes.Com discusses this Act as surpassing the complaints in US against SOPA.
Cyber Crime has been a huge problem around the world and I suppose that nobody wants to be its victim. Though it is not directly done physically, Cyber Crime affects people in ways that one can only used to imagine. RA 10175 definitely aims to protect the people of the Philippines against such crimes. However, the most questionable part of it is on including libel as one of the crimes.
This urged me to read through the law provisions itself. It really made me curious especially that I work online for online businesses and clients. Wow, it surely looks good… but, with all due respect to the Philippine government officials that approved this, I really could not agree with the libel section. Most probably because to me, it was not clearly defined.
It is scary to be arrested just because I discussed a complaint against something or I posted something about an experience that affected somebody (because that person could be involved, or could be the owner of a coffee shop I am complaining about, just as an example). It is also like being sued simply because of telling about a story or life testimony through a blog post.
But then again, it has been effective today. Protests have risen and petitions have been out, even online, collecting signatures. Since at this point I personally could not do anything about its being approved, I just looked a little closer to it.
Well, the libel section says that it is about “the unlawful or prohibited acts of libel as defined in Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, committed through a computer system or any other means which may be devised in the future.”
And what does the Revised Penal Code say about it? Let me paste a part of it here as I got it from the Chan Robles Web Site and you can read through the whole document in that site:
CRIMES AGAINST HONOR
Section One. — Definitions, forms, and punishment of this crime.
Art. 353. Definition of libel. — A libel is public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead.
Art. 354. Requirement for publicity. — Every defamatory imputation is presumed to be malicious, even if it be true, if no good intention and justifiable motive for making it is shown, except in the following cases:
1. A private communication made by any person to another in the performance of any legal, moral or social duty; and
2. A fair and true report, made in good faith, without any comments or remarks, of any judicial, legislative or other official proceedings which are not of confidential nature, or of any statement, report or speech delivered in said proceedings, or of any other act performed by public officers in the exercise of their functions.
Art. 355. Libel means by writings or similar means. — A libel committed by means of writing, printing, lithography, engraving, radio, phonograph, painting, theatrical exhibition, cinematographic exhibition, or any similar means, shall be punished by prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods or a fine ranging from 200 to 6,000 pesos, or both, in addition to the civil action which may be brought by the offended party.
Art. 356. Threatening to publish and offer to present such publication for a compensation. — The penalty of arresto mayor or a fine from 200 to 2,000 pesos, or both, shall be imposed upon any person who threatens another to publish a libel concerning him or the parents, spouse, child, or other members of the family of the latter or upon anyone who shall offer to prevent the publication of such libel for a compensation or money consideration.
Art. 357. Prohibited publication of acts referred to in the course of official proceedings. — The penalty of arresto mayor or a fine of from 20 to 2,000 pesos, or both, shall be imposed upon any reporter, editor or manager or a newspaper, daily or magazine, who shall publish facts connected with the private life of another and offensive to the honor, virtue and reputation of said person, even though said publication be made in connection with or under the pretext that it is necessary in the narration of any judicial or administrative proceedings wherein such facts have been mentioned.
Art. 358. Slander. — Oral defamation shall be punished by arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period if it is of a serious and insulting nature; otherwise the penalty shall be arresto menor or a fine not exceeding 200 pesos.
Art. 359. Slander by deed. — The penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period or a fine ranging from 200 to 1,000 pesos shall be imposed upon any person who shall perform any act not included and punished in this title, which shall cast dishonor, discredit or contempt upon another person. If said act is not of a serious nature, the penalty shall be arresto menor or a fine not exceeding 200 pesos.
Section Two. — General provisions
Art. 360. Persons responsible. — Any person who shall publish, exhibit, or cause the publication or exhibition of any defamation in writing or by similar means, shall be responsible for the same.
The author or editor of a book or pamphlet, or the editor or business manager of a daily newspaper, magazine or serial publication, shall be responsible for the defamations contained therein to the same extent as if he were the author thereof.
The criminal and civil action for damages in cases of written defamations as provided for in this chapter, shall be filed simultaneously or separately with the court of first instance of the province or city where the libelous article is printed and first published or where any of the offended parties actually resides at the time of the commission of the offense: Provided, however, That where one of the offended parties is a public officer whose office is in the City of Manila at the time of the commission of the offense, the action shall be filed in the Court of First Instance of the City of Manila, or of the city or province where the libelous article is printed and first published, and in case such public officer does not hold office in the City of Manila, the action shall be filed in the Court of First Instance of the province or city where he held office at the time of the commission of the offense or where the libelous article is printed and first published and in case one of the offended parties is a private individual, the action shall be filed in the Court of First Instance of the province or city where he actually resides at the time of the commission of the offense or where the libelous matter is printed and first published: Provided, further, That the civil action shall be filed in the same court where the criminal action is filed and vice versa: Provided, furthermore, That the court where the criminal action or civil action for damages is first filed, shall acquire jurisdiction to the exclusion of other courts: And, provided, finally, That this amendment shall not apply to cases of written defamations, the civil and/or criminal actions which have been filed in court at the time of the effectivity of this law.
Preliminary investigation of criminal action for written defamations as provided for in the chapter shall be conducted by the provincial or city fiscal of the province or city, or by the municipal court of the city or capital of the province where such action may be instituted in accordance with the provisions of this article.
No criminal action for defamation which consists in the imputation of a crime which cannot be prosecuted de oficio shall be brought except at the instance of and upon complaint expressly filed by the offended party. (As amended by R.A. 1289, approved June 15, 1955, R.A. 4363, approved June 19, 1965).
Art. 361. Proof of the truth. — In every criminal prosecution for libel, the truth may be given in evidence to the court and if it appears that the matter charged as libelous is true, and, moreover, that it was published with good motives and for justifiable ends, the defendants shall be acquitted.
Proof of the truth of an imputation of an act or omission not constituting a crime shall not be admitted, unless the imputation shall have been made against Government employees with respect to facts related to the discharge of their official duties.
In such cases if the defendant proves the truth of the imputation made by him, he shall be acquitted.
Art. 362. Libelous remarks. — Libelous remarks or comments connected with the matter privileged under the provisions of Article 354, if made with malice, shall not exempt the author thereof nor the editor or managing editor of a newspaper from criminal liability.
Considering this, I thought a little bit more about it and from a Broadcast Media Person’s perspective allow me to say that contents posted online would be treated the way it is being treated using the other Media. But looking at it another step closer, the Internet is more personal than the other media though it has been termed as “virtual.”
The World Wide Web has changed the meaning and means of interpersonal relationships and freedom of expression. Unlike in broadcast and print medium, people can express their views through their blogs and articles and through other ways. Using the Print and Broadcast Media as compared to the Internet is a lot more expensive. So when online ways to express thoughts and share information is available at a very low cost, people ended up loving it.
On the other hand, there are also very abusive people online and they definitely need to be reprimanded. The world has been becoming smaller and smaller through the Internet and whatever a person posts would be visible for everyone else to see unless it would be set to private. It is true that the freedom of expression is not absolute but up to what extent must it be limited with?
I see that the scare on the freedom of expression is rooted on the fact that people would not be able to express simple thoughts on stuff and current events that they do not agree with or just talking about it as sharing an experience. To add, the way at which the IP addresses would be treated or blocked when one commits a Cyber Crime as stated in this law is quite bothering. There are a lot of IP addresses being shared and when one gets blocked, it would affect all the other people using the same IP address. I think this needs further explanation.
Well, at this point and in the midst of the ongoing protests against the Cyber Crime Prevention Law I would like to just say that we online bloggers, business people, and enthusiasts in the Philippines must for a moment have some time to contemplate on how to cope with this new law. We would surely know more about how the protests would be addressed soon but at this point, perhaps, we must know how we are to deal with our virtual world to avoid being sued for voicing opinions. Let us also pray that for what it is worth, Human Rights would be considered in dealing with these cases. Yes, I am aware of the gruesome ways journalists have undergone but nothing is impossible with the Lord who is the Creator of all things and Who sees everything.