What lawmakers, groups want amended in cybercrime law

Jonathan de Santos, Kim Arveen Patria
Yahoo! Southeast Asia Newsroom

A day before the Cybercrime Prevention Act takes effect, a senator said he will file a bill to amend the controversial law and remove the criminal penalty it imposes on libel over the Internet.

The provision on libel included in the Cybercrime Act was not part of the committee report presented to senators during deliberations, Senator Francis Escudero said at the Commission on Elections, where he officially filed his candidacy for re-election Tuesday morning.

"Nakalusot sa amin yun (That slipped under our noses)," he said.

Escudero said he will file the bill Tuesday afternoon.

This, as he previously said that his support for the Cybercrime Act was a mistake and that it is counter to a separate bill that he has filed decriminalizing libel.

Libel should carry a civil liability but not a criminal penalty. "There should be damages, but no imprisonment," Escudero said.

The Senate is currently on recess and is not due to hold sessions until Oct. 8, the soonest that Escudero's proposal can be read on the Senate floor.

Escudero's colleague, Senator Teofisto Guingona III already filed a petition with the Supreme Court, asking for the bill's review, and declare certain provisions unconstitutional.

Among the provisions that Guingona objects to is online libel, which carries a higher penalty.

The law does not prohibit the filing of a regular libel case under the Revised Penal Code, which, Guingona claims, exposes individuals to double jeopardy.

Guingona's is just one of seven petitions filed before the Supreme Court asking it to rule on the constitutionality of the new law.

Journalist groups also to file petition

Another petition is meanwhile being prepared by several journalists' organizations, which also invited media practitioners to join the petition online.

"Republic Act No. 10175 threatens fundamental rights and freedoms withits repressive perspective and regressive view of technology," the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, the Philipine Press Institute and the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility said in a petition to be submitted to the Supreme Court Wednesday.

"[T]he law brings the country back to an age where technology was not trusted and was looked upon as a threat," they added.

The petition asks the Supreme Court to issue a temporary restraining order on specific sections of the newly approved law which it claimed to be "unconstitutional."

Apart from libel, these include provisions on aiding or abetting in the commission of cybercrime; inclusion of all felonies and crimes within the coverage of the law and liability under other laws.

Also hit were provisions on the disclosure, seizure or restriction of computer data, as well as the delegation of powers to a Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center.

"[W]ith these provisions of the law being declared unconstitutional, the entire law is rendered without meaning and not capable of implementation," the groups said.

"For that reason, the entire law must be struck down," they noted.