The Internet is a notable technological advancement and development. It creates the ability for all its users to communicate in a split second by simply clicking, sharing and posting. However, opportunities embedded on it create an anxiety on various societies that are perceived and considered notoriously destructive by law. Aligning its seen problems are cyberbullying, child pornography, cybersex, racism, political extremism and the likes. But these are the manifestations of communication revolution; you try to engage and manage its constant changes as we benefit from it but never totally rationalize the idea of infringing the rights of individuals to free speech.
Recently, the Philippine Government opened its acceptance in pursuing the implementation of RA 10175 or commonly known as the “Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012″. Protesters online embellished the adaption of the law to against it on social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter.
One of the persons who gave face on the issue is “The genuine I should have been informed Driver”, Christopher Lao, who was also a victim of cyberbullying last August 2011 after blaming other people when he drove his car into a flood. He was even called “Pambansang Bobo” by some netizens all over the internet.
This is one of the instances that may ground the law well enough – for the fulfillment of the state’s responsibility in promoting the protection of all online users from ill-will and malice.
In relation to this, I had the chance to interview Atty. Lao about the pressing issue.
“Cybercrime Law has several provisions. The separability clause will spare those not suffering from Constitutional Infirmities since they can stand on their own. Remember this law is quite comprehensive and covers so many things. Section 19 giving power to DOJ to remove or block net data is suspect, as well as the provision that violates the Constitution against double jeopardy. But the provision on e-libel suffers no Constitutional defect. It is delegated by the Constitution to the wisdom of Congress whether or not libel should be criminally, not just civilly, sanctioned,” he said.
He believes that there are several good points about the law.
“We need to proscribe libel and the culture of maligning and ripping apart one’s dignity with impunity.We also need to protect the integrity of data/systems. We also need to protect our children from pornography and prostitution, etc. These are the social ills that the law aims to obliterate,” he further explained.
Are you for or against?
“FOR, sans the mentioned Constitutionally suspect provision. I repeat, e-libel is NOT one of these defective provisions,” he told me.
He believes that the e-libel clause should be retained as one of the provisions of the law as it intentionally protects the wellness of all internet users and part of the constitutional responsibility of the state.
On Freedom of Speech
“What cripples our speech is not libel but probably the ‘takedown’ clause. Sec. 19 may constitute prior restraint if read to be not requiring a properly issued prior court warrant. Remember, NO FREEDOM IS ABSOLUTE. That exists only in a state of anarchy. Ours is a rule of law, not of men. No freedom is unbridled,” he said.
He even contextualized that free speech is not motivated by ill-will and malice causing injury to another. He quoted Sharon Cuneta’s statement, “We should not lose our decency when we relate to one another.”
“We need to curb the evils mentioned in the law, but in a constitutionally sanctioned manner. Cyberbullying will be curbed absolutely. People will not engage in speech debases dignity/human worth. Crimininalization will ensure the teeth behind the provision. The impetus behind changing a vile culture,” he firmly stated.
The law doesn’t hamper the rights of the people to raise grievances over political leaders.
“In fact, it’s harder for their suit against you to prosper because truth is a defense you can raise. Fair comments are always welcome. Remember, when you became a citizen of this country you ceded rights in exchange for governance. Nothing is absolute, otherwise patay na tayong lahat…total chaos or anarchy ensues.” he said.
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