Senator Teofisto “TG” Guingona III on Tuesday warned the public on the newly-passed law Republic Act 10175, otherwise known as the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, for it clearly suppresses the Constitutional-guaranteed freedom of speech and expression online.
Senator Guingona said the law, which he opposed when it reached the Senate floor, makes a fatal step backwards leading to the “vault of archaic policies that cannot be made to apply to the modern man operating in a modern world.”
“Let me clarify this to avoid confusion, the country needs a Cybercrime Prevention Act, however, this law that was passed recently contains problematic provisions. Without these confusing and vague provisions, this law is necessary. That’s why it is unfortunate that the overly vague and oppressive provision on libel was inserted into the law at the last minute,” he said.
Senator Guingona explained that there are three significant reasons why he is opposing the recently-passed law.
First, he said, is that the new law sets no clear definition on the crime of libel and the persons liable, virtually any person can now be charged with a crime. Included in the potential list of accused are:
· Persons, adult or child, who tweet criticisms against politicians, actors and actresses, and other persons.
· Persons who post Facebook status updates and those who comment on these posts.
· Persons who share Facebook posts and those who re-tweet messages on Twitter.
· Bloggers, Facebook accounts owners, and other online account owners who open their sites for comments from other people.
Further, Sen. Guingona cited that the law demonizes technology and sends the message that the computer user is more evil than those who write on traditional media.
“While libel committed through traditional print media is punishable by up to four years and two months of imprisonment, online libel is punishable by a shocking 12-year imprisonment period,” he said.
Sen. Guingona added that with the new law, a person can now be prosecuted for libel under the Revised Penal Code and libel under the Cybercrime Prevention Act. This is contrary to the 1987 Constitution which protects its people against double jeopardy.
“The state has no right to gag its citizens and convict them for expressing their thoughts. The Philippines is a democratic country. The Filipinos should never be left to cower in the sidelines –their thoughts and voices should not be shackled by fear and intimidation. The people should not be afraid of its own government,” Sen. Guingona said.
He added that while the rest of the law is crafted to protect the citizens, the only remedy that he sees so far is to strike the void provisions.