Be Aware Netizen!

A Spectre is haunting Europe – or in this case, the Philippines.

YOU, reader, could be a potential criminal that could be prosecuted under the new Cyber Crime Prevention Act. Posting on your Facebook, tweeting on your Twitter, writing on your blog, or putting anything on the web COULD get you into trouble. If you posted something that somebody would find malicious, you can get sued for libel. Make no mistake, the same harassment and gagging that is happening to journalists in print, radio, or mainstream media, could now happen to anybody who uses the internet.

Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it. It will be 40 years this September 21st since Martial Law was declared by Ferdinand Marcos. It was a period of dissent, revolt, and chaos – the result of tightening the noose on people’s necks, and quite often snapping them without a second thought. Now, it seems that the same witch-hunting that happened before would soon happen again.

Ironically, this time, it’s the son of the most prominent of Marcos’ Martial law victim Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. who is responsible for this. For some reason or another, given the sneaky circumstance where the libel clause was inserted by our Senator Tito Sotto, the Senate passed the bill and President Noynoy signed it into a Republic Act probably not knowing its repercussions.

Let me tell you why you need to get worried about this law and why it needs to be amended ASAP.

  • The libel clause was hastily added by Senator Sotto and was just accepted by Senator Angara since “cyberspace is just a new avenue”. Clearly, these legislators were either too tired thinking of the ramifications of extending libel to cyberspace, or they don’t grasp the full extent of cyberspace let alone social media. They obviously didn’t think about the nuances of tweeting, liking, sharing, commenting and posting done by millions of Filipinos.
  • Which brings me to some scary scenarios. Say I blog about a hotel where there were cobwebs and spiders all over the room. Despite factual reporting, I could be sued for libel when the hotel could think I have malicious intent of maligning them. Another, if I would post on Facebook a picture of a guy who swindled me and other people as well, he/she could sue libel against me and those who shared the photo.

Why am I afraid and why should you be afraid of this law? This is because you could unjustly suffer the consequences of getting sued. This could mean your facebook or blog shut down, posting bail, finding lawyers, paying a lot of money, gagged until the trial is over, among other things.

Libel cases, according to Raissa Robles in her post, “In the Philippines, libel suits are mostly not meant to be won. These are mostly filed in order to create a chilling effect on other reporters and to make the accused journalist’s life harder.” Furthermore, “Historically, in the Philippines, it is the rich and the powerful who use libel as a weapon to suppress criticisms about them.”

My concerns about getting sued by restaurants or hotels for libelous content is insignificant to the actual concern. We could no longer talk freely about mistakes done by our politicians and other powerful people. We couldn’t freely say that our mayor is a gambler (though it could be true) so don’t re-elect him. We could no longer report and share online about coal mines dumping their wastes on rivers for fear of getting sued. Our only tool of fighting against those who are in power is simply taken away from us!

This law is contrary to free speech, a fundamental principle of Democracy. We call on for an amendment of this law!

To find out more about this law, check these links.

Full passage of the law -> Click me

A Blow Against Free Speech (Inquirer’s editorial) -> Click me

Libel clause inserted into the Cybercrime Law -> Click me

Pnoy will be sued in an international court for this law -> Click me

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