The 5-word title says it all. This is precisely what could happen if we do not have any controls over free speech. As Atty. Roque points out the Philippines leads the world in social media use. As such, we are especially susceptible.
Certainly there are strong arguments to say that the recent case alluded to by this post* is exceptional since it affected not one but a significant number of people. Hence, it should not be used to justify the new cybercrime law (namely, the part on libel).
However, the effects of malicious free speech can be just as grotesquely offensive to [and even if it only targets] a single person. And, just because it only targets a single person, it does not mean that the single person cannot avail of the rights guaranteed by the constitution.
As I mentioned on another post, the right to private reputation is just as much a constitutional right. And, given our susceptible-nature as the leader in social media use, the effects on anyone victimized by malicious free speech is widespread in scope. All the more reason that controls must be in place. The bottomline is, a person who is violated of his constitutional right to private reputation must have a recourse.
You might recall that before this law, everyone literally had carte blance over free speech without worries of any legal repercussions. In other words, any libelous comments made on the Internet was previously not subject to criminal liabilities. With this new law, a person who is violated of his constitutional right to private reputation has a recourse not only to stop it but to penally subject the perpetrator of his/her malicious act.
So now I ask again, it is right to elevate our constitutional right to free speech at the expense of the constitutional rights of others?
*the widespread condemnation of Muslims against a recently published Youtube video
Arguably the philippines leads in media use. why? because government in general which abetted the cartels, monopolies and anybody who has mega money abuses the timid 95% of the population. Like me who feel agrieved can only make comment or sumbong to anybody who might listen but nothing substantial happen. Almost always it is persons elected/appointed and big business feels the hit of “libelous” commentaries and not the “annabel ramas” type who are magnets of troubles. What do you think will happen if this “salita or bunganga lang eh pigilan pa” must we get physical?
What do you think will happen if libel is dicriminalized? If it becomes but a mere civil matter? As it is, even if it is a criminal offense, as you allude to, the ‘haves’ still manage to influence justice (or injustice in some cases) to their favor. What more when it becomes a civil case, when the quantum of proof is the preponderance of evidence which can easily be had when you have an abundance of money. What then will the recourse be for the average working class who was defamed by the rich and politically-connected.
Keep in mind that libel is not a crime against the state. It is a crime against persons. It is the state’s exercise of police power to regulate liberty and property in the promotion of general welfare for the people.
What I sensed in many who oppose this law is the fear that the government itself will be the first offender. In my opinion, their fears are well founded given the corruption we face here in the Philippines.
In which case, as it relates to the case at hand, we seem to be barking up at the wrong tree. Instead of suppressing rights that aim to balance the scale of justice, we should really look to ensure that those who hold that scale cannot be bought to tip it unfairly.
“Keep in mind that libel is not a crime against the state. IT IS A CRIME AGAINST PERSONS. It is the state’s exercise of police power to…”
As it is entitled on the Revised Penal Code, the crime of libel is a CRIME AGAINST HONOR. In essence however, the crime is against a person which is precisely what I meant by the above.
If that is the case Atty. Roque we would have to redefine or re-enumerate what is libel which at present is a crime against person. I would suggest that libel against government officials whether elected/appointed and those in the GOCCs, monopolies, cartels and publicl figures be much liberalized than an average citizen. The reason is that these people especially in this countrywere proven to be the most corrupt, abusive /tyrannical and insensitive and are set free by their kind in the enforcement, prosecution and the judiciary. My competence to put into writing this proposal is limited that is why patriotic lawyers like you are needed by us.
I assume you meant the opposite when you said, “…libel against government officials whether elected/appointed and those in the GOCCs, monopolies, cartels and publicl figures be much LIBERALIZED than an average citizen.”
That would certainly be a great consideration. Perhaps an amendment on Title 7 of the Revised Penal Code, “Crimes Committed by Public Officers” and Article 12 of the same titled “Aggravating Circumstances” that focuses specifically on libel.
An interesting point I’d like to share that adds credence to what you and I have both been saying:
You spoke of government officers who abetted the cartels, monopolies and those with mega bucks in abusing the timid majority. We have such a case upon us today.
Marites Danguilan Vitug, the author of the recently published book on the Supreme Court, “Hour Before Dawn.” This book and two others before which she had written independently were the cause of uproar among the political powers.
(The following is taken from the speech of Maria Ressa to introduce Marites Vitug on the launching of her new book, “Hour Before Dawn”)
Her first book, “Power from the Forest: the Politics of Logging” angered politicians and illegal loggers which earned her a death threat and her 2nd libel case. Tingting Cojuangco is credited for her first libel case.
Her 2nd book, “Shadow of a Doubt” earned her yet another 2-libel cases. Interestingly they were even from a sitting Supreme Court justice!
She stood against the case and defended her work. In the end, all the libel cases against her were dropped. As to the last from the sitting Supreme Court justice, they were withdrawn shortly before the decision of CJ Corona’s impeachment trial.
The message of this story is clear. In concurrence with you, goliaths in our society exist, bouncing their power and money around for their benefit, at the expense of those who cannot stand up against them.
Had the libel law been decriminalized before Ms. Vitug received those libel complaints, she wouldn’t have stood a chance in civil court.
NOTE: There is an existing movement to decriminalize libel.
The fact that libel is a crime, the state views it critically, requiring proof beyond reasonable doubt in order to prevail. Meaning, those who filed a libel complaint against Ms. Vitug had to prove that:
1.) That there must be an imputation of a crime, or of a vice versa or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstance;
2.)That the imputation must be made publicly;
3.) That it must be malicious;
4.) That the imputation must be directed to a natural or juridical person, or one who is dead;
5.) That the imputation must tend to cause the dishonor, discredit or contempt of the person defamed;
All of which are essential elements to warrant it as criminal libel. In the case of Ms. Vitug, her complainants either could not prove all those elements existed or they new at the get-go they didn’t exist but filed the complaint nonetheless purely and only intending to intimidate her to withdraw her endeavors.
Anyhow, the case of Ms. Vitug is a little more extreme compared to the average Filipino. Namely because she is a journalist tasked with an important role in society in reporting the news. As such, she is susceptible to libel. Nevertheless, because her acts were not malicious, she prevailed over those libel complaints.
The average citizen is far from being as susceptible. As long as their reasons for posting comments about others [that may be viewed libelous] are not within the 5-elements mentioned above, there should be no cause for concern. Hence, the new Cybercrime Law should not be feared. Rather, it should be embraced because it puts necessary controls and protection for the social media users at large.