cyberlibel law will “level the playing field” ?!?

before anything else, kudos cheers mabuhays to SENATOR TG GUINGONA for voting NO to the cybercrime act, the only one who dared, cared, on grounds that the libel clause is a prior restraint on freedom of expression, a constitutionally guaranteed right.

so who voted yes to the cybercrime act despite the libel clause?


so the following abstained, it would seem:


makes you wonder about these senators.

my first thought was, the ones who said yes must be anti-RH, like sotto.  but wait, where’s enrile?  and what’s RH sponsor pia doing in that list?  ah, so, maybe these are senators who have been criticized, berated, attacked online a la sotto, they know what it’s like, or maybe they haven’t and they don’t want to be and they don’t want to know what it’s like, ever, so yes, regulate blogs, facebook, twitter, news websites.

as for those who abstained, since they didn’t have it in them to say yes, good for them, then why did they not go the whole hog and vote no a la guingona?  pogi points sana.  talo rin lang kasi, wiser to stay on sotto’s good side, the old-boys-club mentality kicking in, kapit-bisig kumbaga, circle the wagons, there’s more at stake than one senator’s reputation?  there’s more at stake than one senate bill?

say ni pia cayetano sa twitter:

My review of the cybercrime bill was focused on child pornography, which falls within my area of responsibility.

a follower asked:

@piacayetano so if you say your review is only on child pornography, then all the other areas of the law you don’t bother to check? 

no response so far.  what kind of senators are these.

and no word from the palace, no explanations.  only this announcement on the president’s website, that the doj, the dilg, and the dost are working on the implementing rules and regulations of the cybercrime act.

Punishable acts under the new law include offenses against the confidentiality, integrity and availability of computer data system, illegal access, illegal interception, data interference, system interference, and misuse of devices. Also included are computer-related offenses such as forgery, fraud, and identity theft that are rampant in the Internet.

Also punishable under the new law are content-related offenses like cybersex, and child pornography.

The law also punishes unsolicited commercial communications or cyber squatting, the acquisition of a person’s domain name for profit or destroy reputations.

ang lupit, di ba?  no time-frame, manginig tayo.  at ang weird, ni hindi nakalista ang libel.  which means what?  did they even read it?  did they even know that it contained a libel clause?

and take note, the prez and the senators are leaving it to sotto iii to defend the libel clause.  every one else is silent on the matter, esp the palace communications peeps, two of whom used to be “noted” bloggers, one of whom tweeted non-stop in memory of the declaration of martial law.

rubbing salt into the wound, sotto iii has the temerity to ask : why, what’s wrong with a libel law in cyber space? 

“I can’t see the logic,” said Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III when asked to react to media protests regarding the dangers and possible unconstitutionality of extending libel laws to new social media in the new Cybercrime Prevention Act.

“If mainstream media are prevented by law from cursing and engaging in character assassination, why should those in the social media and in the Internet be exempted from such accountability,” said Sotto, who had proposed the extension of the Act’s coverage to include libel.

“What’s so special about (mainstream journalists) that they have those prohibitions, and that they (social media bloggers) don’t?” Sotto had insisted in a recent interview.

The libel clause in the recently passed anti-cybercrime law is meant to “level the playing field” between the mainstream media and the social media, Sen. Vicente Sotto III said. 

he can’t see the logic in the cybercommunity’s protests.  he’s saying that he only seeks to level the playing field between social media and mainstream media, both should be covered by the same libel law, never mind that honasan had filed a bill to decriminalize libel, i guess because honasan must have changed his mind, as he voted for the cybercrime-with-libel law.

but but but it is not the playing field between mainstream and social media that’s the problem – we are co-existing, mainstream media is not complaining that social media is more free; social media, indie political bloggers in particular, are not complaining that mainstream media is profit-oriented, a capitalist enterprise.  it is what it is.  instead, mainstream and social media are feeding off each other, and that is good, for the information of the nation.

in truth, the playing field that needs to be levelled is the one between government officials and the citizens and communities whom they are pledged to serve.  lamang na lamang, llamadong llamado ang ruling class, from one admin to the next, life does not get better, only worse, for the larger population, status quo.

for our part, all that we political bloggers and commenters and tweeters and facebookers have is the internet where, as ordinary citizens mostly, we have the freedom to speak out, share our points of view, take a stand, esp on political developments that impact negatively on nation (and there are many, it doesn’t stop…), if only for the record.

indeed, it is not a level playing field, and an anti-libel law that infringes on the freedom of speech of the cyber community makes the rules even more  favorable for the already powerful ones who have sat on the RH and FOI bills, and who knows what else, divorce? for more than a decade now, manigas tayo.

on facebook there are some who say that we who are so upset by the cybercrime act should have spoken up before the bill became law, that we should have monitored closely the legislative process. ang say ko naman, but, really, there were some who spoke up, and even if more had spoken up earlier, would the senate have listened to us?  the senate has not been listening to 7 out of 10 filipinos who want the RH bill, why would they listen to the cybercommunity, na 3 out of 10 filipinos lang daw (and of that three, i bet only one is interested in politics).

ang problema sa ating elected government officials ay, they believe their own propaganda that they are god’s gift to filipinos, they know better than we do about what’s good for the nation, so na-o-offend sila na bonggang bongga when they’re called out, criticized, cyberstoned for something we think they did wrong or didn’t do right.

what if, sumagot sila nang maayos?  umamin, kapag nagkamali.  magpaliwanag, kung may malabo.  engage with the citizenry in constructive discourse.  but no.  instead of getting their acts together, instead of behaving like honorable statesmen who deserve to be in public office, instead of giving us no cause to criticize and deplore, instead of being men and facing up to public opinion for the good of nation, they slap us with an anti-cyber-libel law.

and this, from sotto pa rin, part of his justification for the libel rider, based on the senate journal of january 24, 2012.

…there are numerous abuses in technology, particularly the video and photo uploading and unnecessary write-ups and comments in social networking systems. 

unnecessary in what sense?  who is to decide about necessity?  what might seem unnecessary to sotto would not necessarily be unnecessary in the filipino’s long-term struggle for a true, informed, and working democracy.  everything being done and being said in the freewheeling ether of cyberspace today, day after day, from the inane to the cruel, from the gross to the sublime, and everything that government does and does not do, documented for cyber-eternity, has historical value and significance for the future.

i’m a writer of history, and this is an indie non-profit blog where i share historical and political notes, and call a spade a spade, in aid of nation-building, if not for my children’s generation, then for their my grandchildren’s, and yours.  don’t tell me i have to mince my words now and live in fear of sotto and his ilk.



  1. ATTY. TRIXIE CRUZ FB status today: The Cybercrimes law did not change jurisprudence. So this will still apply:

    “Particularly, this Court has accepted the proposition that the actual malice standard governs the prosecution of criminal libel cases concerning public figures. In Adiong v. COMELEC,[66] the Court cited New York Times in noting that “[w]e have adopted the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide open and that it may well include vehement, caustic and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.”[67] The Court was even more explicit in its affirmation of New York Times in Vasquez v. Court of Appeals.[68] Speaking through Justice Mendoza:

    “‘For that matter, even if the defamatory statement is false, no liability can attach if it relates to official conduct, unless the public official concerned proves that the statement was made with actual malice — that is, with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not. This is the gist of the ruling in the landmark case of New York Times v. Sullivan, which this Court has cited with approval in several of its own decisions.[[69]] This is the rule of “actual malice.”‘

    Guingguing v. CA GR 128959, September 30, 2005

  2. I don’t think most of the senators are stupid. They are lazy, or have lazy lawyers on their staffs, or they are ignorant, not comprehending how freedom of expression on the internet works. Combine that with unrestrained hubris and you get what we’ve got.

    I remain confident that no blogger in the Philippines will ever be jailed. I have confidence in the courts, such as they are. Kinda confident. Well, not at all confident, but hoping like hell . . .

    • My guess is this is generally what happened across the Senate and even in President Aquino’s office. Few read it and thought about it, and simply did not approach it as a blogger would. They were locked into hard criminal acts, not the possible perversion of a law by the totalitarians in the Senate. Some might call such senators “clowns with an axe to grind”, but you’d never catch me saying that.

  3. JGBernasSJ Blogs: WHAT’S FRIGHTENING ABOUT CYBERCFRIME LAW? … It will not do to say that whatever shortcomings there are in RA 10175 will be remedied by Rules and Regulations. Rules and regulations cannot cure defects in a law. Moreover, RA 10175 is a penal law that commands obedience under pain of punishment. Fundamental fairness demands that those commanded should be able to understand what the command says simply by reading the law.

  4. Congratulations to the members of Congress who voted for the passage of the Anti-Cybercrime Law. It is not a perfect law but as Malacanang says “Thous shalt Not Fear the Cybercrime Law”. Only those who abuse their right to free expression,engaged in cyber sex, political and character assasination without proof should worry. The state has the Constitutional obligation to protect, defend and strengthen the Rights of ALL citizens and not the destruction of an individual and personal rights. although it needs fine tuning and amendments to suit the legal framework that other sectors believe must be corrected, this law is necessary and beneficial to growing use of electronic media.