Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter S. Cayetano has filed three bills seeking to amend several provisions in the Cybercrime Act and to decriminalize libel and defamation in a comprehensive approach to promote freedom of expression in the country.
He filed SB 3301 seeking to repeal sections 4(c) (4), 5, 6 and 7 of RA 10175 stating that the mentioned sections are unconstitutionally overbroad, vague and violate the Constitutional provisions against double jeopardy.
He also filed Senate Bill (SB) 3302 amending Section 19 of Republic Act (RA) 10175 stating that “No order of restriction or blocking of access to computer data for violation of provisions of this act shall be issued, except upon probable cause to be determined by a judge as required by law.”
Lastly, he filed SB 3303 seeking to repeal chapter one, title thirteen, book two of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines to decriminalize libel and defamation.
“There is a need to repeal the criminal defamation laws in the country since the present laws create a chilling effect on the community. We need to balance the need to promote the right of freedom of expression and the government’s duty to hold accountable those who abuse it,” he said.
Cayetano considers the move to amend the Anti-Cybercrime Law as a catalyst for the decriminalization of libel in the country. He added that legislators should pass laws that further promote the positive use of technology and not pass laws that curtail people’s freedom of expression and creativity.
The senator said that prior to the passage of the controversial law, very little attention has been given to the proposal to decriminalize libel – notwithstanding the fact that most, if not all, civil democratic societies today do not prosecute libel both as a criminal and civil case.
He stressed that decriminalizing libel will greatly minimize the use of it as tool for harassment against members of the media particularly those in the community media.
The minority leader further noted that those who are defending the measure don’t really understand the Internet as a medium being a non-traditional media.
“This new media is about individual expressions, freedom, empowerment and our democracy. This means that the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution has taken a new life in this medium,” he said.
He pointed out that the public’s reaction to the passage of the law should serve as a notice to lawmakers that although they were given the mandate by the people to represent them, people also want to be empowered.