Lawmaker nixes Senate bid to regulate blogs
KABATAAN Partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino slammed the Senate’s move to create a law that will regulate blogs, saying that it will lead to the curtailment of the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by the 1987 Constitution and put unnecessary restraint in one of the most democratic space available to the public, the Internet.
“News of the Senate leadership’s move to pass a bill that will set the parameters for blogging is alarming, especially for the blogging community. Blogs have been one of the freest avenues for opinions and discussions, and we fear that we might lose this freedom if a law is passed to regulate it,” said Palatino, who is an active blogger himself.
In a privilege speech yesterday, Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III decried the “cyber-bullying” he has experienced due to an earlier speech he delivered on the Reproductive Health Bill, of which certain parts were directly lifted from an American blogger’s article.
“Ako yata ang kauna-unahang senador ng Pilipinas na naging biktima ng cyber-bullying. Mula sa blogs, Facebook, at Twitter, ginawa akong sentro ng mga mapanira at malisyosong atake ng iba’t ibang tao, lalo pa ng mga sumusuporta sa RH Bill,” Sotto said.
In his interpellation after Sotto’s privilege speech, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said that a law regulating blogs need to be crafted to “protect the rights of bloggers.” “Magpanukala tayo ng batas at ilagay natin doon kung ano ang mga karapatan ng mga may blogs para sa ganoon ay maliwanag,” Enrile said.
Sotto concurred to the said proposal.
Palatino said that such moves run counter to Article III Section 4 of the 1987 Constitution which states, “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”
“Blogs have been the venue of free speech and discourse since the advent of the Internet. Regulating it is tantamount to curtailing the freedom of expression of thousands of active Filipino bloggers,” the youth solon said.
“The desire to regulate blogs springs from the Senate leadership’s lack of knowledge on the nature of blogs,” Palatino said. “Senate President Enrile himself admitted that he isn’t Internet-savvy. We understand him, as blogs greatly vary from one another – from the personal to the academic, the mundane and the officious,” he explained.
“But we have to emphasize that blogs are not just used to defame people, as was the case with Senator Sotto. It is a valuable democratic space which empowers the weak and the marginalized. Whistle-blowers, advocacy groups and community journalists have all used this space to send their message to the world,” Palatino said.
“The anonymity offered by blogs is essential in certain cases, especially when the message being delivered may cause danger to the person of the author. Passing a blogging law may endanger this anonymity. We can even enter a scenario wherein authorities track down bloggers using their IP address just to enforce the law,” he added.
“Senator Enrile claims that such law would protect the rights of bloggers and their writings. I think this will not be the case. Rather, a blogging law will constrict the free space that many of us enjoy at present,” Palatino said.
“The Senate’s bid to regulate blogs is reminiscent of the strict hampering of the freedom of expression during the Martial Law years. It is not coincidence that such move would come from a Senate headed by one of the strongmen of the Martial Law period, Senate President Enrile,” Palatino added.
“Senator Enrile, the Martial Law period has long since passed. You cannot just go and pass a bill that will clearly gag, rather than protect, bloggers,” the youth solon said.
Palatino is the first blogger to be elected into Philippine Congress.