PRESIDENT Benigno Simeon Aquino III ignored the mounting clamor for the decriminalization of libel here and abroad by recently signing into law the oppressive Republic Act 10175 (Anti-Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012) which not only broadened libel’s scope to include articles and comments made in the internet but also imposed harsher penalties for its commission.
Through Chapter 4 (c)(a) of R.A. 10175 articles posted in internet sites like Facebook and Twitter could now be construed to be libelous materials hence punishable under the law.
Worse Sec. 6 of R.A. 10175 increased the prison term for libel to six years up to twelve years, which is now twice as long as the punishment prescribed in the old libel law under the Revised Penal Code (RPC).
This makes libel committed under R.A. 10175 a non-probationary offense meaning anyone found guilty of violating this new law goes straight to jail.
Instead of doing the right thing like pushing for the decriminalization of libel and the passage of the Freedom of Information Act, President B.S. Aquino, son of democracy icon and late President Corazon Aquino, chose to side with the political forces determined to curtail the freedom of the press and ultimately democracy itself.
Instead of widening the political space created by the EDSA Revolution and nurtured by his mother, the President just constricted it.
The United Nations Human Rights Committee in 2011, as it urged the Aquino administration to decriminalize libel, said the existing libel law in the country is a violation of one’s civil and political rights, and of the freedom of expression.
It also said the libel law is excessive as it puts violators behind bars.
Our libel law under the RPC was patterned after the old Penal Code of Spain.
It was adopted into our RPC on Dec. 8, 1930 by the American colonial government to quiet nationalist critics as its exclusive purpose is to silence the enemies of the state
and those in power.
Clearly this law is a throwback to an era when might is right.
This is the kind of law that Pres. B.S. Aquino supported and signed.
R.A. 10175 was filed in the Senate by Senators Antonio Trillanes, Edgardo Angara, Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Lito Lapid, Manuel Villar, Miriam Defensor Santiago, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Ramon Revilla Jr. and Loren Legarda.
It was later also approved on third reading by Senators Panfilo Lacson, Francis Escudero, Gregorio Honasan II, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel, Pia Cayetano, Vicente Sotto III and
Only Sen. Teofisto Guingona III opposed its passage.
It is ironic that Sen. Legarda, a former journalist who benefited much from the freedom of the press, sponsored an oppressive law specifically targeting the freedom of expression.
I was also surprised that Sen. Pimentel, a son of a known human rights lawyer and himself a defender of human rights, supported R.A. 10175.
President B.S. Aquino is threading on dangerous grounds when he signed R.A. 10175 into law.
I pray that he did not deliberately do this to roll back the democratic gains made by our people for that surely is disgraceful.
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