Solon slams Aquino’s refusal to strike down the online libel provision

KABATAAN Partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino slammed President Benigno Aquino III’s refusal to strike down the online libel provision of the highly contentious Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, saying that the president could be impeached on the grounds of culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust.

In a statement to the press on Friday, October 5, Aquino was quoted as saying, “I do not agree that the provision on online libel should be removed. Whatever the format is, if it is libelous, then there should be some form of redress available to the victims.”

“Now that the law is in effect, we have to enforce it. I can be impeached for dereliction of duty if I do not implement the law,” Aquino stated.

“It’s already horrible that Aquino did not use his veto power to prevent the enactment of this law. Worse, he insists that the provisions on online libel should not be removed,” Palatino said.

“While Congress should indeed enact laws with regard to online libel, Aquino doesn’t quite understand that the provisions on online libel in the Cybercrime Act are overly excessive, to the point of being repressive,” the youth solon explained.

On Monday, Palatino – along with a group of youth leaders and netizens – has filed a petition for prohibition of RA 10175 at the Supreme court, citing, among other grounds, Sections 4(C)4, 5, and 6 of RA 10175, which relate to online libel, as unconstitutional due to vagueness.

“Civil society has been calling for the decriminalization for libel for so long. Enacting a law that even imposes harsher sanctions for online libel is a backward step. ” Palatino said.

Under Republic Act No. 10175, the punishment for online libel could reach up to 12 years.

“PNoy, you say you could be impeached for dereliction of duty if you don’t implement the new law. But it’s a greater disservice to the Filipino people that you signed a law that could potentially abridge our freedom of expression,” Palatino told Aquino.

“If Aquino is insisting that we accept the new law, not only is he violating the Constitution, he is also betraying the public’s trust, both of which are impeachable offenses,” Palatino said.

“In the past, government officials like former President Estrada and former Chief Justice Renato Corona were impeached for graft and corruption. But Aquino needs to remember that there are other grounds for impeachment in the Constitution,” Palatino warned.

Under the 1987 Constitution, grounds for impeachment include culpable violation of the Constitution, bribery, graft and corruption, and betrayal of public trust.

“We warn you P-Noy, masquerading as a ‘clean’ president doesn’t make you unimpeachable. If you continue on betraying the public’s trust, the masses are ready to call not only for your impeachment, but for your ouster,” the youth solon said.

Internet Freedom Bill

Meanwhile, in a move to turn legislation on the Internet from being restrictive towards becoming responsive to the needs of netizens, Palatino has also drafted the “Internet Freedom Bill,” and opened the initial draft to a public consultation.

“We have already filed a petition in the Supreme Court and an amendatory bill in Congress to address this. Now, it’s time for legislators to focus on ensuring that the rights of Filipino netizens are safeguarded,” Palatino said.

Palatino, together with  Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño, has already filed House Bill 6613, which seeks to repeal several contentious provisions in the new law last October 1.

“If we analyze the Cybercrime Law, it is apparent that it restricts rather than protect netizens. Apart from repealing RA 10175, we intend to lay down the inalienable rights of Filipino Internet users through this bill,” Palatino added.

Kabataan Partylist initiated a public consultation regarding the draft bill on October 4 in the UP College of Law, wherein key press freedom advocates, including Prof. Luis Teodoro of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility and Ms. Rowena Paraan of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, commented on the draft bill.

The Internet Freedom Bill lays down several rights of netizens, including universal access to the Internet, right to privacy, and right to quality, among others.

“The output of the public consultation will be incorporated in the draft bill,” Palatino explained.

Kabataan Partylist is set to file the Internet Freedom Bill upon the resumption of Congress next week. Solons from the Makabayan bloc, including Casiño, are expected to sign as co-authors

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