Supreme Court upholds Online Libel

thodoretescdecision2182014“The high court have spoken, Online Libel is constitutional.”

Just this afternoon (February 18, 2014), the Supreme Court through its Spokesman Justice Theodore Te, announced the upholding of some provisions in the highly contested RA10175 or most commonly known as the Cybercrime Law.

In the decision Te said, that the SC Justices uphold Section 4 (c) (4) of the Cybercrime Law which penalizes online libel that pertains to the original author. SC meanwhile excludes people who simply reposted or retweeted a “libelous article or post”. Some other provisions that were uphold was Section 5 which reads, Aiding and abetting of the commission of cybercrime, in relation to the commission of: Illegal Access, Illegal Interception, Data Interference, System Interference, Misuse of Devices, Cyber-squatting and  Computer-related Offenses such as Computer-related Forgery and Computer-related Identity Theft and Cybersex.

Meanwhile those provisions that SC struck down for unconstitutionality were:

1. Section 5, pertaining to the offenses punished by child pornography, unsolicited commercial communications and libel.

2. Section 7, pertaining to liability of a cyber criminal under other laws, was also struck down for unconstitutionality in the following cases: online libel and child pornography, because it violates the constitutional prohibition on double jeopardy.

3. Section 19, the take-down clause of the law which gives the DOJ the right to restrict or block access to computer data.

4. Section 4 (c)(3) Unsolicited Commercial Communications. It pertains to the transmission of commercial electronic communication with the use of computer system which seek to advertise, sell, or offer for sale products and services are prohibited unless there is consent from the receiver.

5. Section 12 for Real-Time Collection of Traffic Data which authorizes law enforcement authorities to collect or record by technical or electronic means traffic data in real-time associated with specified communications transmitted by means of a computer system.

After hearing the decision of the high court, netisentiments are high mostly against the decision pertaining to the online libel. Netizens and bloggers shared their dis-appointments over the micro blogging site twitter. And the prevailing netisentiments is that the decision is somehow a form of censoring online opinions and freedom of expression. But as what blogger and netizen advocate Tonyo Cruz said in his blog, it is an “unfinished business” and that partial motion for reconsideration will be filed soon to the court.

In this time and age where online communication and social media is one of the easiest way for people to interact and become part in social issues, taming honest bold opinions is a step backwards. I just hope Sen. Sonny Angara and Sen. Chiz Escudero will pursue their proposed law decriminalizing libel, because that is the prevailing notion in many parts of the world, LIBEL is NOT a CRIME.

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