I find the decision of the Supreme Court (SC) declaring as constitutional the online libel in the controversial Republic Act No. 10175 or Cybercrime Prevention Act as a curve ball thrown to Internet users, most specifically the bloggers.
For a better understanding, the cybercrime law (Section 4) describes online libel as “the unlawful and prohibited acts of libel as defined in Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, committed through a computer system or any other similar means which may be devised in the future.”
Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) defines libel as a “public imputation and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstances tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead.”
The SC ruled that imposition of cyber libel on the “original author of the post” is constitutional, but clarified the same is unconstitutional insofar as it penalizes those who simply receive the post and react to it.
I find the preceding paragraph incongruent because whoever reacts to and expresses freely the opinion of an original author critical about a certain personality becomes himself an author of his own post or article, and it goes on and on.
So, in effect, everybody becomes liable for libel.
Besides, almost always there is nothing critical that a blogger says about a certain personality that has not already been read in print media, heard over the radio and discussed on TV.
And this is what I mean by originators of opinion being amplified or echoed, if you may, by Internet users.
What is dismaying in the SC decision is that, being composed of supposedly brilliant minds, it is the last place that you would think would scuttle the freedom of speech, which is enshrined in the Bill of Rights in the 1987 Constitution, in favor of gagging Internet users who are simply openly expressing their disgust about a certain person and exposing his/her idiotic behavior that is causing more harm than good to the country and its people.
Now, what is wrong with that?
Almost always the subjects are politicians, lawmakers, government officials who disguise themselves as public servants, but, who, in reality have no scruples at all.
As citizens and taxpayers that provide salary to these so called “public servants”, are our rights of expressing our opinion for them to serve us well and in all propriety being curtailed now and make us instead criminals?
Are we seeing the SC decision as siding with the ingrates?
Talking about forever being the sick man of Asia!