Sotto: Stop paranoia on cyber law passage

Sen Vicente Sotto III delivers a privilege speech to defend himself from criticism over the cybercrime law

PROPER PROCESS. Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto IIi says the cybercrime law went through the right process and he did not insert any provision nor was he part of the Bicameral Conference Committee. Photo by Ayee Macaraig.

MANILA, Philippines – Calling himself the “cyberbully whipping boy,” Senate Majority Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III sought to defend himself on the Senate floor from allegations he was behind the insertion of controversial provisions in the anti-cybercrime law.

In a privilege speech on Monday, October 8, Sotto read into the records what he called the legislative history of the controversial Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

Sotto reiterated that he was not behind any insertions in the law and was not a member of the Bicameral Conference Committee that unified the Senate and House versions.

“Nais ko pong banggitin na ang Cybercrime Law ay dumaan sa tamang proseso. Wala ang sinasabi nilang insertion. Insertion is used by the Senate secretariat for something that is proposed in an amendment, not an amendment itself. Ang amendment binabago eh, ang insertion, sinasama pero ang dating sa kanila, ang insertion parang snimuggle.” (I want to mention that the Cybercrime Law passed through the proper process. There is none of the reported insertions. The amendment is changed, the insertion, they include that but the impression to them is it’s as if the insertion is smuggled.)

Sotto said he sought to set the record straight and to clear his name.

“Para lumawak ang kaisipan ng mga iba nating kababayan na patuloy akong hinuhusgahan sa cybercommunity, para doon sa mga paranoid at marurumi ang isip kasi napakarami pong magagaling, responsible users ng ating cyberspace ngunit may mga ilan na talagang ‘di ko maintindihan kung bakit nagkakaganoon ang takbo ng kaisipan.” (To broaden the minds of those who continue to judge me in the cybercommunity, for those who are paranoid and have dirty minds. Because we have many good, responsible users of cyberspace but there are some who are otherwise.) 

He added, “Ang dating kasi, pag nagkapatayan sa Senado, ako ang killer eh.” (The impression is that when there’s murder in the Senate, I’m the killer.

Sotto’s speech came following backlash and finger-pointing over the law, which critics said violated freedom of expression, freedom of speech and gave the government too much power over Internet users. There are at least 14 petitions against it pending before the Supreme Court.

Some senators who voted for the bill admitted their lapse, and vowed to measures to amend it.

Various versions

In his speech, Sotto said various senators filed their own versions of the bill starting July 2010. In May 2011, a joint version was passed by several committees, substituting the earlier bills filed.

Those who authored the bill were Senators Antonio Trillanes IV, Edgardo Angara, Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Lito Lapid, Manuel Villar, Miriam Defensor Santiago, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, and Ramon Revilla.

Sotto said the bill underwent the period of interpellations or debate for the rest of 2011. In January 2012, the period of amendments was closed.

The Senate approved the bill on 3rd reading on Jan 30, 2012, with only Sen Teofisto Guingona III voting against it.

Sotto pointed out that in the bicameral conference committee deliberations in May 2012, he was not among the conferees. Those who were designated to be part of the bicam discussions were Angara, Santiago, Estrada, Marcos, Revilla, Trillanes and Villar.

‘Why we are so rude online’

He reiterated that because the bicameral conference report was approved in June 2012, it could not have been possible that he supported it to get back at his critics in the Reproductive Health (RH) debates.

Sotto claimed he was a victim of “cyberbullying” only in August and September 2012.

“These cyberbullies should not be too presumptious, parang KSP eh, (they lack attention) feeling important eh. The Senate will enact a law for them, kokontrahin sila, reretaliate sila (contradict them retaliate against them), excuse me ah.”

Sotto ended his speech by calling on his colleagues and the public to read an article of the Wall Street Journal titled “Why we are so rude online.”

Libel bill withdrawn

In an interview before the start of the session, Sotto said he filed but soon withdrew a bill “abolishing libel” for all types of media.

Sotto filed the bill last Friday, October 5, and withdrew it on Monday, October 8.

Asked why he changed his mind, Sotto said, “Winithdraw ko, alam mo kung bakit, kasi gusto rin ni Noynoy ang libel kaya winithdraw ko, hintayin ko muna ang desisyon ng Supreme Court, The president is not against it why will I go against it?” (I withdrew it, you know why, because Noynoy also likes libel. I will wait for the decision of the Supreme Court first.)

President Benigno Aquino III said last week that he does not agree with calls to remove the online libel provision in the Cybercrime Prevention Act. 

“If you wrote something libelous, you have a responsibility. If you are a broadcaster and you said something on radio or TV, you also have responsibility. If you said the same thing on the Internet, I believe that is also libelous. Whatever the format, if what you said was wrong, I believe that the victim should have the right for redress,” Aquino told reporters in Filipino.

Asked why he filed the bill abolishing libel in the first place, Sotto told reporters, Kailangan patas patas hindi lang online pati kayo. Sayang naman apo ‘ko ni Press Freedom Law author, Sotto Law. Pinapantay ko lang, nile-level ko lang sila sa inyo ang online media. Kayo meron responsibilidad. Kung ayaw nila at ‘pag sinabi ng Supreme Court, hindi dapat ‘di kayo rin hindi dapat.” (It has to be fair, not just online but also you. It’s a shame. I’m the grandson of the Press Freedom Law author, Sotto Law. I am just leveling the playing field with online media. You have responsibility. If they don’t like it and the Supreme Court says something, then you should also not be liable.)

‘Setting the record straight’

Below is the full speech of Sotto on the Senate floor as delivered:

I rise to set the record straight, particularly on the passage of the Senate on RA 10175, the Anti-Cybercrime Act. I rise as your favorite neighborhood cyberbully whipping boy because I have been again the subject of criticism because of the passage of the anti-cybercrime act. Kaya po ako tumatayo to set the record straight para lumawak ang kaisipan ng mga iba nating kababayan na patuloy akong hinuhusgahan sa cybercommunity, para doon sa mga paranoid at marurumi ang isip kasi napakarami pong magagaling, responsible users n gating cyberspace ngunit may mga ilan na talagang di ko maintindihan kung bakit nagkakaganoon ang takbo ng kaisipan. Ang dating kasi, pag nagkapatayan sa Senado, ako ang killer eh.

Nais ko pong banggitin na ang cybercrime law ay dumaan sa tamang proseso. Wala ang sinasabi nilang insertion. Insertion is used by the Senate secretariat for something that is proposed in an amendment, not an amendment itself. Ang amendment binabago eh, ang insertion, sinasama pero ang dating sa kanila, ang insertion parang snimuggle.

So let me set the record straight. This is the legislative history ng Cybercrime Act:

July 1, 2010 – After elections po ito, the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2010 was filed by Trillanes, Antonio, Sonny.

July 1, 2010 – Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2010 was filed by Angara, Edgardo J.

July 5, 2010 – Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2010 was filed by Enrile, Juan Ponce.

July 8, 2010 – Anti-computer Fraud and Abuses Act of 2010 by Lapid, Manuel Lito.

July 8, 2010 – Anti-cybercrime Act of 2010 by Villar, Manny V.

September 22, 2010 – Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2010 by Marcos, Ferdinand “Bongbong.”

February 3, 2011 – Cybersecurity Education Enhancement Act by Defensor-Santiago, Miriam.

February 28, 2011 – Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2011 by Revilla, Jr Ramon.

May 3, 2011 – After that, Mr President, after all those bills proposed on the Cybercrime Act, an Act Defining Cybercrime Providing for Prevention, Investigation and Imposition of Penalties, therefor and other purposes was filed, prepared and submitted jointly by the Committee on Science, Technology, Constitutional Amendments, Revisions of Codes and Laws, Education, Arts and Culture, Justice and Human Rights, Trade and Commerce, Public Information and Mass Media, and Finance, May 3, 2011.

Again, I’m sure you heard the committees that submitted with Senators Antonio Trillanes, Edgardo Angara, Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada, Manuel “Lito” Lapid, Manny Villar, Miriam Defensor Santiago, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos and Ramon Revilla as authors.

Per Committee Report Number 30, and recommending its approval in substitution of the Senate bills I mentioned earlier, taking into consideration Senate Resolution 75164 and 254.

May 10, 2011 – Ngayon, Mr President, pagdating po ng May 10, 2011, committee report was calendared for ordinary business. That same day, it was sponsored by Sen Edgardo Angara, chairman of the Committee on Education and Science and Technology.

May 11, 2011 – On May 11, it was transferred from the calendar for ordinary business to the calendar for special orders. Ganoon po ang sistema sa atin para doon sa nakikinig sa atin sa labas, lalo na sa cyberspace.

May 11, 2011 – Sponsorship speech was Sen Angara was followed by co-sponsorship by Sen Loren Legarda and Sen Loren Legarda was made co-author on the same day.

September 12, 2011 – The period of interpellations were open. Interpellations were conducted by Miriam Defensor Santiago and Vicente Sotto III.

December 12, 2011 – Interpellations continued with Sen Vicente Sotto III, Teofisto Guingona III and Aquilino Pimentel III.

December 13, 2011 – Interpellations by Sen Juan Ponce Enrile

And after that Dec 13, 2011, the period of interpellations was closed.

January 24, 2012 – After the Christmas break, there were inquiries conducted by Sen Teofisto Guingona III and Sen Panfilo Lacson during the period of committee and individual amendments and no longer in the period of interpellations.

January 24, 2012 – The period of individual amendments was closed. It was approved on second reading with amendments, lahat na ng amendments na pinag-usapan dito noon na laman ng Senate bill nang lumabas, nandoon na, products of the interpellations in December and onto January.

January 26, 2012 – Printed copies were distributed to the senators.

January 30, 2012 – It was approved on 3rd reading. Those who voted in favor: Pia Cayetano, Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada, Chiz Escudero, Gregorio Honasan, Panfilo Lacson, Lito Lapid, Loren Legarda, Bongbong Marcos, Koko Pimentel, Ralph Recto, Ramon Revilla Jr, Vicente Sotto, Manny Villar. There was one who voted against: Sen TG Guingona. There were no abstentions.

January 31, 2012 – This was sent to the House of Representatives requesting for concurrence, inabot po ito nang ilang buwan sapagkat di pa pasado ang House version.

May 30, 2012 – The Senate requested the House of Representatives for a conference on the disagreeing provisions because the House passed it already, designating Senators Angara, Santiago, Estrada, Marcos, Revilla, Trillanes and Villar as its conferees to the bicameral conference committee.

Wala hong Sotto doon sa bicam member!

May 30, 2012 – The House of Representatives accepted the request of the Senate for conference on the disagreeing provisions for Senate Bill 2796 and House Bill 5808. Representatives were Tinga, Yap, Singson Jr, Angara, Rodriguez, Sarmiento, Arenas, Quimbo, Golez, Sarmiento, Arroyo D as the conferees in the bicameral conference committee, May 30, 2012. 

June 5, 2012 – The conference committee report submitted to the Senate recommending Senate Bill 2796 in consolidation with House Bill 5808 be approved as reconciled and Sen Angara delivered a sponsorship speech after the bicam so sa bicam ito, ang proseso natin, 2nd reading, 3rd reading, magmi-meet ang House at Senate, pag-uusapan ang disagreeing provisions, pag-uusapan nila, paplantsahin nila, babalik sa Senate, babalik sa House. Pagbalik sa Senate, parehong-pareho na ng House version.

So the committee report, conference committee report was approved by the Senate on June 5.

June 4, 2012 – Approved by the House of Representatives, one day ahead Mr President.

So ang totoo niyan as of June 5, it was already out of the hands of the Senate. It was already enrolled, pinadala sa kinauukulan lalo na sa Pangulo ng Pilipinas.

May mga nagce-claim na ito raw ay retaliation ko for the cyberbullying that I got. Mr President, the cyberbullying attacks I got was on August and September 2012, way, way beyond June 5, na tapos na tapos na sa Senado ito. Sa totoo nga, January 24, wala na sa kamay ng Senate, lumabas na. So it was after my turno en contra that the cyberbullying started, Mr President.

These cyberbullies should not be too presumptious, parang KSP eh, feeling important eh. The Senate will enact a law for them, kokontrahin sila, reretaliate sila, excuse me ah.

May I suggest, para sa kalinawan ng marami at medyo magandang kaisipan, I suggest our colleagues and the public read an online article written in the Wall Street Journal is entitled “Why we are so rude online.” “Online browsing lowers self-control and is linked to higher debt and higher weight” by Elizabeth Bernstein of the Wall Street Journal.

And also, I would like to commend the editorial of the Manila Times today, “Libel and Freedom of Speech.” I suggest our colleagues and the public to also read that instead of your cyberbully whipping boy read it into the records of the Senate. 

I thank you. I hope I am able to set the record straight para matigil ang pagbibintang at paranoia ng iba nating kababayan. – Rappler.com