SC asked to nullify law on libel penalty
MANILA, Philippines - Weeks before the scheduled oral arguments on the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, lawyers and journalists asked the Supreme Court to also nullify the law criminalizing libel.
Lawyer Harry Roque and Malaya columnist Ellen Tordesillas filed an amended petition on December 27 asking the High Court to declare as unconstitutional Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code.
Article 355 of the penal code states that libel is punishable with 6 months to 4 years of imprisonment. The Cybercrime Act increases the penalty by one degree - those who committed libel using a "computer system" may be sentenced to 6 months and 12 years in jail.
Roque and Tordesillas filed the amended petition weeks before the SC is scheduled to entertain oral arguments on 15 petitions filed against Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime law set on January 15, 2013.
The 15 petitions said the law violates the right to freedom of expression, speech and privacy among others. The SC earlier issued a temporary restraining order stopping the government from implementing the law on October 9.
The 120-day will be lifted in February 2013.
"We've had to clarify that pursuant to the View of the UN Human Rights Committee in Adonis vs. Republic of the Philippines, libel under the Revised Penal Code is contrary to freedom of expression," Roque said.
"In its annual report this year on the Philippines, the UN Human Rights Committee also decried that instead of complying with this view and repeal Art 355 of the RPC, the Philippines even expanded the coverage of libel through the Cyberprevention Act. Hence, its important to have both libel under the RPC and under the new law be declared as illegal."
Roque filed the amended petition in behalf of Davao-based broadcaster Alexander Adonis, who was sent to jail for libel in 2007 following a case filed against him by then Davao 1st district Rep. Prospero Nograles.
The government in early December asked the high court, however, to uphold the constitutionality of the Cybecrime law.
The Office of the Solicitor General said the law is valid except for Sec.19 or the "takedown clause" which authorizes the Department of Justice to bar access to websites found to contain "harmful" content based on prima facie evidence.
It defended Sec. 4(c) 4 which penalizes online libel, saying online libel is not a new crime.
The OSG said it is punishable under the Revised Penal Code. Article 360 of the Revised Penal code states that "Any person who shall publish, exhibit, or cause the publication or exhibition of any defamation in writing or by similar means," can be sued for libel.
The government said "other means" include using the computer system. - Rappler.com