After Ressa conviction, lawmaker seeks 1-year prescription period for cyber libel

Mara Cepeda
After Ressa conviction, lawmaker seeks 1-year prescription period for cyber libel
Cagayan de Oro City 2nd District Representative Rufus Rodriguez says explicitly putting this in the Cybercrime Law would ''put to rest the issue of prescription of the crime of cyber libel'

MANILA, Philippines – Cagayan de Oro City 2nd District Representative Rufus Rodriguez wants to amend the Cybercrime Law so it would explicitly state that the prescription period for cyber libel is one year only. 

Rodriguez, a former law dean, said on Thursday, June 18, that he filed House Bill (HB) No. 7010 after Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and former researcher-writer Reynaldo Santos Jr were found guilty of cyber libel over a story published in 2012. 

HB 7010 seeks to introduce a new section stating that there is only a one-year prescription period for libel under the Cybercrime Law, which is silent on the matter in its current form. (READ: Aquino’s contested cyber libel law gets new claws in ruling vs Rappler) 

The proposed section would read as follows:

“Section 8. Prescription – The punishable acts as provided for in Chapter II of this Act shall prescribe in 3 years from the commission of the offense except Section 4 (c)(4) libel, which shall prescribe in one year from date of publication.”

Rodriguez said his proposed amendment would “put to rest the issue of prescription of the crime of cyber libel.” 

 

The disputed Rappler article was published in May 2012, which means complainant Wilfredo Keng had the right to sue only until May 2013. After Rappler corrected a typo in the story in February 2014, Keng then had the chance to sue until February 2015. 

But Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 46 Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa said that the 2012 article was “republished” in 2014 when a typo in the word “evation” was corrected to “evasion.”

The rest of the story, which was primarily about several businessmen’s lending of vehicles to the late former chief justice Renato Corona, remain unchanged. 

Montesa’s ruling in effect affirms that republication makes for a separate libel offense and that cyber libel’s prescription period is 12 years.

But  just like Rodriguez, several law experts agreed that cyber libel prescribes only in one year, and not 12 years, which was the Department of Justice theory upheld by the Manila RTC Branch 46.

The guilty verdict handed down on Ressa and Santos has received widespread condemnation locally and abroad, with journalists, lawyers, and lawmakers calling it an attack on press freedom and free speech. (READ: After verdict on Maria Ressa, world puts Duterte on trial) – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.