MANILA, Philippines – Earlier this June, Cagayan de Oro City 2nd District Representative Rufus Rodriguez filed a bill seeking to amend Republic Act No. 10175 or the Cybercrime Law to explicitly say that cyber libel has a prescription period of only one year.
The measure was in response to the case of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and former researcher-writer Reynaldo Santos Jr, who would not have been charged and convicted if cyber libel’s prescription period is only one year.
The prescription period is the specific time period one can be sued for an offense.
Libel in the Revised Penal Code prescribes only one year, but the Cybercrime Law was silent on the prescription period of cyber libel, one of the among the problematic provisions the law enacted by the Aquino administration in 2012 and upheld mostly by the Supreme Court in 2014.
During the 2013 oral arguments before the Supreme Court, then Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza categorically said that cyber libel has a prescription period of only one year.
Still, because of the silence of the law, the Duterte-time Department of Justice (DOJ) found a way to extend the prescription period to 12 years.
Law experts believed that this interpretation, as upheld by Manila Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa, is unconstitutional.
Aside from the prescription period, dissenters on the Bench had also wanted to raise the bar for determining malice. They lost.
“Malice in law” or presumed malice was retained. Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque would cite that principle today, when 7 years ago he stood before the Supreme Court and opposed it.
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For past episodes:
- Episode 1 Part 1: Supreme Court’s most controversial decisions
- Episode 1 Part 2: Department of Justice’s evolving definition of warrantless arrests
- Episode 2: The rule of law in the time of the coronavirus
- Episode 3: Pandemic and the great wall of free speech
- Episode 4: Will petition to disclose Duterte health work?
- Episode 5: Legal difficulties of a prisoner mass release
- Episode 6: Breaking down the ABS-CBN franchise legal and political issues
- Episode 7: ABS-CBN and the 3 tangled branches of government
- Episode 8: Are extraordinary writs still effective in the time of Duterte?
- Episode 9: Dissecting anti-terror bill and threats to freedoms