Unfree Speech

Apparently, the new Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 tries to go after hackers, cyber-swindlers and purveyors of pornography. However, the Republic Act 10175’s positive intents were overshadowed by the suspicious last minute insertion of internet libel.

As per definition of the recently signed law, it is now a cybercrime whose penalty is a degree higher than libel committed through the traditional means like print and broadcast media.

Article 353, of the Revised Penal Code, 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 80-year-old Code continued that it could be committed “by means of writing, printing, lithography, engraving, radio, phonograph, painting, theatrical exhibition, cinematographic exhibition, or any similar means.”

The United Nations Human Rights Committee found out last year that the country’s libel law violates human rights protocol by sentencing those convicted with imprisonment. Then, in one treacherous stroke, no thanks to our brilliant legislators, it is now to enforce its rotten system to the cyberworld too.

Section 4, subsection C (4)of RA 10175 reads, “Libel.—The unlawful or 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.”

There were no further elaboration as to who could be held liable, on what conditions will it be counted as a cybercrime and as to what actions establish the crime.

Most infuriating of it all is the fact that online libel is now in the same league with other “Content-related Offenses” such as cybersex, child pornography and unsolicited commercial communications or spam. Of course, “aiding or abetting in the commission of cybercrime” is also punishable by law.

In a September 20 editorial, “A blow against free speech,” the Philippine Daily Inquirer raised the following questions:

“When a newspaper reader e-mails a possibly libelous article to a friend, is that reader now liable for libel, too?”

“When an online viewer tweets a link of a possibly libelous video to a friend, is that first viewer now liable for libel, too?”

“When a friend “likes” or shares or comments on a possibly libelous post on Facebook, is that friend now liable for libel, too?” Apparently, the answers are probably yes, probably yes and probably yes.

I am bothered by the shouts, yells and shrieks of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines in front of the media to stop the passage of House Bill no. 4244, or the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill.

It’s not because I don’t respectthese men of cloth, it’s not because I don’t respect their right to air their opinion, it’s not even because I find it an overreaction. But it’s because I haven’t heard them this loud during the last months of 2009, when 58 men and women were butchered like pigs in Maguindanao that fateful November 23.

I wondered whether the feral voice they are screaming in opposition to the RH bill was buried along with the bodies of the slain with the Ampatuan

The CBCP claimed that they are pro-life, that they don’t want the bill to be passed because it will institutionalize distribution of contraceptives, a number of it they said are even abortifacient or abortion-causing.

They said that preventing embryo fertilization is murder; hence, they should stand firmly against the passage of the RH Bill because the Church is against any form of killing.

But they did not stand firmly against the wholesale killings brought forth by the infamous Ampatuan father and son.

Where were their shouts after the gun smoke cleared?

Where were their yells when the rotting bodies riddled with bullet holes were recovered one by one?

Where were their shrieks when the blaming finger was resolutely directed at a close ally of their close friend, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo?

Or was it because the victims read

Koran instead of the Bible?

Or call their religious elders Imam instead of Priests?

Or celebrate Eid’l Fit’r instead of Christmas?

Or observe Ramadan instead of Holy Week?
Or as Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago asked the GMA News,

“Are we going back to the Middle Ages?

Is this again the clericalism we knew from the Spanish regime?

I don’t think so.” I don’t think so too.

I think this is not about what is morally right or what is religiously correct any-
more, because if so, their stand for the call for justice should have the same intensity of their stand for the call of opposing RH Bill.

If morality is about raising a ruckus against sperm carnage and prevention of egg cell fertilization but keeping mum about the brutal massacre of 58 men and women, more than half of them journalists, then what would immoral acts be like?

If holiness is about bombarding a bill (a work of man) inside the supposedly holy grounds of a church (a house of God) but not even whisper justice (a God-given right) for the 58 souls who were murdered (due to some men’s greed) in Maguindanao, then what would unholy be like?

A degree holder in Theology, Senator Miriam tells it rather more bluntly, “a Catholic is not supposed to just swallow everything that is recited by a cleric, whether he is a parish priest or a bishop.

Only the Pope can dictate, and that is when he categorically claims that he is speaking ex-cathedra, in his role as Supreme Pontiff.”

Each of us is a hypocrite in one way or another. But the holier you ought to be, the more damning the hypocrisy.

Remember, remember
Twenty-third November
Maguindanao Massacre plot
I found no reason,
In the Justice’s treason
Shall ever be forgot.

- Adapted from V for Vendetta