Debunking arguments against RA 10175
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2012-10-18
Contrary to what several of my media colleagues have espoused against the RA (Republic Act) 10175, otherwise known as the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, I maintain a generally positive view of the legislation. I admit that there are areas in RA 10175 that need to be clarified or rewritten in order that it might not be abused or misused by a future tyrannical ruler.

We have no such worries with President Benigno S. Aquino III (P-Noy) because he would not defile the memory of his father and mother by resorting to something oppressive or repressive. However, not all presidents are like P-Noy and we must be prudent not to enact laws that would equip a bad ruler’s tyrannical tendencies. 

We need the RA 10175 if we are to survive the challenges of a cyberspace-influenced world. Already, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had warned about the new world arena of combat - cyber warfare. Modern societies are now operating with the use of computers. A hostile cyberspace attack could come in the form of interfering with vital operating systems such as those of electricity providers, water suppliers, traffic control systems, food distribution, passenger air traffic and the disabling of online communications of the armed forces, and so forth. Within this perspective is seen the national security impact of RA 10175. 

Insofar as we’re concerned, the more immediate cyber threats are those that are in the realm of cybercrime and hacking in order to profit from or disable a business operation. In the past so many years, our economic growth has relied upon the BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) call centers. Sans an RA 10175, the BPO companies doing business here could be forced to transfer to another country where their operations are better protected. Within this perspective is seen the economic impact of the RA 10175.

Cybercrimes that result in the exploitation of Filipinos show the need for RA 10175 as a protector of human rights. Then, there are the personal violations of human rights such as libel. Many legal minds are of the opinion that with or without RA 10175 - there is already libel accountability for cyberspace postings. In other words, if the libel provisions of RA 10175 are removed, there’s still accountability based on the existing laws that, unknown to many, also cover cyberspace.

According to my neighbor and occasional legal adviser, Romy Macalintal: “Once a statement has been released and gained public attention, there is already publication. The libel law does not make any distinction on how it is published, when heard or learned by two or more persons.”

So, when your Facebook posting clearly refers to another person in what’s considered libelous, then that offended person doesn’t even need an RA 10175 in order to prosecute you. All the offended person needs to do is printout the libelous statement and produce two people who admit having seen it and perceived the libel in the remark.

The imposition of a stiffer penalty for cyberspace libel is unjustified and should be scrapped. There’s no reason for a stiffer penalty on cyberspace, especially since most newspapers are also posted online. Some even argue that this lays the basis for possible double jeopardy.

I don’t buy the usual line of my media colleagues that RA 10175 will have a chilling effect. So what if it sends a chill up and down your spine. If you can’t take the heat, then get out of the kitchen. For those of us who fought Ferdinand Marcos, the dictator, we never allowed the chilling effect of Marcos suppression laws to stop us from communicating the inconvenient truth, which was then considered as seditious. Libel is a mere poke in the nose when compared to the firing squad prospects for a conviction on charges of sedition.

RA 10175 doesn’t prevent you from saying what you want to say but you must never forget that there are modes of behavior that guide communications. You’ll have to be responsible for what you wrote or said. You have no right to libel another person whether on mainstream media or on cyberspace. That other person is entitled to due process and the presumption of innocence until the crime has been proved in a fair trial.

I was pleased to see the big positive effect on Facebook after the controversy surrounding RA 10175 reverberated. All of a sudden, folks became more careful with what they posted on Facebook. RA 10175 isn’t bad for press freedom. It can only be good for press freedom when statements are made with due deliberation and regard for the rights of others.

I agree that RA 10175 should be refined to prevent the valid concerns about its possible abuse or misuse by a tyrannical ruler. What I do not agree with is the hysteria that met the RA 10175, making it appear as revolting as the Marcos PD (Presidential Decree) 1081 that imposed martial law in 1972. E-martial law - that’s how the hysterical objectors called RA 10175. In their hysteria they demonstrated their fears that are mostly based on imagined curtailment of press freedom and they lost sight of the importance of RA 10175 for our national survival.

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Shakespeare: “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”

  Previous Columns:

It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

Suggested guidelines for liability- free Internet posts

Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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