House unlikely to nix heavy jail time for online libel

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The House of Representatives is unlikely to move for the amendment of the Anti-Cybercrime Law which provides six to 12 year jail time for the online libel offense, a House leader said Wednesday.

House Deputy Speaker Giorgidi Aggabao of Isabela made the pronouncement a day after the Supreme Court dismissed all the petitions against the Anti-Cybercrime law which mainly seeks to remove its online libel provision.

The Anti-Cybercrime law provides that a criticism posted in online social networking sites can be deemed libelous and send someone to jail for six to 12 years—a penalty one level higher than what is provided for libel under the Revised Penal Code which only provides for a maximum four year-long jail time.

“I don’t think that Congress will move to repeal it [the online libel provision]. Congress passed the bill because it wanted the law which contained the disputed online libel,” Aggabao, a member of the Nationalist People’s Coalition allied with the Majority coalition in the House of Representatives, said in a text message.


There are at least two pending measures in the House which seeks to repeal online libel: the House Bill 466 of Rep. Antonio Tinio of Alliance of Concerned Teachers party-list and House Bill 3589 by Rep. Ibarra Gutierrez of Akbayan party-list.

“Since the Supreme Court sustained us, I don’t see any reason why Congress should make an about face, and so soon at that,” Aggabao, a lawyer, added.

But for neophyte Rep. Terry Ridon of Kabataan party-list, the fight is just getting started.

Kabataan party-list was one of the petitioners against the online libel alongside other party-list groups which are members of the Makabayan bloc namely Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Anakpawis and Alliance of Concerned Teachers.

The Makabayan bloc argues that the online libel is tantamount to stifling the people’s Constitutional right to free speech and as good as electronic Martial law since people who dissent and criticize the government, regardless if these accusations are factual, will be meted imprisonment.

“It is a sad day for internet freedom. We will just seek to repeal online liber in Congress and we will hold the Department of Justice to its commitment to support the removal of online libel as a crime,” Ridon said in a separate talk.

“We’ll do a signature campaign among our colleagues [to get support],” Ridon added.

LLANESCA T. PANTI

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