CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez is proposing a one-year prescription period for cases on cyber libel, amending the provision on the Anti-Cybercrime Law.
This proposal is contained in House Bill 7010, which he filed following the court’s conviction of cyber-libel against Maria Ressa, chief executive officer and editor of the online news site Rappler, and Reynaldo Santos, its former writer-researcher.
Businessman Wilfredo Keng, who is engaged in mining investments, filed the case against Rappler for its story implicating him with links to the late former Chief Justice Renato Corona and of being involved in illegal trade.
The article was published by Rappler in 2012, but Keng filed the case in 2017. This was one of the contention from media groups who questioned the court’s decision.
Rodriguez said that Ressa and Santos are found violating section 4 (c)(4) of Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.
RA 10175 penalizes “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.”
But the lawmaker points out, “[RA 10175] did not provide for any prescription for punishable acts in said law.”
He said the Department of Justice used Republic Act 3326 in this case, which provides that for any other offenses punishable by imprisonment for six years or more, the prescription period is 12 years.
But Rodriguez said the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, through its President Egon Cayosa, pointed out the need to clarify the laws in view of questions raised regarding their correct interpretation.
Far Eastern University law dean Mel Sta. Maria cited the ruling of the Supreme Court, in upholding the constitutionality of the Anti-Cybercrime Law, that cyber libel “is not a new crime,” since the Revised Penal Code already punishes libel, whose prescription period is only one year.
“Because cyber libel is not a new crime, then the one-year prescriptive period applies to it. Moreover, such prescriptive period (under the Penal Code) was not changed by the Anti-Cyber Libel Law,” Rodriguez said, quoting Sta. Maria.
Rodriguez hopes his bill would clarify the matter by amending the Anti-Cyber Crime Law to provide that all acts punishable under said statute would prescribe in three years from the commission of the offense, except for cyber libel, which would lapse in one year from the date of publication of the article.
“This will put to rest the issue of prescription of the crime of cyber libel,” he said.
Emmanuel Jaudian, president of the Cagayan de Oro Press Club, has agreed with Rodriguez in pushing for the prescriptive period of one year for the filing of cyber libel.
National media groups, however, have insisted on the decriminalization of the cyber libel and libel laws.
Ariel Sebellino, Philippine Press Institute executive director, said they stand by the group’s long-time position to “decriminalize libel for obvious reasons we already know.”
Nonoy Espina, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines chairman, said NUJP has always been for decriminalizing libel, but added.
“While we acknowledge Rodriguez’s intentions, Congress would do better to amend a law that has been used for so long by those in power as they seek to silence or intimidate journalists,” Espina said. (davaotoday.com)