Filipino netizens on edge as online libel criminalized under RA 10175 (the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012)

The Philippine Supreme Court reportedly upheld the libel provisions of Republic Act 10175 or the “Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012” which Philippine President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III signed into law in 2012. As expected, online hysterics have erupted over Philippine social media space with many online “activists” expressing loud indignation over what they perceive to be the “end of online freedom of expression” in the Philippines.

Filipino communists are the least credible of Internet freedom 'activists'.

Filipino communists are the least credible of Internet freedom ‘activists’.

Notable among these hysterical “activists” are Maoist activists like Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares who insists that “No one should go to prison just for expressing oneself, especially on the Internet, where people express their frustration with government.” Ironic, considering that the sort of communist regimes that groups like theirs aspire to establish in the Philippines are renowned for their utter lack of tolerance for dissent.

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Indeed, many amongst the noisy crowd that now denounce this law have themselves been staunch supporters of its chief signatory, and likely its biggest beneficiary President BS Aquino himself. Recall that Aquino has many times expressed his presidential disdain for criticism.

It is difficult to harbour any hope for the Philippines when both the Establishment and the “activists” who supposedly exist to keep it honest are both made up of morons. Stepping back from all that noise, we will find that a few nuggets of wisdom in the Supreme Court ruling that lends some bases for a more sober regard for the issues at the core of this circus…

The court noted that “online libel is admittedly not a new crime but one already punished under Article 353 (which defines libel in the RPC); Section 4(c)(4) (or online libel) merely establishes the use of a computer as another means of publication. For this reason, charging the offender under both laws would be a violation of the guarantee against double jeopardy under Article III Section 27 of the 1987 Constitution,” said the statement released to the media.

Online libel champion: Maria Ressa

Online libel champion: Maria Ressa

In short libel has always been a crime. In fact, no less than God’s Gift to Philippine Journalism herself, the venerable Maria Ressa, CEO of “social news network” considers libel an essential part of the awesome social media arsenal she packs. Back in 2012, blogger Jaime Oscar Salazar who goes by the handle @randomsalt on Twitter highlighted a slip made by Ressa in the midst of a simmering exchange with another blogger Katrina Stuart Santiago that reveals the kernel in a disturbing disjoint between the top-honcho “thought leader” and what her “social news network” supposedly stands for. Salazar’s January 2012 article Ressa’s reckless ‘rappling’ (Updated) provides an account of Ressa’s seeming quickness to the draw when it comes to invoking the “L” word when slighted…

Blogger Katrina Stuart Santiago had earlier published “Going to the dogs”, in which she stated her opinion on the discussion generated by a heated dispute between Rappler and the University of Santo Tomas (UST)–a dispute that was caused by a controversial story written by Rappler editor-at-large Marites Dañguilan-Vitug. Over the course of the post, Santiago raised what I believe to be important questions regarding the brave new world of online media and the directions that public discourse on such media needs–and has yet–to take. When said post was brought to Ressa’s attention via a Twitter update, however, Ressa did not only take exception to Santiago’s view that Rappler revealed a pro-administration bias by featuring the recently launched, meme-friendly tourism campaign, “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” without investigating its costs, among others. In addition, Ressa pulled rank as a professional journalist and proceeded to imply that Santiago was guilty of libel: reckless moves that are utterly injurious to the digital citizenship that Ressa purports to be a passionate advocate of.

Salazar’s indictment of Ressa’s curious behaviour was short and sweet…

Surely someone of Ressa’s stature needs no reminding that, in these islands, libel has all too often been used as a weapon with which to harass media workers…

So there you go. Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi may as well have been addressing the Philippine National “Debate” when he asked his now famous rhetorical question:

Who is more foolish, the fool, or the one who follows him?

But the real question in most people’s minds now that RA 10175 has regrown its teeth is “Who is gonna be sued first?” We can start placing our bests now, and here is my Top Three most vulnerable targets:

* * *

(1) The Professional Heckler

Considering Filipinos’ renowned cognitive challenges when it comes to getting satire, the “award”-winning political satirist known as “The Professional Heckler” who in his Twitter account describes himself as “A humor blogger from the Philippines” may be in trouble. For that matter, just being “from the Philippines” puts him squarely within the libel kill zone.

His In Memoriam article on the “demise” of Senator Tito Sotto’s “common sense” as expressed in the following mock epitaph which opens the article, may be funny. But some powerful folk may not be in the mood for a bit of a laugh…

The People of the Philippines deeply regret
to announce the not-so-shocking demise
of Senator Vicente ‘Tito’ Sotto III’s
COMMON SENSE last August 29.

On September 5, 2012, it died yet again making
it ‘double dead’ — botcha sotto speak.

The lawmaker’s common sense is survived by his
22 fellow senators who opted to keep mum
on the issue of plagiarism.

In lieu of flowers or prayers,
the public is requested to just remain
vigilant and critical.

Interment was never announced.
It just happened.

Considering how I was crowned “one of the most enthusiastic hecklers of the politically-passionate” by no less than the Noted One himself way back in September 2006, I sympathise with The Professional Heckler. His blog goes as far back as April, 2007 so I count him as one who wields equal claim to the title.

In any case, Professional Heckler may have other more pressing things to worry about. The embattled Senator Sotto reportedly said that “the new law against cybercrime may be used to penalize those who make defamatory statements online.”

(2) Raissa Robles

The self-described “investigative journalist” has quite a dossier of journalistic infamy in our archives. Robles was instrumental to the success of the whole trial-by-media fiasco that was the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona. Her “contribution” to this “noble” endeavour was a full-court-press on Corona and his wife Cristina Corona that stood upon three questionable premises:

(1) Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) made it a point to appoint Mrs Corona to the Board of Directors of John Hay Management Corporation (JHMC) in 2001.

(2) There was, supposedly, a “possible conflict of interest” in an SC justice being married to a Board member of the JHMC both of whom were appointed by GMA to those positions.

(3) Mr Corona sat in the SC as a justice courtesy of GMA’s “reward” and Mrs Corona enjoyed a plum Board position in the JHMC over the rest of the period of GMA’s cling-on presidency.

Robles also mounted a “crowdsourcing” effort to supposedly get to the bottom of the Coronas’ allegedly vast property holdings in the United States by encouraging her community of readers to post “evidence” to prove this allegation on the comment sections of her blog.

(3) Magtanggol de la Cruz and Carmela Fonbuena of

Impeached on trumped-up charges using flawed evidence

Impeached on trumped-up charges using flawed evidence

One of the cornerstones of the case against Corona during his impeachment trial was the existence of alleged foreign currency accounts to his name. On account of the Philippines’ bank secrecy laws, those accounts and the cash balances within them were at the time legally invisible to the media. Yet in a series of news “reports”, de la Cruz and Fonbuena revealed not only the amount of money kept in these accounts but also the account number of one of them. itself has a track record of erroneous “news” reporting. The most recent instance of this sloppy journalism was highlighted by blogger Paul Farol who cited Voltaire Tupaz’s and Judy Pasimio’s reports on the gunning down of tribal leader Timuay Lucenio Manda’s son Jordan in early September. “Manda was ambushed and shot at by several men while he was riding a motorcycle with his son, who he was bringing to school in Bayog, Zamboanga del Sur. Manda survived the shooting, but his son was instantly killed.”

Not one but two “reports” erroneously cast Manda as harbouring an absolute “anti-mining” position — an allegation denied by Manda himself in a subsequent press statement.

* * *

Note that for an allegation of libel to hold water, the following elements need to be present: “(a) imputation of a discreditable act or condition to another; (b) publication of the imputation; (c) identity of the person defamed; and, (d) existence of malice.” [Daez v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 47971, 31 October 1990, 191 SCRA 61, 67].

For most Filipinos, on the other hand, what is really important are final clarifications on any criminal liability to do with responding or reacting to online content they receive or come across over the course of using various digital content accessing tools and applications but had not necessarily authored themselves…

The SC ruled that imposition of cyber libel on the “original author of the post” is constitutional, but clarified the same is unconstitutional insofar as it penalizes those who simply receive the post and react to it.

This means only the source of a malicious e-mail, post on social media like Facebook or any website, tweet on Twitter can be held liable under RA 10175.

It was not, however, clarified whether forwarding, commenting, sharing or retweeting the item could be considered a crime under the law.

Big brother is watching!

Big brother is watching!

The central issue, then, is how Philippine Law henceforth defines the act of “reacting” to a purported libelous post. More precise definitions around that term are therefore needed to guide the actions of “netizens” once the full force of Philippine authorities get behind RA 10175. From a practical perspective Department of Justice (DOJ) Assistant Secretary Geronimo Sy reportedly says that charging people who forward, share, comment, like, or retweet libelous content may be “statistically impossible to charge”…

“Ang basehan diyan, ang basic analysis lang, the Supereme Court is also a practical court eh. Kasi the way it is, kung nag-like ka, 100, kung ni-retweet mo, 1000—it is statistically impossible to charge them all. So ang direction ng Korte Suprema, ‘yung original author lang kung saan nagbunga at nagsanhi ang libel o paninira ‘yun lang ‘yung magiging responasble. Di na kasama ‘yung mga nag-like o nag-share,” he said.

Translated: “The Supreme Court is also a practical court. A hundred people may ‘like’ something and a thousand people may retweet it. It is statistically impossible to charge them all. So the direction of the SC is to go after the original author — wherever libelous orn defamatory content orginates will be held responsible. Not covered by this responsibility are those who ‘liked’ or shared said content.”

We can rest assured for now. But stay tuned just the same.

Abangan ang susunod na kabanata…

[Image of “Are you feeling lucky” meme courtesy The Digital Drivetrain.]

42 Replies to “Filipino netizens on edge as online libel criminalized under RA 10175 (the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012)”

  1. I’m just glad they knocked out the bits that let the state take down websites and confiscate equipment without warrants or court orders as well as the one for monitoring of data. The rest have been things we’ve been living with since ever.
    The law is essentially unenforceable anyway, just like most laws in the Philippines which they’ve could harass us with even if the cybercrime law didn’t exist.

    1. That is correct Zorak, unless the offending party wants to hand over their PC/Mac to the authorities with the page open to the offending comments.
      A ridiculous law in a ridiculous country made by ridiculous law-makers who are nothing but deceivers of the people.

  2. Since day 1, the hypocrite pnoy aquino has targetted freedom of expression ( cybercrime bill), and blocked freedom of information bill ( FoI). The twin enemies of authoritarian regimes, dictators, and corrupt organisations. Ironic timing with EDSA round the corner.

    He cannot control/buy social media in the same way he does the mainstream yellow press, and social media does have an increasing reach, even though many still just use it for games etc.
    The top selling newspaper only has a circulation of 1 million and soon becomes wrapping paper.
    Social media issues can go viral rapidly (10 people retweet to 100 x 1000 = 1 million), and remain fresh for longer and remain accessible. All misdeeds of politicians under the spotlight and remembered at the click of a button.

    And social media has always been pnoy aquinos achilles heel.
    The duplicity of transferring facebook followers
    The failed attempt at using internet trolls

    Rather than try and use technology positively for beneficial change, pnoy aquino simply wants to destroy something he does not understand and cannot control

    The cybercrime bill – libel provision – will undoubtedly be used come 2016, but could backfire on politicians and create a huge wave of voter resentment. Inflamed netizens would be the new bloc vote!

    At least the more draconian measures were ruled unconstitutional by SC.

    All power to, and support for, thought leaders benign0, ilda et al, and the professional heckler. Class acts.

  3. “Freedom of expression – in particular,
    freedom of the press – guarantees popular
    participation in the decisions and actions of government, and popular participation is
    the essence of our democracy.”
    Corazon Aquino

    The sham and hypocricy started with the mother, continues with the son.

    1. exactly mga hipokritong sheetholes at may gana pa ang Abnoy na ideklarang ala Hitler ang Tsina samantalang masahol pa siya ki Kim Jung Un ng NoKor.

    2. @ Libertass:WHAT??? When Mrs. Aquino made that statement the internet was not even invented. So your useless accusation is , IN FACT, baseless and moronic.

      Got any more twisted logic to spew? OR are you done for the day?

      1. Ah, the village idiot has her knickers in a twist again

        Get off your rocking horse, and go drink your milk.

        Logic and compresension is way beyond you, unlike your singular ability to always miss the point.

  4. The government will be seen as a dictatorship if they start jailing people for voicing out their complaints against their corruption.
    I don’t even think that the government can implement it properly, its basically a toothless law since the government is too much of a f*ck up anyway.

  5. “The Philippines slid further down this
    year to 149th spot in the 179-country World Press Freedom Index 2014 released Wednesday by the France-based Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) or Reporters Without Borders.”
    Feb 6 2014

    Philippines was 122nd in 2009, so is actually the country with the biggest drop, showing less freedom and less democracy. the philippines now sits alongside other dictatorships and strife torn african states.

    A huge failure for pnoy aquino.

    1. HA,122nd is nothing to cheer about either, AS IF, GMA was proud of that?is that ur point? or how about the non-prosecution of her pals the Amputuans? for the Maguindinao massacre?

      The Fail-ippines has been failing for a log time OR is it your just noticing?


        1. @ Winter, No one said they did not exist. If you need to re-read the comment to understand it, go ahead. It won’t be explained any further for you.

        2. @JT Jerzy:

          I did. You said the Ampatuans are pals of GMA. What I’ve said that they LOOOOOOONG EXIST before her and no one checked on them nor even Mindanao. Period.

        3. so YOUR point is what? they were politically connected long before GMA, SO WHAT?
          U want to jump into an argument and come to ur idiot friends rescue, thats so noble of you! Cute actually.
          ur the type that likes to jumps into arguments,huh? too bad its cyber-space.

  6. A question, what recourse(if any) does someone who experienced a demolition job in his/her name via the social media have, prior to the Cyber-crime law?

    If for instance there is a clause in the law stating that public officials are not covered by the law would you guys find it more acceptable?

  7. Dictatorships all over the world have always suppressed criticism and legitimate dissent from democratic, freedom loving rebels with a cause. I will not be shocked if the Filipino netizens launch their own brand of online rebellion against this government repression. The “legalization” of cyber libel will open the floodgates of abuse from the political powers that be who will use the law to repress/suppress legitimate dissent. Question is… How many millions of our netizens will be jailed and how can they jail millions of us against thousands of them? Will the police and NBI arrest their own children and relatives? Will this law end up as a dead law? Time will tell. One thing is for sure… the freedom of expression is now a human right according to the United Nations. This repressive government should beware of the coming of netizen reaction in mounting the first ever cyber rebellion in the Philippine internet.

    1. The state may not really need to jail millions. Or even thousands.

      It just needs to implement the law against a few parties. If they are found guilty, and given hefty penalties, then others WOULD think twice before sending that tweet.

      It doesn’t always work (e.g., war on drugs, illegal downloads), and I hope in this case it doesn’t.

  8. “The more information a guy has, the more likely he is to say, “Hey, King Charlie, you really blew that call.” That’s why democracy happened. The control of information is something the elite always does, particularly in a despotic form of government. Information, knowledge, is power. If you can control information, you can control people.”

    — Tom Clancy, in a 1995 interview

  9. The ‘panlalait’ is supposed to be offensive. It makes people look at the Filipino culture’s ugly face, only then can you start fixing things. I guess you refuse to learn new things, given you lack basic grammar, spelling and sentence construction skills.

  10. One reason I wrote my earlier piece on “Why I blog” is because it’s not just government that wants to clamp down on critical opinions. It’s also the likes of Rappler, Ressa and other so-called journalists who want other, more critical (read: more honest and unpaid) bloggers like the GRP and Antipinoy bloggers, and more, to shut up and let them have sole exposure over the webosphere. My view of Rappler’s ilk is that they bootlick the current admin in the hope of getting special favors. Any seeming criticism by them of the current admin fails to hide its true colors (like that article a while back flogging Mar and Gazmin, but surreptitiously skirting criticism of Aquino). And Rappler’s constant mistakes, like that fake surrender news during the MNLF violence, are going to drag down the rest of journalism with it by being the “bad apple.” Here’s a bold declaration: if anyone has to shut up, it’s them.

  11. Well, no one can prove who said anything in an e-mail or blogpost or any such thing as they’re no witnesses to say the person typed it, hit the enter key and then is therefore guilty of the cyber-libel offense. Anyone convicted under this ridiculous law would therefore be unlawfully imprisoned(If they were incarcerated).These reasons are why e-mails are in-admissable in a courtroom in the USA, at least.

    An un-enforcable law in a law-less country..GOOD LUCK with that…and just to be sure

    *************USE THE TOR BROWSER**********

    *************USE A VPN SERVICE***************

    ************USE AN ALIAS**************

    and always use the ‘in private’ feature on your PC/Mac browser so if your PC/Mac is ever confiscated there is no record on the hard-drive that such a deed was done on that particular PC/Mac.

    This has been a public service comment, and your welcome!

  12. Finally the government is putting laws in place to deal traitors to our country. Look forward to the administration catching the ringleaders that spread propaganda and putting them before the courts.
    The law is in place, now we just need the actions to follow. Clean up these online trash peddlers before the elections in 2016.

    Remember Sir Noy Noy, laws mean nothing until you have enforced them by catching the traitors. God speed to you sir.

    1. Hear, hear.
      Enough online propaganda from 3/2 headed malacanan miscommunications group.
      Getting rid of ricky calamityagain was a start.
      Now pnoy , clean out the rest of the vipers in malacanan.

      1. @Sengu

        “Finally the government is putting laws in place to deal traitors to our country.”

        You are beginning to sound and look like a nutzi follower of der Fuhrer! If I have legitimate grievances and dissent against the dictatorship… Does this make me a traitor? Down with the repressive yellow dictatorship!!!

    2. Too bad there is no law for those with special needs who have either access to the Internet and certain websites that don’t kiss a$$ or those with special needs that are elected into office.

    3. You don’t even know what you are talking about.

      If you consider criticism as ‘traitorous’ then sir you’re an idiot.

      With all the controversies this Government has been in, you think everyone will just swallow it hook, line and sinker? No protest? No opposition? \

      “To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the (insert country) public.” -Theodore Roosvelt

      BTW, you’re a psychopathic sadist. A TROLL. God speed to you, clamidiot. 😀

    4. Your president is a dictator in disguise since he is allergic to valid criticisms against his incompetence.
      You’re saying that we should just stay silent then?
      Hah! A nobody like you won’t intimidate us.

  13. A man was sued for libel for writing “Benigno is a moron!”

    In court he said “Your honor, I did not mean our President, but another Benigno!”

    The judge replied
    “Don’t try to trick me. If you say
    ‘moron’, you are obviously referring to our President!”

  14. The left has nurtured a Dog; now the Dog has turned against them.
    This law is to stop the critics, of the Chief YellowTard Aquino. He is trying to Police the internet (Hyperspace). He owns the Supreme Court.
    “No law will be passed abridging the Freedom of the Press…” This is unconstitutional. It clamps out the Freedom of Expression.
    What they cannot prevent thru their Computer Hackers; thet tried to prevent it thru passing the law.

    Hey,Ignoramus YellowTards…Good Luck of your laws…

    1. The current government is going to have a hard time going after everyone against them because they are too incompetent to even handle a disaster like a hostage taking and it will be too expensive to even build a jail for the offenders. In other words, they are already bound to fail the minute they start attempting to catch us.

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