Friday, January 18, 2013

RA 10175: Libel Liability

What is lascivious?

‘Who is liable for libel? What are justifiable motives? What are good intentions? What is lascivious?’

THERE were some compelling issues that were highlighted in last Tuesday’s oral arguments on the Cybercrime Law (R.A. 10175) at the Supreme Court. One was its being unconstitutional because of overbreadth as forwarded by Atty. Harry Roque.

The online Free Dictionary explains that “In American jurisprudence, the overbreadth doctrine is primarily concerned with facial challenges to laws under the First Amendment.”

The First Amendment (to the United States Constitution) “prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.”

Roque cited Section 4 (C)1 of the Cybercrime Law which lists Cybersex among punishable acts.
The law defined cybersex as “The willful engagement, maintenance, control, or operation, directly or indirectly, of any lascivious exhibition of sexual organs or sexual activity, with the aid of a computer system, for favor or consideration.”

Using the “void for vagueness” doctrine, Roque asked, “What is defamatory? Who is liable for libel? What are justifiable motives? What are good intentions? What is lascivious?”

Then he presented acclaimed works of art with nude figures from the Museum of Modern Arts (New York), Tate Gallery in London, and Sydney Opera House, asking the justices , “Are these slides lascivious?’
Roque noted that the Cybercrime Law didn’t even use the word “pornography.”

Another argument against the Cybercrime Law was the unconstitutionality of the libel provision.

Also included in the list of punishable acts is Libel. Section 4C (4) of the law states “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.”

Roque pointed out the judgment of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that in the case of Alexander Adonis who was imprisoned for two years for libel that the penalty of imprisonment is incompatible with Article 19 of the ICCPR which guarantees the right to freedom of expression.

The Philippines has signed and ratified the ICCPR.

Asked by Justice Antonio Carpio what happens when a government ratifies an international treaty, Roque replied, “It becomes part of domestic law.”

Carpio noted that the Cybercrime Law may be unconstitutional since it adopted the libel provision of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) which may no longer be in conformance with Supreme Court decisions and international law.


RAPPLER - Associate Justice Marvic Leonen:
“Technology has evolved in such a way that whoever uses the computer does not need to know the source code of the program, all they have to do is open the software in a website and they can already do what they want. Can you imagine the power of somebody with a 700,000 following [on Twitter] attacking a single person who may not have a Twitter account? What I’m asking is this: Isn’t it the obligation of the State to protect private citizens against these defamatory remarks?”

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