[Press Release] Legal but not legit says Amnesty International on SC ruling for cyber-libel -AIph
Legal but not legit says Amnesty International on SC ruling for cyber-libel
“News of the Supreme Court decision to uphold the cyber-libel provision of the Cybercrime Prevention Act is a cause of concern for the enjoyment of freedom of expression as it cements the further expansion of the reach of the highly questionable Philippine Libel Law handed down from penal laws of former colonial administrations,” said Romel Cardenas De Vera, Human Rights Officer of Amnesty International Philippines, in a statement.
In September 2012, the Cybercrime Prevention Act was signed into law. A month after, a temporary restraining order was issued, which was later on extended pending the decision of the Supreme Court after 16 petitions questioning the law were filed by human rights groups, Internet users, journalists, bloggers, and academics. Oral deliberations followed in January 2013.
“The Supreme Courts’ decision to strike down provisions that are unconstitutional but leaving space for online libel, which is constitutional as far as the original author is concerned, gives mixed signals as it still rolls back protections for free speech in the Philippines. It remains that under this provision, a peaceful posting on the Internet could still result in a prison sentence,” explained De Vera.
The law has broadly extended criminal libel to apply to acts committed through a computer system or any other similar means which may be devised in the future.
“There is so much that the citizens of the Philippines have to speak out about as the country suffers from widespread corruption and poverty and also having one of the worst records on extra judicial killings of activists and journalists in the Maguindanao Massacre,” recalls De Vera.
De Vera added that the cyber-libel provision is a late inclusion to the Cybercrime Prevention Bill when it was still in both Houses of Congress.
“Many of the multimillion peso libel cases filed in our Philippine courts were by legislators, executive officials and even a sitting Supreme Court Justice. It is not farfetched that the cyber libel provision will be used against anyone seeking state and corporate accountability for abuses and violations of human rights,” De Vera said.
In January 2011, the UN Human Rights Committee found the Philippines’s criminalization of libel to be “incompatible” with the freedom of expression clause in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
“The UNHRC has already decided on October 2011 that our libel law is inconsistent with the enjoyment of freedom of expression as enshrined in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which the Philippines had ratified,” added De Vera.
Article 2.2 of the ICCPR states that ‘each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to take the necessary steps, in accordance with its constitutional processes and with the provisions of the present Covenant, to adopt such laws or other measures as may be necessary to give effect to the rights recognized in the present Covenant’.
“The Philippine government must focus on making our laws in consonance with international human rights standards and not strengthen more laws used for stifling dissent against those in authority. Amnesty International believes that the Supreme Court must hear petitions for review of its ruling and abide by our international human rights obligations.” Concluded De Vera.
Amnesty International Philippines
19 February 2014
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