Tuesday, September 18, 2012


In the cyberworld where 99% is always nothing but celebrity gossip, dating tips, and PBA news. Very few people dared to exposed the truth and write about important and informative world news, such as government or current events with educational substance. And here are some of the news that's worth reading.



And so it has come to pass. The erstwhile Cybercrime Bill is now signed into law and our online lives will never be the same again.

But first, a bit of perspective. In the past few weeks, cyberspace was abuzz with different issues, both petty and alarming. There were the endless RH Bill debates, the consequent Sotto plagiarism issue, and the spanking new Cybercrime Law that now includes a provision on online libel.

A while back, while Senator Vicente Sotto III was busy decriminalizing plagiarism, his detractors were resourceful in coming up with allegations of his blog copying, one after another, even publishing side-by-side comparisons of parts of the senator’s speech and the original, supposedly copied text. If such allegations were to be used as bases, it would seem that Sotto’s writers never really learned from experience and continued to unabashedly lift passages from blogs, seemingly confident that the senator’s all-encompassing statement that the ideas he had been presenting were not his alone gave them a good enough license to use borrowed ideas relentlessly and shamelessly, without specific attribution. Then again, as with all allegations, we still have to dig deeper into their veracity before we judge any further. So there.

The real issue, as far as I’m concerned, is not Sotto’s and his writers’ pathetic lack of originality and creativity, but the fact that plagiarism seems to be a rising trend in the country. The even bigger issue is that since there is currently no anti-plagiarism law in the country, anyone can lift ideas just anywhere and get away with it. After all, and the good senator could not have emphasized this often enough, plagiarism is not a crime. No, it isn’t.

But libel is.

Now, the eff of the matter is that people can no longer assign fault to people online like, for instance, those they perceive as plagiarists, among other things. And we have the good senator as well as our very own president to thank for that.

We all know by now that last September 12 (the number 12 is eerily similar to 21, don’t you think?), President Benigno Aquino III signed the erstwhile bill into law with a last-minute inclusion of a provision penalizing online libel. The president apparently approved the inclusion of the controversial online libel provision despite widespread complaints by human rights advocates that the country’s libel law, in which the provision is based, is excessive and direly needs to be amended.

The controversial provision in the new Cybercrime Law states that libel, “as defined under 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,” is now a crime punishable by a minimum of six months and one day’s imprisonment (prision correccional) and a fine ranging from P200 to P6,000 (in addition to the civil action that may be brought by the offended party). Now, that’s such a stiff penalty for, for instance, calling an idiot an idiot online.

On the other hand, Article 353 of the 82-year-old Revised Penal Code (RPC) defines libel as a “public imputation and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstances tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead.”

Previously, the Philippine libel law did not include online defamation. Article 355 of the RPC specified the following as the only channels through which libel can be committed: writing, printing, lithography, engraving, radio, phonograph, painting, theatrical exhibition, cinematographic exhibition, or any similar means. Under the legal principle of ejusdem generis, messages in social media networks and blogs could not be considered “of the same kind” as those enumerated above and, as such, defamation through these online media couldn’t be considered a criminal offense.

The new Cybercrime Law has effectively changed this.

It can be recalled that in October 2011, the UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) declared that the Philippine libel law is excessive and incompatible with international human rights law, particularly with “Article 19, paragraph three of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)” to which the Philippines is one of the signatories.

Sadly, this declaration was largely ignored by the government and instead of decriminalizing libel, the government even went a step further in the other direction and added online information systems as possible venues for libel. Yes, instead of decriminalizing libel in the country, the government even broadened its scope to include messages posted on the Internet — the main venue of communication in this new, Internet-savvy world.

Personally, I find this development not just utterly disappointing but also rather scary.

Although the passing of the Cybercrime Law as a whole may have been for a noble purpose, powerful people with ignoble interests may hijack the law itself and use it for their own selfish ends. It may be used as a weapon to get back at critics who are only reacting to perceived wrongdoings, inadequacies, and flaws.

For one thing, the Philippine libel law in itself is too vague for comfort and can be interpreted in so many absurd ways. As such, the online libel provision can be easily twisted and abused and be used merely as a tool for harassment. This is particularly worrisome in a country where the judicial process is generally seen as highly cumbersome and inefficient.

I foresee innumerable cases of online libel filed even without probable cause by smirking politicians, followed by long, convoluted court trials involving rich and happy prosecutors and poor and unhappy defendants. I am also worried that some opinionated online media personalities and free-spirited bloggers may be used as “samples” by less-than-noble individuals for the purpose of showing off this piece of legislation’s teeth. Or simply for the purpose of exacting revenge.

The louder message I get from the passing of the Cybercrime Law is that the government — the senators and the president alike — would rather silence critics rather than maintain an effective check and balance system against abuse in the seats of power. We all know that the president himself, much like Senator Sotto, had been the target of several malicious tirades in the past, most of which were delivered online. Has he had enough of such and is this new law his way of preventing such criticisms from continuing and getting out of hand?

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that RA 10175, for the most part, is something that our increasingly Net-dependent society needs right now, particularly those sections that pertain to true cybercrimes like hacking, password theft, online fraud, and child porn. I just don’t get why our legislators and our good president felt the need to include a provision pointing to an antiquated, outdated libel law that has long been contested by human rights advocates. Wait. On second thought, I get it.

Nevertheless, I believe that the inclusion of online libel in the Cybercrime Law is a big blow to our already shaky democracy. We all know that freedom of expression has always been the cornerstone of a true democracy. Not only is it a fundamental human right, it is necessary in the proper functioning of a truly democratic society, which the Philippines supposedly is. The problem is that the new Cybercrime Law is a form of punitive censorship that penalizes those who publish or broadcast offending material (offensive to whom, we can only surmise). And I have always believed that any form of punishment for the true expression of thoughts and feelings is more authoritarian than democratic.

I am deeply saddened by the fact that the good president himself claimed that we are his bosses, only to pass a law later on that would make us think twice about expressing our true thoughts and opinions. Bosses, indeed. Whichever way one looks at it, this kind of control is not healthy in any democratic set-up.

I agree that those who abuse their freedom to express by publishing malicious lies and baseless accusations should be stopped, one way or another. But to pass such a loosely framed law with a provision that’s so ridiculously vague that it is dangerously open to convenient misinterpretation is definitely not the way to do it — especially when done within a supposedly pro-people administrative framework.

So what can we expect from here on in? I’m really not sure how Filipinos in general will react to this piece of legislation in terms of their blogging and social media activities. I’m not even sure how our online media friends will take this alarming development, although some bloggers and online media people are already starting to publish their thoughts about the matter.

I guess things will remain as they are until, and I’m afraid this will happen sooner or later, some individuals get sued and imprisoned because of this law and netizens start reacting. Only time will tell, though, how this pans out. I just wish this new law would not be used for witch-hunting by previously criticized invidivduals. I also fervently hope that something happens and the government wakes up to the realization that it has committed what I believe is its biggest faux pas to date.

I have always been a staunch defender of free speech. I believe that if we lose our inherent freedom to express, we’d lose our ability to control our own destiny and lose our dignity as a nation. For, as Charles Bradlaugh once said, without free speech, no search for truth is possible and no discovery of truth is useful. Better there be a thousandfold abuse of free speech than a single denial of it. The abuse dies in a day, but the denial slays the life of the people, and entombs the hope of the race.

Taken from www.interaksyon.com


TWENTY YEARS ago, I wrote in this space under the title "Unfit for the Senate" that senatorial candidates Ramon Revilla and Tito Sotto were not qualified for the Upper Chamber of Congress. Revilla had run for the Senate in 1987 and lost ignominiously, as he should have since he did not have the credentials to be a senator. But among the senatorial candidates in 1992 he ranked No. 3 in the surveys. His resume had not changed significantly from 1987, when he was rejected resoundingly by the electorate, to 1992, when he was regarded more highly by the same electorate. That was because he ran as Jose Bautista, his real name, in 1987 and as Ramon Revilla in 1992.

I ventured the opinion in the same article that if Sotto were to run as Vicente Sotto he would meet the same fate that Jose Bautista met in 1987. I wrote then that the Harvard-trained and veteran legislator has said he was not seeking reelection to the Senate because he did not relish the thought of debating with the likes of Tito Sotto, the master of toilet humor and sick jokes, host of the asinine TV show Eat Bulaga.

I wrote further that Senator Enrile should have perished the thought of debating with him as Sotto was not capable of engaging in such cerebral activity, as gauged by his participation in the Great Debate on the RP-US Treaty. His best effort in that discourse consisted of getting Eat Bulaga child star Aiza Seguerra, then too young to understand the issue, and the sex star Nanette Medved, a foreign citizen, to join the pro-base rally at the Luneta and leading the chant "Yes to the bases." Such was Sotto’s grasp of the burning issue of the time.

Both Sotto and Revilla were elected to the Senate that year, Sotto placing first among the winners, no doubt by virtue of his popularity among what columnist Tony Abaya referred to as the "squealing masa," the shrieking audience of the inane Eat Bulaga. As Sotto continued to appear in Eat Bulaga during his first term, he was elected in 1998 to another term. In all those years he was hardly heard in the Upper Chamber of Congress.

Then came the historic impeachment trial of President Joseph Estrada. When the former Securities and Exchange Commission chair Perfecto Yasay testified, Sotto stood up and addressed Yasay. This is how the dialogue went:

Sotto: Can you tell this court the telephone service provider that you use for your cellphone?

Yasay: "I used at that time Piltel."

Sotto: "Digital, analog, GSM?"

Yasay: "I was using an old Motorola set."

Sotto: "Okay, thank you."

That was the extent of Sotto’s participation in that significant chapter of the country’s history.

After the trial had been aborted, Sotto tried to justify his "no" vote on the opening of the Jose Velarde envelope by saying that he had consulted legal eagles including former justices of the Supreme Court, and all of them advised him to oppose the opening of the envelope. To have to consult legal luminaries on whether to open an envelope thought to contain incriminating evidence against Erap meant he was incapable of making even such a simple decision.

Having served two consecutive terms in the Senate he was ineligible to run for re-election in 2004. He ran again in 2007 under the banner of TEAM Unity, the coalition backed by then President Arroyo. It will be recalled that Gloria ran for the Senate in 1995 and for vice-president in 1998 as a look-alike of Nora Aunor -- obviously to win the votes of the "squealing masa." Had she found a party to sponsor her candidacy for president in 1998, which she had originally wanted to do, Sotto would have been her running mate. Anyway, demonized because of his "no" vote on the opening of the Jose Velarde envelope, as Senator Miriam Santiago put it, Sotto ended up in 19th place in that year’s senatorial race.

To keep his name in the consciousness of the voters, he was appointed in 2008 as chairman of the Dangerous Drug Board by his patron Gloria. During the Lower House’s inquiry in 2009 into the alleged bribery attempt to release the Alabang Boys arrested in a buy-bust operation, Sotto somehow was able to insert himself into the inquiry. He tried mightily to participate in the deliberations but since he was only peripherally connected to the issue at hand, he did not get any chance to voice his thoughts. But at one point, Quezon Congressman Danilo Suarez, another Gloria loyalist, asked Sotto, "Why are there Caucasians in PDEA operations?"

It seemed from the irrelevance of the question that Suarez was merely giving fellow Gloria ally the chance to get some exposure as the inquiry was being televised live. Sotto answered: "The PDEA is structurally different from the US DEA." The answer equally irrelevant to the issue being resolved and Sotto having gotten his exposure, though fleeting it was, Suarez dismissed the matter. Sotto remained a mere onlooker/listener for the rest of the session.

In 2010 Sotto ran again for the Senate. To distance himself from the discredited Arroyo, he ran under the banner of the National People’s Coalition, the party of Boss Danding Cojuangco, who quietly supported the candidacy of Noynoy. Sotto got elected this time.

Then came the impeachment of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, Arroyo’s first line of defense against future criminal charges. There was nothing Sotto had done since the Erap impeachment trial in 2001 to qualify him to sit as judge in the impeachment of Gutierrez. In response to the wide speculation that he, being an ally of Gloria Arroyo, would vote to acquit Gutierrez, the Inquirer quoted him as saying: "People should not be judgmental and avoid speculating on the individual stand for each senator. They’re not helping the Senate any by doing that." Bothered by the wide speculation that he would vote according to the bidding of his former patron, he declared that there are 23 republics in the Senate, implying that all senators are independent minded.

Yet, in the trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona he admitted that he went by the wishes of the people when as judge he should have decided on the basis of evidence presented for his evaluation. Said he when he cast his vote: "The real judge in this trial is the citizenry. They heard the two sides. In my conscience, I have heard their decision. And for them I vote guilty."

In his speech against the RH Bill, he said his son died five months after he was born, attributing his death to complications arising from his wife taking the oral contraceptive pill Diane. However, information indicated that the product Diane became available in the market only after his son had died, destroying completely his sob story. He didn’t sound credible from the beginning. Here is a macho man (what with his mustache and beard) sobbing like a little boy whose large scoop of ice cream had just fallen on the floor. It was obviously plain acting, and it was bad acting, including on the part of his former detractor Enrile, who was not moved one bit by the "emotional breakdown" of Corona during the latter’s trial but who came to console the sobbing Sotto.

Tito Sotto should stop trying to sound and look like a senator in the mold of the senators of the 1950s. The more he tries, the more he reinforces his image as the intellectually challenged student of Wanbol University, the fictional school in the TV variety show Iskul Bukol.

In fact, the TV clip wherein he let out a guffaw after saying he could not have plagiarized Robert Kennedy because what he said was in Tagalog, a language Kennedy did not know, could pass for a scene in Iskul Bukol.

Taken from Mr. Oscar P. Lagman, Jr.'s To Take A Stand column on www.bworldonline.com/