“If we couldn’t laugh, we’d all go insane…”

…a quote attributed to Robert Frost. I could be wrong. Not everything on the net is accurate. The same source quoted him as saying, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”

I’m in a melancholic mood. I’m finding it hard to laugh today. The good news is, it’s stopped raining. So I just need to uncurl myself and brave the possibility of rain. Make that probability — it just started raining again.

I am writing this because writing helps me process my thoughts and my emotions. If you’re reading this, I can only say you have your reasons.

On the day that the Cybercrime Prevention Act 2012 (RA 10175) takes effect, Filipinos are re-evaluating what it means to exercise the right to free speech.

Judging from the status messages on my Facebook wall, most of the people I know object to the law — on the grounds that it is unconstitutional (particularly that certain provisions of the law will infringe on the right to free speech, privacy and due process).

The biggest outcry is the provision on the so-called crime against honor: I share the belief that libel should be decriminalized in the first place (particularly as the provision for libel has been abused in the past), and that the escalated penalties for online libel (as I understand it, a fine of up to P1 million and a maximum of 12 years’ imprisonment, without parole) are disproportionate to the offense.

[If you look at the Act itself, penalties are listed for Section 4(c)1 or cybersex, 4(c)2 child pornography, 4(c)3 or unsolicited commercial communications, and then Section 5 or the aiding of/attempt to commit a cybercrime. Section 4(c)(4) listing libel as a crime falls under the blanket statement that “the penalty to be imposed shall be one degree higher than that provided for by the Revised Penal Code, as amended, and special laws, as the case may be.”]

Moreover, as I glean from interpretations of the legal jargon, the same so-called libelous offense can be prosecuted twice — under both the Cybercrime Act and the Revised Penal Code (RPC). I’m a little iffy on that one. Pardon my weak grasp of legalese. (I’ve read that this means imprisonment could be extended to 16 years, because the person is also liable under the RPC, which metes out a maximum of four years and two months in prison for libel.)

The government, beleaguered by cyberhacktivists, has appealed against “vigilantism” and touts that “…there is an opportunity for reasonable discourse between concerned stakeholders and the Department of Justice.”

“This dialogue can address stakeholder concerns as the Implementing Rules and Regulations are drafted,” a statement from the Office of the Presidential Spokesperson posits.

In short, the law is there, deal with it. That’s the problem with laws; they’re hard to enact and even harder to repeal.

I share the frustration of people who believe that the mess shouldn’t have been created in the first place.

One senator has been active  against this law enactment. Of those who approved it, at least two senators have expressed regret, with one filing an amendment, and the other expressing the intent to file an amendment, accordingly. I should be happy about this. Unfortunately, it grieves me, again, at the belated action, and the necessity of such action.

It also galls me that the people entrusted with protecting our rights could have made such a colossal mistake. (It’s emotional reflex, it can’t be helped.)

The problem is, what now?

I’ve aired my dissent. I have the right to vote (and only 27 days to reactivate my right to vote, having abstained from the previous two elections). I have very little choice but to trust that this time the system will work for me.

I am disheartened. Truly.

But again: I believe in the right to free speech. That said, I am obliged to be responsible and to choose my words wisely. I want a law that safeguards my basic human rights. I need authors and enforcers of the law whom I can trust, who share the same principles, and will act accordingly.

It really is no laughing matter.  And yet we need to stay sane as well as sober.

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2 comments

  1. The legal bandwagon is tilting in favor of amending the Cybercrime Act.No less than the principal author has admitted that there were “omissions” and that the penalties are too stiff. Monitor via http://www.internetfreedom.ph/

  2. for the record:

    my FB entry, Oct. 1:

    one ill-conceived and self-serving insert and the law that would’ve ferreted out panderers to pedophiles and purveyors of the flesh trade online, as well as identity thieves and ad-spammers, is ruined.

    mahirap talaga kung big brother the control freak with the vague vocabulary is not only watching, he’s … sensitive?

    my FB entry, Oct. 4:

    look, i’m aware that child pornography and cybersex are occurring online and these need to be addressed. but this law is flawed. baka mapahamak pa ang operations at ang kaso. not to mention major potential for abuse of authority.

    i am glad that there’s a continuing discussion on this. at di tinatantanan ng media ang isyu. sana maituloy hangga’t plantsado na ang RA 10175.

    oh and cybersex ought to be qualified. two consenting adults having a sexual encounter virtually is different from forced peep shows. or pay-per-view.

    actually, i’m more concerned with an asshole molesting his daughter in front of a camera and selling the footage online. or live streaming it.

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