Why Sotto must read the Jan. 24 Senate journal on cybercrime law

Posted at 10/01/12 7:59 PM

Senator Tito Sotto denies crafting the e-libel rider in the new anti-cybercrime law despite Senate records stating he inserted the clause near the end of the proposed legislation's amendment period.  ABS-CBNnews.com file photo

MANILA, Philippines - Senator Vicente "Tito" Sotto III has a problem with the January 24, 2012 Senate journal that indicates who inserted the libel rider in the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

Sotto insisted on Monday that he did not insert the libel rider in Republic Act No. 10175 that may send an erring Internet user to prison for up to 17 years.

Sotto, in an interview on radio dzMM, denied Senate records uploaded on the upper House's website that showed he inserted the libel clause in the period of amendments.

"Kalokohan iyon," he said. "Iyung committee (amendments), nasa record ng Senado iyon."

"Mayroon pa silang sinabi, nasa journal daw ng Senate. Marunong pa sila sa journal ng Senate. Sa akin dumadaan iyung journal ng Senate. Ako ang Senate majority leader," Sotto said.

Pages 879 to 880 of the January 24, 2012 Senate journal on the website state:


 Preliminarily,  Senator  Sotto  stated  that  there are  numerous  abuses  in  technology,  particularly the  video  and  photo  uploading  and  unnecessary write-ups  and  comments  in  social  networking systems.  He  read  the  definition  of libel  in  Mendez vs.  Court  of Appeals  (OR  No.  124491,  June  I, 1999), to wit: ... a public and malicious imputation ofa crime, or of a vice or defect, real  or imaginary,  or any act, omission,  condition, status  or circumstance tending  to  discredit  or  cause  the  dishonor  or contempt  of a  natural  or juridical  person,  or to blacken  the  memory  of  one  who  is  dead. Thus,  the  elements  of libel  are:  (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.

Senator  Sotto  further  cited  the  ruling  in  Laesa vs.  Intermediate  Appellate  Court  (161  SCRA  427) which states that:

Words  calculated  to  induce  suspicion  are sometimes  more  effective  to  destroy  reputation than  false  charges  directly  made.  Ironical  and metaphorical  language  is  a favored  vehicle  for slander.  A  charge  is  sufficient  if the  words  are calculated to  induce  the  hearers  to suppose  and understand  that  the  person  or  persons  against whom  they  were  uttered  were  guilty  of certain offenses,  or  are  sufficient  to  impeach  their honesty,  virtue,  or  reputation,  or  to  hold  the person  or  persons  up  to  public  ridicule.

Further,  Senator  Sotto  observed  that  the publication requirement in  the crime of libel  can  be achieved  by  the  mere  fact  that  it  is  seen  in  cyberspace  and  this  can  fUlther  promote  the  habit  of "think  before  you  click."  It  is  clear,  he  noted,  that cybercrimes  are  not  covered  under  Article  355  of Revised  Penal  Code.

On page 6, line 37, as proposed by Senator Sotto and accepted by the Sponsor, there being no objection, the Body approved the insertion of a new paragraph, to wit:


Senator  Angara  pointed  out  that  cyberspace  is just a  new avenue for publicizing or communicating a libellous statement which is subject to prosecution and  punishment  as  defined  by  the  Revised  Penal Code."

Sotto, in his dzMM interview, remained firm in denying that he was not behind the libel clause.

"Ang plano ko talaga, noong bandang January, period of amendment, isama itong libel. Noong pinag-usapan na namin iyon, ang sabi ng committee, ang committee na ang bahala sa period of amendments," he said.

The Senate committee report did not have the libel clause.

"January 24, pinasa iyan. Natapos iyan sa Senado. Kasama na doon sa committee amendments, sinama na lahat ng crimes, punishable by the Revised Penal Code," he said.

He said he doesn't know what happened to the proposed legislation authored and sponsored by Senator Edgardo Angara when it reached the bicameral committee.

"Huwag nila akong atakehin. Akala nila may mga na-insert pa, wala, hindi totoo," Sotto said. "hindi ko nga tinayo sa individual amendments eh. May nagsasabi, ako raw sa individual amendments, hindi, intensiyon ko iyon nung last quarter."

He said petitioners who are questioning the cybercrime law before the Supreme Court also cite him as the lawmaker behind the libel rider.

"Karamihan dito sa mga nagfi-file ng petition, mayroon pang sina-cite sa akin eh. Ako raw ang nag-insert. Nakakapagtaka nga eh," he said.

Sotto said the petitioners will only laughingstocks at the Supreme Court.

"Mapapasubo sila sa Supreme Court, dahil ang haharap sa Supreme Court, sila Senator Angara, ang solicitor-general. Pagtatawanan sila sa sinasabi nila," he said.

"Ako ang babanggitin nila sa insertion, hinanap ngayon sa Supreme Court iyung journal, na wala akong kinalaman doon, di sira lahat ng petition nila," he added. "Dapat nag-iingat sila ng pagbibintang."

"Ako siguro, kung ano ang sabihin ng Supreme Court, antayin natin. Dinala nila doon eh, karapatan nila iyon," he said.

Social media 'whipping boy'

He said he is treated as a "whipping boy" on social media.

"Ako ang paboritong 'whipping boy' ng ibang tao sa social media. Masyadong binibigyan nila ako ng credit na hindi ko gawa," he said.

"Sa akin na naman ibinibintang ang anti-cybercrime act," he added.

"Naka-ilang public hearing iyan. Pagdating ng last quarter ng 2011, dinedebate namin sa Senate floor iyan," he said.

Sotto said Internet use needs regulation.

"Sa social media, tignan mo, katakot-takot na murahan doon. Kung ano-anong paninira ng reputasyon maririnig mo doon. Walang batas eh," he said.

He said he is in favor of decriminalizing libel but it should be a civil offense.

Sotto, meanwhile, said he can't explain why Internet libel has tougher penalties than print libel.

"Hindi ko masagot kung bakit tinaasan iyung penalties, eh. Bakit daw triple iyung penalties," he said.

"Hindi matandaan kung ano iyung pinagdebatihan doon. Pinakamaganda diyan, si Senator Angara ang tanungin niyo, siya ang author eh," he added.

Sotto twits fellow senators

Sotto also had words for fellow senators who are backtracking from their support of the cybercrime law.

"Kami, pag may pumasang batas, walang kamalay-malay, ganoon talaga iyon," he said. "Pasensiya ka nakalagay ang pangalan mo doon, nakamarka ka."

The senators who approved the anti-cybercrime law proposal on third and final reading were Sotto, Loren Legarda, Francis Escudero, Gregorio Honasan II, Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III, Pia Cayetano, Bong Revilla Jr., Jinggoy Ejercito-Estrada, Panfilo Lacson, Lito Lapid, Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Ralph Recto, and Manny Villar.

Only Senator Teofisto "TG" Guingona III voted no.

Senators Escudero and Alan Peter Cayetano have vowed to file Senate bills amending the legislation signed into law September 12 by President Benigno Aquino.