DOJ official turns 'cyber-bullying' into criminal offense sans Congress' nod

Posted at 05/09/2014 11:15 PM

Cyber-bullying was never mentioned in the Cybercrime Prevention Law or Republic Act No. 10175 that the Supreme Court upheld as constitutional.

And yet the draft Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) that Justice Assistant Secretary Geronimo Sy released to the media not only adds a new section on cyber-bullying. The IRR even takes pains to point out that “if committed through a computer system,” the “penalty to be imposed shall be one (1) degree higher than that provided for in Republic Act No. 10627 (the Anti-Bullying Law).

I obtained my copy of the draft IRR from Isagani de Castro, editor-in-chief of ABS-CBNNews.com

I was highly disturbed by this insertion for two reasons. First, two senators had openly claimed to be victims of cyber-bullying.

During the height of the debate on the passage of a Reproductive Health Law, Senator Vicente Sotto claimed:

“Perhaps I’ve been the first senator in the Philippines to fall victim to cyber-bullying,” said Sotto, who stood up on the floor to answer the continued attack he has been receiving in social networking sites.

“In blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, I became the center of ridicule and malicious attacks from various individuals, especially those backing the RH Bill,” he said, referring to the Reproductive Health bill (RH).

“This might be part of their strategies, with their millions of funds. If you can’t kill the message, kill the messenger,” said Sotto, who is opposing the passage of the bill.

Senator Nancy Binay also claimed likewise during her senatorial campaign.

Is this a way of responding to the complaints of Senators Sotto and Binay, I wondered?

The second reason I was highly disturbed was that Assec Sy appeared to be usurping the lawmaking powers of Congress.

And so I asked University of the Philippines law professor Harry Roque to comment on what Assec Sy’s office did. I asked Atty. Roque, who practices criminal law in the Philippines and abroad, whether my reading was correct. I also asked him whether an IRR could have more sections than what the original law contains.

Roque agreed with my conclusion. He told me that an IRR cannot contain more sections than the original law. And if this happens, he said this would be “a case of executive legislation.”

In other words, it’s illegal.

Hmmm. The last time we had “executive legislation” was during the Marcos dictatorship when President-for-Life Ferdinand Marcos gave himself decree-making powers.

I wondered why Justice Asec. Sy had inserted cyber-bullying.