|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:
4. LIBEL - THE UNLAWFUL OR PROHIBITED ACTS OF LIBEL AS DEFINED IN ARTICLE 355 OF THE REVISED PENAL CODE COMMITTED THROUGH A COMPUTER SYSTEM OR ANY OTHER SIMILAR MEANS WHICH MAYBE DEVISED IN THE FUTURE.
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.