Palace justifies online libel provision

By Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 08 2012 03:02 PM | Updated as of Oct 09 2012 07:14 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang again justified the need for the provision against online libel, saying that malicious statements on cyberspace should not be exempted from accountability.

Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda emphasized that the government is not out to suppress freedom of speech.
"Kung pwede doon sa radyo, TV, print, ang sinasabi lang ng ating Pangulo is dapat din maging responsible ang isang tao sa pagsulat sa cyberspace. The final emphasis here is that we are not here to suppress freedom of the press or freedom of expression. Hindi ho natin pakay 'yun," Lacierda said.   
"Bottom line is can one sue a person for libel on print, on radio, on TV and then exempt cyberspace if one writes something libelous? 'Yun lang naman talaga ang sinsabi ni Presidente. What is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander. Kapag pwede mo kasuhan ang isang tao for libel sa radyo, sa print, or TV, 'di ba dapat patas rin lang na may libel laws din to protect those who are maliciously maligned sa cyberspace."
Lacierda said that criticisms per se are not libelous and that the law has a definition on what constitutes libel.
"Criticism is not per se libelous," he said.
While the President is open to amendments, including reducing the punishment for online libel, the executive is duty-bound to implement the law, according to Lacierda.
"In the absence of any effort to suspend the implementation, we in the executive branch are duty-bound to implement the law," he said. 

Meanwhile, Malacanang said the government is moving to identify hackers who have defaced government websites in protest of the anti-cybercrime law, warning that hacking is a criminal offense.
"May mga hakbang na ginagawa ang gobyerno," Lacierda said.
"Hacking is a crime punishable even under the E-commerce Act. Matagal na po itong criminal offense. Kaya ginagawan natin ng hakbang para tukuyin kung sino ang gumagawa nitong mga masasamang gawain," he added.
Lacierda said the "e-vandals" are "doing damage not only to the Philippine government" but also to citizens who want access to information from government websites