Cybercrime law repeal gathering dust in Congress

by RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 21 2014 04:54 AM | Updated as of Feb 21 2014 12:54 PM

MANILA -- Neither decriminalizing libel nor repealing the Cybercrime law are in the priority list of the House of Representatives.

According to Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, the bills covering libel have not been scheduled for any hearings, and are not in the targets until next month.

This, despite bills being filed left and right to decriminalize libel following the affirmation of the online provision of the cybercrime law.

Bayan Muna Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate are among the authors of some two bills seeking to decriminalize libel in the House of Representatives.

Colmenares said their House Bill 1324 has not moved since it was filed last year.

“Di pa gumalaw sa revision of laws. Dapat i-fast track na ito at marami ang pwedeng pahirapan ng libel laws habang ito’y in place. People who commit libel today including cyberbullying are already liable under the the civil code for damages so the only purpose of government in imposing the cybercrime law is to muzzle press freedom and people who criticize the government for corruption, and incompetence,” Colmenares said.

House Bill 1324 repeals articles 353,354, 355, 356,357, 360,361 and 362 of ACT 3815 as amended, otherwise known as the Revised Penal Code.

Meanwhile, House Bill 3422 filed by Akbayan Reps. Walden Bello and Ibarra Gutierrez also seeks to decriminalize libel, and calls for the amendment of Articles 355 and 360, and the repeal of Articles 356 and 357 of Act no 3815 of the Revised Penal Code.

The Akbayan bill, however, has a retroactive provision, which mandates that all pending libel cases will be dropped by the time the bill, if enacted, comes into force.

Other bills, meantime, want to soften the impact of a libel case.

House Bill 2562 filed by Reps. Rufus and Maximo Rodriguez meanwhile wants to remove the penalty of imprisonment for libel, replacing it with a fine of P10,000 to P30,000. The bill likewise wants to remove the penalty of imprisonment from the offense of “threatening to publish and offer to present such publication for compensation” with a fine of P5,000 P15,000.

House Bill 363, meanwhile, filed by Rep. Raul del Mar wants to mandate that the venue for trial of a libel case be at the regional trial court with jurisdiction over the place of business of a community journalist, publication or broadcast station.

Del Mar, in his explanatory note, noted that libel has been used to harass journalists.

“This is so because under the present rules, the complainant or offended party, if he is a public officer, can the file complaint in Manila if his office is in Manila or if in the office outside Manila if his office is located there. If he is a private person the venue is his place of residence at the time of the commission of the offense. Thus a newspaper or broadcast station in Aparri or Jolo, Cebu or Davao can be made to answer a complaint filed in Metro Manila,” he said.