MANILA, Philippines - The National Press Club (NPC) has come out in surprise support for the newly enacted cybercrime law, claiming that the bill that expands coverage of libel only targets "so-called 'bloggers' and other unscrupulous authors."
The NPC, in a press statement Monday, praised President Benigno Aquino for signing Republic Act 10175, and the law's principal author Sen. Edgardo Angara.
NPC President Benny Antiporda said the new law "would help authorities in running after criminal elements to ply their trade in cyberspace while affording victims of these crimes to seek redress of their grievances."
"At the same time, the NPC believes that responsible and legitimate members of the press should not entertain the thought that the law's provision on libel would curtail or diminish our basic rights on freedom of expression and of free speech," Antiporda said.
He did not mention that Section 4-C(4) of the law declares that online libel is now considered a cybercrime that can be punished under the Revised Penal Code.
"Antiporda noted that clearly, the target of the law's punitive provisions, especially libel, are the so-called 'bloggers' and other unscrupulous authors of damaging remarks against any person," the NPC statement said.
"Many of these often anonymous elements are masquerading as 'legitimate' members of the press," the group added.
"These are the people who hide in the cloak of anonymity by coming out with bogus Internet accounts to destroy other people's lives and reputation," Antiporda said.
"To this extent and in the hands of these individuals, even our freedom of the press and of expression are also being misused and abused, an anomalous situation that can now be remedied through RA 10175," he claimed.
Antiporda said that his group NPC supports calls to decriminalize libel, "journalism mischiefs such as perfidious attacks on innocent netizens and other targets of smear jobs should not be condoned."
The statement was released in the name of NPC director Jose Joel Maguiza Sy Egco, assignments editor of The Manila Times.