MANILA, Philippines - Despite being among the 13 senators who approved Senator Edgardo Angara's anti-cybercrime bill, Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. on Wednesday disavowed knowing about the libel clause in the new law.
Marcos wrote in his Facebook account that he was "away on official business" when the libel rider was introduced and approved on second reading in January 24, 2012.
Senate records credit Senator Vicente "Tito" Sotto III as behind the Internet libel rider in Republic Act No. 10175 may send an erring Internet user to prison for up to 17 years.
Sotto has denied inserting the libel clause and said he only "suggested" that it be included in the legislation.
"The cyber crime bill has been passed into law and that is it for now. The committee report that I signed did not contain the libel clause," Marcos said.
However, Senate records showed that on third and final reading January 30, 2012, Marcos signed Angara's version of the bill that was used in the final version approved by the bicameral committee and sent to President Benigno Aquino for signing.
The other 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, Ralph Recto, and Manny Villar.
Only Senator Teofisto "TG" Guingona III voted no.
Angara, the bill's main author, did not vote.
Senators Escudero and Alan Peter Cayetano have vowed to file Senate bills amending the legislation.
"This is no time to make excuses nor to blame anyone for what I cannot agree to with regards the libel clause. Having said that, I would rather be accused of a lapse in supervision than not do anything to correct it," Marcos said.
He said he is also an internet user who had his "share of libelous attacks both in traditional media and in cybermedia."
"It will be a fatal mistake to muzzle our voices in this medium that is the most democratic and empowering to the individual that technology has given to us," he said.
Marcos said RA 10175's "libel clause must be amended and free speech upheld."
"I will file a bill to that effect and support all efforts made in the same direction," he added.
Marcos did not mention other controversial provisions of the law, including warrantless monitoring of users' data and takedown of websites without court review, which are now being questioned before the Supreme Court for being unconstitutional.
On Wednesday, the government uploaded on its Official Gazette website transcripts of the Senate deliberation on the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 “from the time it was sponsored by Senator [Edgardo] Angara up to the discussions on the bicam report.”
“Online libel was inserted by Senator [Tito] Sotto in the Senate deliberation. The takedown clause was also inserted during the Senate deliberation for the record. However, the penalty on the libel provision was inserted in bicam,” Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.
Senators Escudero, Alan Peter Cayetano, Pia Cayetano, and Angara have vowed to file Senate bills amending the legislation signed into law September 12 by President Benigno Aquino.
The law took effect Wednesday, October 3. - with a report from Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News