MANILA, Philippines – Sen. Vicente “Tito” Sotto III on Wednesday admitted he asked for the inclusion of an online libel clause in the new Anti-Cybercrime Law due to online sex scandals and intense cyberbullying against celebrities.
Speaking to radio dzMM, Sotto said he asked the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Edgardo Angara, to include a provision on online libel last December due to various scandals involving actresses Rhian Ramos, Janelle Manahan, Maricar Reyes and Katrina Halili.
“Nagkaroon ng malaking problem yung kabilang istasyon. Kung natatandaan niyo yung tungkol kay Rhian Ramos. Yung sa YouTube may mga lumabas. Kine-claim nitong si DJ Mo di raw galing sa kanya meron daw nag-upload at kung ano-anong kasiraan yung inabot ni Rhian Ramos. Nakarating pa sa Facebook yun at sa Twitter,” he said.
He added: “Hindi lang yun. Meron din before that merong problema yung kay Katrina Halili at kay Maricar Reyes. Meron din yun kay Ramgen Revilla silang mag-boyfriend.”
Ramos came under intense online ridicule due to scandalous allegations by her ex-boyfriend Mo Twister in a video clip posted on YouTube last November. Ramos’ camp later sued Mo, real name Mohan Gumatay, for violation of Republic Act 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and their children (VAWC) Act of 2004.
Reyes and Halili were linked to a sex scandal, which became the topic of a Senate inquiry in 2009.
A sex video of Manahan was also leaked online last December 2011 after she linked family members of her boyfriend, Ramgen Revilla, to his murder.
Sotto said he asked Angara to include a provision against cyberbullying and online libel because he heard news that Ramos’ lawyer could not legally act on the posting of Gumatay’s video.
He said the Anti-Cybercrime Law is supposed to “police cyberspace” due to issues on cybersex, online pornography, identity theft, fraud and online libel. He said none of the senators who signed the bill objected to his suggestion.
“Social media is media. Papaano yung mga binababoy, yung mga binabastos? Kanino sila tatakbo? Yung iba kasi na pumapalag diyan kasi hindi sila nabababoy at nababastos. Pero kapag nabababoy at nababastos ka, papaano ka? Wala kang pupuntahan,” he said.
Various groups have criticized controversial provisions in the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, particularly Sec. 4(c)(4) which criminalizes libel not only on the Internet but also on "any other similar means which may be devised in the future.”
The Supreme Court has received 7 separate petitions urging the court to declare as unconstitutional the controversial provisions.
The senator also denied that the online libel provision was a last minute insertion after he became the target of online ridicule due to alleged plagiarism of blogs and other online resources. He said he made the proposal around December and it was included in the committee amendments in January.
“Hindi isiningit. Pinadudumi nila yan, sinisiraan na naman ako ng ibang tao, sinasabi na isiningit ko lang dahil inaatake ako ng Agosto-September. Ako ba’y may bolang kristal? Na malalaman ko Agosto-Setyembre na aatakihin nila ako? Hindi,” he said.
Sotto said that while he has no plans of using the law to sue his online critics, he believes the insertion of the online libel clause was “divine providence.”
“Siguro divine providence na binigyan ako ng ganyang pagkakataon na ganun pero bale-wala sa akin yun. Wala naman akong i-cha-charge. Pagtatawanan ko na lang. Ika nga, Diyos na ang bahala sa kanila. Pero hindi nila pwedeng gawin sa ibang tao,” he said.
“Moralidad ang isyu dito. Kaya lang naman natin binabantayan ang cyberspace dahil sa moralidad ng mga kabataan nababastos din, nabababoy,” he added.