DOJ: Online libel could get 8-yr jail term

By David Dizon, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Oct 09 2012 11:09 AM | Updated as of Oct 09 2012 08:41 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Committing online libel isn't going to put you in jail for 12 years. According to a Department of Justice official, the penalty for online libel under Republic Act No. 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 is 4-8 years imprisonment and a fine of 600 pesos to 6,000 pesos.

Justice Assistant Secretary Geronimo Sy said all 15 petitions questioning the online libel provision before the Supreme Court said punishment for online libel is up to 12 years in prison, higher than the present punishment for libel under the Revised Penal Code.

"That is an incorrect appreciation of the law. Presently, it is 6 months to 4 years. The correct reading is 4 years to 8 years. You may or may not agree with the penalty but I just want to correct an objective fact in the petitions. The fine is 600 to 6,000 pesos," he said during a forum on the new anti-cybercrime law.

Sy said the Department of Justice is not interested in targeting individual tweets and Facebook likes in implementing the online libel provision.

He said: "As a matter of priority, let me say it on my lawyer's oath, blogging, individual comments, tweeting, boyfriend-girlfriend discussions - those are not the priorities of the DOJ. It is very difficult to catch fugitives from justice, what more individual tweets and individual likes. Let's manage our expectations. Let the law work."

In the forum, Sy also denied that Section 17 of the law violates the double jeopardy rule. He said that if it is only one act punishable by 2 crimes, the DOJ must pick under which law "makes sense to prosecute."

"But, if it's 2 separate acts committed in 2 separate worlds, you will be liable for 2 separate crimes," he added.

The Supreme Court has received at least 15 petitions asking the Court to declare as unconstitutional several provisions of the new law including the online libel provision, which ascribes a higher penalty for online libel, and the power of the DOJ Secretary to shut down a website without a court order.

President Aquino earlier defended the inclusion of the online libel provision of the new law. He said he signed RA 10175 because there is an urgent need to address cybercrimes in the country, particularly identity fraud, computer-related forgery, computer-related fraud and online child pornography.