Angara: Lawmakers should have studied cyberlaw first

By Ryan Chua, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 04 2012 02:40 PM | Updated as of Oct 05 2012 05:13 AM

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - As other lawmakers who approved the Cybercrime Prevention Act are now disowning the law's contentious provisions, one of its principal authors said it was their responsibility to have carefully studied the law before approving it.

Sen. Edgardo Angara, sponsor of the cybercrime law in the Senate, said this is particularly true for members of the bicameral conference committee, which reconciled the House and Senate versions of the measure.

"If you're a member of the bicameral committee, the burden is heavier on you to look at what you are signing," he told reporters at a news forum on Thursday.

The legislative history of Republic Act 10175 shows that the House and Senate approved the bicameral conference committee report on June 5, 2012, the same day it was submitted to both chambers for ratification.

Enrolled copies of the bill were sent to Malacañang for the President's signature on August 15. It was signed into law on September 18.

Rep. Susan Yap, an author of the measure in the House and a part of the bicameral conference, said on Wednesday she didn't see the final version of the cybercrime law that was sent to Malacañang.

In a Facebook post, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. also said he did not know libel was included in the bill because he was away on official mission when the Senate approved it on second reading.

However, he was one of 13 senators who voted for the measure on final reading, and was also a part of the bicameral conference committee.

"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 wrote. He promised to file a bill repealing the cybercrime law's libel clause.

Sen. Francis Escudero had earlier admitted an oversight when he approved the bill unaware of the libel provision. He has filed a measure repealing it.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes, who did not participate in the vote on the cybercrime bill, said he will support measures to amend the law while admitting the Senate may have committed an error in approving it.

"The Senate is willing to make amends and rectify the errors," he said on Wednesday.

However, Angara stood by the law he pushed for, stressing its importance in a digital age.

"I think you can defend this law before any tribunal, human rights and others," he said.

But Angara also plans to amend certain provisions of the law, including one that gives the Justice Department the power to restrict access to computer data it deems illegal even without a court order.