Who be da most reviled man in the Philippines these days, eh? Clue: It is not Puno. It's not Enrile. It's not even Trillanes.
What entity of government be da least respected in the Philippines these days, eh? Clue: this body passed a bill threatening to send Philippine free speech back into the stone ages whilst simultaneously ignoring gross ethical violations by one of its own. It also featured a mud-wrestling match yesterday that was only missing the babes and boobs in bikinis.
Congratulations to Top Blogger Raissa Robles on her latest article detailing how Senator Sotto is acting to back up his threat to go after bloggers who criticize him. He appears to have surreptitiously inserted an amendment into the Cybercrime Bill that includes online libel as one of the crimes to be policed. The amendment was not objected to when it was proposed during the heat of the Corona impeachment trial, so it was added to the bill. Then it was approved, all the way up through the President's signature.
It is now the law of the land.
It appears to be a case of fine print ignored, or if not ignored, not thought through as to how the provision can be used to suppress free expression. It is a step backward in the Philippine drive toward a more respected human rights standing in the global and investment communities.
The Cybercrime Bill creates a policing unit under the Executive Branch:
- SEC. 24. Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center. — There is hereby created, within thirty (30) days from the effectivity of this Act, an inter-agency body to be known as the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC), under the administrative supervision of the Office of the President, for policy coordination among concerned agencies and for the formulation and enforcement of the national cybersecurity plan.”
So we will soon have a police force assigned to the internet. Rather like China. These cybercops will hunt down crimes. Hackers. Stalkers online. People peddling girls online. People selling sex online. Pedophiles online. Bloggers issuing uncomfortable opinions online.
Here is what we are hypothetically likely to see:
- Senator Sotto once again steals another author's original work and uses it word for word without attribution.
- A blogger who runs a web site calls the senator a moron for doing it again. Commenters drop off their notes screaming "moron, moron!"
- Senator Sotto registers a complaint with the cybercops.
- The cybercops, knowing that a senator's reputation is of national security interest and must be protected, file a libel case against the blogger.
- The case gets kicked around for 5 years and eventually reaches the Supreme Court.
- The Supreme Court considers whether or not the description of Senator Sotto is disparaging. That is, is he a moron or not, in the context in which the word is used?
- The Supreme Court reads the Constitution and rules in favor of the blogger. The libel provision of the Cybercrime law is struck down as unconstitutional.
You see, this amendment has turned a well-intended law inside out, into a law that is potentially of use to suppress free speech.
Sex predators and bloggers, pulled together under one law.
Hell, this LAW is a libel to bloggers for equating online opinions with the acts of sex predators.
JoeAm will henceforth refer to the new law as the "Cybercrime and Totalitarianism Enhancement Law".
Well, the law is fact. And it will reshape what is said online. For sure, JoeAm will change his words.
Rather than say "Senator Sotto is an ethically challenged vindictive thug" he will say:
- "Is it possible that Senator Sotto is an ethically challenged vindictive thug?", or
- "Some might say Senator Sotto is an ethically challenged vindictive thug.", or
- "I fear that the good Senator Sotto will come across as an ethically challenged vindictive thug."
Or maybe my readers in America and Australia and Europe and the Middle East will send in comments calling Senator Sotto an ethically challenged vindictive thug.
To that point, I have amended the legal terms of this blog found in the tab "Policy and Terms".
The paragraph that once said:
- Comments are a shared property of the commenter and the Society of Honor. Excerpts from comments may be freely taken and re-published as long is attribution is granted to the commenter (name or alias) and the Society of Honor by Joe America.
Has been changed to read:
- Comments are the property of the commenter who grants the Society of Honor full right of re-publication and use. Excerpts from comments may be freely taken and re-published as long is attribution is granted to the commenter (name or alias) and the Society of Honor by Joe America.
This little tweak assigns responsibility for the content of comments to the commenter.
The problem with the Cybercrime and Totalitarianism Enhancement Law is that it puts bloggers who welcome robust commentary in a bind. The bloggers have a choice: (1) tighten up their editorial ship and exclude any comment that anyone might conceivably consider libelous (a virtually impossible task), or (2) allow robust and open commentary and significantly increase their risk of getting sued for publishing libelous words.
I am not an attorney and am wholly unqualified to parse comments for possible libelous content. I furthermore find it offensive that this law would insist that I become an agent of the State's newfound totalitarian twist to dampen free speech.
I am for free speech. I am for people being able to call JoeAm an unmitigated moron, an asshole of the Nth degree, and to instruct him to get his ass back to the States. You see, I can counter words with words. That is the beauty of freedom.
If my response to an insult is to try to jail or fine the author of the offensive words, I am, at heart, a totalitarian, vindictive thug.
It is too bad that senators who many would consider ethically challenged and ignorant as to the importance of freedom of expression don't get it.
They will, it time.
The internet. A new era. A new power.
Use it well.
That, after all, is the intent of the Cybercrime legislation. To stop crimes.
It is also a useful medium with which to call out the ethically challenged. After all, the Senate appears unwilling to take up this righteous task.
And so the entire Senate is called out, too. Some might say they are not much better than clowns when they see an ethical violation right on the floor of the Senate and merely turn their heads away.
Ignore a gross ethics violation. Pass a law that may be used to suppress free speech.
You can write your own description as to what kind of leaders these are and what kind of future the Philippines has with them at the helm.