I don't believe President Aquino is an idiot. Senator Sotto rather sets the standard in that regard, appearing to be out of touch with just about everything except the dark rings circling aimlessly in his mind. Let me bullet-point a few observations about President Aquino. These are not truths perhaps, not measured by psychological exam. Just what it looks like to me . . . and what I will use as premises to interpret his future acts.
- The President is stubborn. Once he takes a position, that's it. He signed the Cybercrime Law and no matter the flaws pointed out by Human Rights Watch, Father Bernas, and several hundred other good, bright, people, he is not willing to bend his view on the libel provision. You can observe his stubbornness again and again. I had previously called it "determination". Tempered with reason, that would be a strength. Held onto despite reason . . . that is a weakness.
- The President favors people he likes, people who work for him, who are on his side. He wanted Secretary De Lima in the Chief Justice chair and would not listen to anyone about why that would not have been a good appointment. He wants Padaca as a COMELEC commissioner and he does not care about laws or public perceptions. He's going to put her there. Then there was Puno, offending so many, defended all the way by the President. He will stubbornly stick with his favorites even if his own reputation takes a ding.
- President Aquino does not have a deep appreciation for freedom of expression. If he did, any comment he would make about the libel law would be prefaced with a remark about how important open expression is to the development and well-being of the Philippines. I find it amazing. After Rizal. After Marcos. There are so many tin ears in the Philippines regarding acts of oppression.
|Dr. Jose Rizal|
- He equates good governance with law enforcement. Putting people in jail. Emphasizing limits on freedom of expression. If you cross the line on-line, double time the sentence. Perhaps this is why his focus on extra-judicial murders seems lackluster. He agrees with tough cops, even if they are self-appointed. Good governance appears not to mean rich values like freedom of expression or justice for all, even criminals, or real transparency like a Freedom of Information Bill would provide.
- The President can google, we discovered. But he apparently has no appreciation for the range of open discussion on chats and blogs and social networks, and how the energy displayed there is a force, often referred to as "The Fifth Estate", that helps participants engage in governance; helps them learn and teach and become deeper and richer people. To him, on-line appears to be something that others do, and it has an unsavory bent to it. It's like the internet is young and bold and he is old and sedate.
"And what about libel, Joe. Do you believe libel laws are necessary?"
Yes. Yes, I do. Here's what I think about this matter regarding libel and the internet.
- Libel laws already exist. It is illegal to use words to intentionally and maliciously harm another person. But rather than tack confusing and overlapping libel penalties on the Cybercrime Bill, why not simply amend existing libel laws to clarify that they apply to on line expressions. Then penalties would be consistent.
- Libel laws protect the powerful and rich. Senator Sotto was looking out for no one but Senator Sotto in pushing the libel provision. That's ridiculous. Let's take care of real victims.
- Libel laws should have "reverse libel" punishments. If a libel complaint is denied, the person filing the complaint should automatically be declared guilty of libel. That would end the use of complaints as a tool to harass people. Only the most damaging and certain of complaints would come forward. Frivolous complaints based mainly on temper or spite would no longer burden the courts and the threat of libel would no longer be oppressive to free speech.
- The cybercrime law should focus on the types of crime where injuries are real and substantial. Child porn, hacking, scams, stalking. I personally don't have a problem with adult cybersex (and, sort of related, the banning of "sex toys" in Manila is comical). But then, I favor legalization and taxation of marijuana. If adults can go shoot people as soldiers, and be shot at, they can handle sex on line. Preachers ought not be stamping "keep out" across the internet. They have full right of free speech from the pulpit. If they are good at their job . . . no problems, no worries, eh?
- I also think parents should monitor what their children are doing on line.
Thanks for these insights.
I would also note that the prior article had sharp edges to it. There was a reason for that.
Freedom of expression allows passion.