“So it wasn’t true that there was no discussion about the online libel provision,” the senator said during yesterday’s forum on election politics and the media held as part of the annual observance of Cebu Press Freedom Week.
Then he was asked if a public hearing was held, one that invited media outlets and bloggers —the latter group with whom Sotto figured in a heated word war over allegations of plagiarism in his speeches against the Reproductive Health Bill.
The good senator said there was.
“Sen. Ed Angara said there was,” he replied.
He said the period of amendments for laws had expired, which meant there was no more time for public hearings.
So, there was no definite statement whether Sotto really did introduce the online libel provision.
Sotto avoided a head-on confrontation over this heavily criticized provision.
He deftly sidestepped a clash by lauding the mainstream media for acting with responsibility while reminding that libel laws make people accountable for what they say or write.
Hence, including online libel in the law, was “only logical”, he said.
Try as he might, the senator and to a larger extent President Benigno Aquino III were a lot more eager to clamp down on freedom of expression rather than ensuring the passage of the Freedom of Information Act, which would make them and the government truly accountable to the people.
Instead of leading by example to promote “Tuwid Na Daan (Straight Path)” the President demanded accountability from other officials and even had one chief justice ousted while being less than candid about his Statement of Assets and Liabilities and secret appointments like Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV’s China excursion.
Sotto said senators wanted to level the playing field so that libel covers not just mainstream journalists, but online writers and those who use social media like Facebook and Twitter.
On the Internet, users can lambast and issue below the belt insults with the click of a button.
Sotto’s hand in making online libel a cybercrime shows he pays lip service to freedom of expression
Is this the same kind of pseudo-conviction behind his avowed support for the Freedom of Information bill?
There’s a word for what the senator did in justifying his copy-paste insertion in the cybercrime law, a word used to describe the former chief justice’s tearful appeaks: palusot.