Even before the anti-cyber crime law took effect at midnight a few hours ago, questions arose about the enforcement of that law’s online libel provision after a post made on the Facebook page of the Philippine National Police last Monday.
In an article posted on the Yahoo! Philippines website, the alleged PNP posts were sparked by a comment from one Facebook user who claimed that English-speaking police officers of being more adept at extortion.
Almost immediately after that post, there were posts which warned users that any “foul words against the police officers can be used as evidence” to be filed in a court of law.
“Watchout the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Anti-Transnational Crime is now conducting background investigation against you (sic),” read one of three posts in a Facebook thread.
It followed up the warning with the claim that the CIDG has facilities comparable to and even more sophisticated than most found in the world courtesy of a donation from the US government that would help them locate Facebook users posting what they considered malicious and libelous comments against the organization.
The Facebook warning posts were immediately disowned by the PNP, which said that official statements are posted only through the PNP website www.pnp.gov.ph, on Facebook under the account name pnp.pio, or issued to each media outlet.
“We shall have this incident investigated ASAP. You will be updated on the developments,” the PNP was quoted as saying in the Yahoo! article which stated that the thread was removed from the PNP’s Facebook page. A screenshot of the alleged PNP posts was taken by some netizens.
A group called the Filipino Freethinkers admitted in their blog that while the posts may not have been made by the PNP, it was still a chilling reminder to all Facebook users who rant about the police.
Despite days of vocal and online protests against the online libel provision of the anti-cybercrime law—one has to emphasize that it’s the online libel provision and not the entire law that’s questionable—only Sen. Francis Escudero managed to issue a response and a feeble one at that by saying that he will push for a repeal of the provision.
The others who approved the law lock, stock and barrel, notably Sen. Loren Legarda, a former media practitioner, have yet to issue their statements for or against the online libel provision.
With the law now in effect, a Damocles sword hangs heavy over the heads of Filipino netizens who will have to deal with that provision which constitutionalist Fr. Joaquin Bernas said is more severe than the libel law found in the Revised Penal Code.
With the law in effect, it’s only the Supreme Court that can knock out or take down that criminal provision by telling both Congress and the President that it’s unconstitutional and violates the inherent freedom of expression enjoyed by Filipinos.