Sunday, September 30, 2012

Mangaldan official mulls libel vs. FB members

MANGALDAN – Were the administrators behind the acrimonious Face Book community group’s Kumusta La Mangaldan (KLM) scampered so they can be insulated to a pending libel case against them?
A public official slighted by the vitriol’s hurled in the past by pro-active members of KLM has asked this paper to warn them that a criminal libel case against them is in the offing. Has the leadership of KLM took note about this threat, or it has just started to purge many of its rambunctious and libel case- prone members , who are part of its more than 4000 population, after the Cyber Crime Bill was just signed into law by President Simeon Benigno Aquino III?
In its FB wall, a purportedly public statement from a group of hackers said: “This group has been compromised by several groups of hackers from DemonoidPH and Anonymous.
We have seen obstruction (of law) such as defamation, fictitious statements, libel, and (violations of) Facebook policies that states that Facebook and all things connected to (it) should and only be for productivity”. It added that it is a self-funded association of hackers trying to stop the misuse of such privileges by KLM. A public official here who asked anonymity told this paper recently that one of the four accused in the alleged payroll scam here has a compilation of previous libelous posts by members of KLM who are fictitious and non-fictitious. “I’ll be using them as reference in a future case I’ll file against them,” she said. The other town official said that just like in an ordinary libel case, those who would be liable to the vitriolic and scathing remarks that are baselessly uttered by members there could drag their administrators as co-accused in the case that include a warrant of arrest.
Manuel Olet P.Morillo,Jr, the founder of Mangaldan Pollwatch of FB and used to be a member of the hacker's closed KLM, said in his post recently: “Effective today, there will be no acceptance of new members (in MP) without my approval. Ang mga fake accounts na gustong sumali para lamang manggulo at manira ng pagkatao ng mga pribadong tao. Umiiwas lang po tayo na magamit ang Mangaldan Pollwatch para sa ganitong mga Gawain”
 But another political spectator in this town posed on the precaution declared by Morillo:
 “How about those damaging statements hurled by  (KLM and MP) members in the past? Would they not incriminate those who uttered them incase the alluded public official and others file a case against them?”
Lately, the libel provision in the Cyber Crime Law, inserted surreptitiously by Senator Tito Sotto, has raised howls in different quarters in the country.
Libel, according to the new law, is the unlawful or prohibited acts of libel as defined in Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, committed through a computer system or any other similar means which may be devised in the future (Paragraph 4, Section 4 of Republic Act 10175) The said law is titled as an act defining cybercrime providing for the prevention, investigation, suppression, and the imposition of penalties therefore and for other purposes But Senator Teofisto Guingona III, who filed a petition of certiorari and prohibition against it in the Supreme Court, denounced RA 10175. He questioned why a new law on libel as it is already provided in Section 353 to 355 in the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines.
 He said the new law violated already the double jeopardy clause of the constitution. Section 353 provides that libel is public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead.
He said that libel in the cyber crime law is more serious because it carries a penalty of six years and one day to 12 years. Libel, in the Penal Code, metes only a not more than six-year imprisonment. It means the accused convicted by the court can still go scot free by applying for probation. In the new law, the violator would serve jail because it carries a penalty higher than what the provision of the Probation Law provides.
This town official opined that even without the libel law in the Cyber Crime Law, the past defamatory statements of some KLM members could still stand a leg as it is anchored on the criminal defamatory law in the Penal Code of the Philippines (MCO).

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