G.R. No. 203335: February 18 2014
Topic: Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012
FACTS: On September 12, 2012, the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 was approved. The law aimed to address legal issues concerning online interactions and the Internet in the Philippines. It penalizes illegal acts done via the Internet that were not covered by old laws. However, the act received criticisms for its provision criminalizing libel, which is perceived to be a curtailment of the freedom of expression. Hence, consolidated petitions were filed before the Supreme Court to question the constitutionality of several provisions of the act. Focusing on the libel aspect, petitioners claim that the libel provisions of the Revised Penal Code and, in effect, the libel provisions of the cybercrime law carry with them the requirement of “presumed malice” even when the latest jurisprudence already replaces it with the higher standard of “actual malice” as a basis for conviction. Petitioners argue that inferring “presumed malice” from the accused’s defamatory statement by virtue of Article 354 of the penal code infringes on the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression.
- Whether or not Section 4(c)(4) on Cyber-Libel, insofar as it penalizes the author of the libelous statement or article, is constitutional?
- Yes. Section 4(c)(4) on Cyber-Libel is constitutional. The Court ruled that Section 4(c)(4) penalizing online libel is valid and constitutional with respect to the original author of the post; but void and unconstitutional with respect to others who simply receive the post and react to it. It explained that libel is not a constitutionally protected speech and that the government has an obligation to protect private individuals from defamation. Indeed, cyberlibel is actually not a new crime since Article 353, in relation to Article 355 of the penal code, already punishes it. In effect, Section 4(c)(4) above merely affirms that online defamation constitutes “similar means” for committing libel. But the Courts acquiescence goes only insofar as the cybercrime law penalizes the author of the libelous statement or article. Cyberlibel brings with it certain intricacies, unheard of when the penal code provisions on libel were enacted. The culture associated with internet media is distinct from that of print. The internet is characterized as encouraging a freewheeling, anything-goes writing style. In a sense, they are a world apart in terms of quickness of the readers reaction to defamatory statements posted in cyberspace, facilitated by one-click reply options offered by the networking site as well as by the speed with which such reactions are disseminated down the line to other internet users.