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MANILA, Philippines – A lawmaker on Thursday objected to proposals in the Senate, albeit vague, to enact a law governing blogs, saying this could open the avenues for curtailing freedom of speech and expression.
Kabataan party-list Representative Raymond Palatino said restraint should not be imposed on one of the forms for expression on the Internet, one of the most democratic spaces available to the public.
“News of the Senate leadership’s move to pass a bill that will set the parameters for blogging is alarming, especially for the blogging community. Blogs have been one of the freest avenues for opinions and discussions, and we fear that we might lose this freedom if a law is passed to regulate it,” said Palatino, himself an active blogger.
In a privilege speech Wednesday, Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III decried the “cyber-bullying” he experienced due to an earlier speech he delivered on the Reproductive Health Bill, in which certain parts were allegedly lifted from an American blogger’s article. Sotto said he and the blogger had quoted the same authority, Dr. Natasha McBride. On Wednesday night, Sotto in his speech asked the Senate leadership to completely strike from the record all parts of his first RH bill speech that referenced McBride, in a bid to end the controversy.
The interpellation after Sotto’s privilege speech on Thursday sparked a fresh debate, however, on another topic. In his interpellation, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said that perhaps a a law regulating blogs needed to be crafted to “protect the rights of bloggers.”
Palatino said such a proposal would run counter to Article III Section 4 of the 1987 Constitution which states that, “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”
Blogs, added Palatino, “have been the venue of free speech and discourse since the advent of the Internet. Regulating it is tantamount to curtailing the freedom of expression of thousands of active Filipino bloggers.”
He said the Senate leadership lacked knowledge on the nature of blogs. “Senate President Enrile himself admitted that he isn’t Internet-savvy. We understand him, as blogs greatly vary from one another – from the personal to the academic, the mundane and the officious,” he said.
Palatino said the anonymity offered by blogs is essential in certain cases, especially when the message being delivered may cause danger to the person of the author.
“Passing a blogging law may endanger this anonymity. We can even enter a scenario wherein authorities track down bloggers using their IP address just to enforce the law,” he added.