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Roxas, Abad snub Senate hearing to de-list libel from cybercrime law

Protesters hold a vigil on the eve of the Supreme Court oral arguments on the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 in this file photo of January 14, 2013.
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA, Philippines – Two key members of President Benigno Aquino III’s Cabinet have rejected the invitation of the Senate Committee on Science and Technology deliberating on a bill to delete libel from the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 that the Supreme Court recently upheld partially.

Senator Ralph Recto said Sunday the list of resource persons issued by the committee had included Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas II and Budget and Management Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad, but both officials rejected the invitation.

“Rejected [the invitation] but will submit [a] position paper,” Recto said of the officials’ response.

Besides Roxas and Abad, Solicitor General Francis H. Jardeleza also declined an invitation to appear, but notified Recto he will send a position paper.

March 3 hearing on cybercrime bills

Recto had set for Monday (March 3) the first of the series of public hearings on various cybercrime bills. The committee had been pressed to set a hearing on these measures after the SC ruled on Feb. 18 that the cybercrime law enacted in 2012 was constitutional, but declared unconstitutional certain provisions.

In a nuanced decision, for example, the Court upheld the constitutionality of libel whether offline or online, but only with respect to its applicability to the original author/producer of the offending material. The Supreme Court, however, appeared to acknlowedge the right of citizens to express their approval (or disapproval) with the same material, effectively recognizing "likes", "shares", "re-tweets", and comments as protected speech.

While upholding most of the Cybercrime Prevention Act, the Supreme Court also struck down a powerful "takedown clause" in the law that would have allowed government agents to block or restrict access to online material without benefit of any warrant. Similarly rejected as unconstitutional was a provision allowing for "real-time" collection of traffic data that critics had said would have dire consequences for people's rights to privacy and due process. 

To accommodate all interested parties at Monday’s hearing, a request has been made to use the plenary hall of the Senate.

Among those who confirmed their attendance at the hearing are:

1.       Science and Technology Undersecretary Louis Napoleon C. Casambre, executive director for Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO)

2.       Justice Assistant Secretary Geronimo Sy

3.       Atty. Wendell Bendoval, Associate Prosecution

4.       National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Director Virgilio L. Mendez

5.       Atty. Joselito Amon, chief, NBI legal division I

6.       Ronald Aguto, chief, NBI Cybercrime Division

7.       PNP Chief Police Director-General Alan La Madrid Purisima

8.       Civil Service Commission (CSC) Chairman Francisco T. Duque III

9.       Joseph Alwin Alburo, vice chairman of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP)

10.   Benny Antiporda, President of the National Press Club

11.   Atty. Harry Roque

12.   Atty. Toby Purisima, counsel of Bloggers and Netizens for Democracy (BAND)

13.   Blogger Tonyo Cruz

14.   Ayeen Karunungan, president of Philippine Internet Freedom Alliance (PIFA)

15.   Sarah Elago, president of NUSP

16.   Atty. Vicente M. Joyas, national president of Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)

17.   Lito Averia, President, Philippine Computer Emergency Response Team (PHCERT)

18.   Engr. Pierre Tito Galla, co-founder of Democracy.Net.PH

19.   Jannette Toral, blogger,, and

20.   Atty. Jose Jesus M. Disini, Member, Philippine Internet Commerce Society of the Philippines (PICS)

Recto said that among those to be heard by the committee is the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom filed by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago and other bills pending in the Senate to strike out libel in the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

The hearing will be webcast live, Recto said.

Aside from the Senate Committee on Science and Technology, the bills will be jointly heard by the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes, Civil Service and Government Reorganization, and Committee on Finance.