Sedition… what’s that? The case against webmaster Rodel Jayme

May 8, 2019 - 11:02 AM
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Rodel Jayme
Rodel Jayme, the webmaster of metrobalita.net, at the National Bureau of Administration headquarters (The STAR/Russell Palma)

The inciting to sedition case filed against Rodel Jayme for allegedly sharing posts and videos online against the Duterte administration puts into question the limits of free speech of Filipinos online.

The complaint invoking an centuries-old infringement states that posts on social media and blogs may be considered seditious by law.

Jayme allegedly violated Article 142 of the Revised Penal Code or “inciting to sedition” in relation Section 6 of Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

However, he already insisted that he has no knowledge of the videos being used for the controversial “Ang Totoong Narcolist” channel accusing Duterte and his kin of being involved in the ilegal drug trade. The videos have since been deleted on YouTube.

The National Bureau of Investigation argues in its complaint

“Status posts and the likes are now considered as ‘electronic speech’ or speech done electronically. The internet, or Social Media to be précised [sic], is platform designed to reach audience on worldwide level.”

“Seditious words or speeches, write, publish, or circulate scurrilous libels, can now be done electronically (social media and blog web pages) and being online it now caters to a larger and wider audience.”

The sedition complaint against Jayme worried some digital dwellers.

Screenshot by Interaksyon

Others questioned the arrest, saying the government should verify the content of the videos first before assuming Jayme may have committed sedition.

inciting to sedition reaction 2
Screenshot by Interaksyon

Sedition: An age-old act

How does local law define sedition?

According to Article 139 of the Revised Penal Code, sedition is committed “by persons who rise publicly and tumultuously in order to attain by force, intimidation, or by other means outside of legal methods” any act of hate or revenge against any person, municipality or the National Government of all its property or any party thereof.

What form of speech or message is considered to incite sedition?

In Article 142, a person can incite sedition by means of “speeches, proclamations, writings, emblems, cartoons, banners, or other representations tending to the same end” against the country or any duly constituted authority.

The NBI linked this to the cybercrime law given that the acts were committed via an electronic device.

It cited section 6, wherein crimes covered by the Revised Penal Code such as sedition committed “with the use of information and communications technologies shall be covered by the relevant provisions of this Act.”

Did Rodel Jayme incite sedition?

In Jayme’s case, the bureau argued that the conversations he had with a certain “Maru Nguyen” or “Maru Xie” via email and Facebook showed “scurrilous libelous attacks against the government.”

“Based on the retrieved conversations, there is continuity of their efforts to conduct their scurrilous libelous attacks against the government. The conversations revealed that these attacks are planned and with backing from certain personalities,” part of the complaint said.

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Therefore, even if Jayme did not share the videos himself, the authorities believed he provoked hate against the president’s family and his allies because of his creation of the website.

“By creating a website and subsequently posting videos allege the involvement in the drug trade and the receipt of pay-offs of the President of the Philippines and members of his family, including the President’s minor daughter, is not an exercise of his freedom of speech and expression, but a clear act to arouse among its viewers a sense of dissatisfaction against the duly constituted authorities,” the DOJ resolution said.

How governments used sedition laws against their critics

Political critics in other countries have also been slapped with sedition charges due to their social media posts before.

In Thailand, veteran journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk and two prominent politicians Pichai Naripthaphan and Watana Muangsook were charged with sedition and violations of the country’s Computer-Related Crime Act in August 2017.

According to Human Rights Watch, their commentaries on Facebook about Thailand’s political and economic problems were deemed seditious by authorities.

In India, a man was arrested in the state of Tripura because of alleged sedition for uploading a video on Facebook considered as “anti-national” by the authorities in February of this year.

The video was reportedly about the terror attach at the district of Pulwama that month which killed 40 people.

In the Philippines, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV was also indicted of inciting to sedition charges this year because of remarks he expressed against Duterte.

These statements were aired on a radio interview on Sept. 4, 2018.