Now that Republic Act 10175, also known as the Philippine Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, has been enacted to law, the question in most people’s minds now is “Who is gonna be sued first?” Here are three of them (or rather three classes of them) that immediately come to mind.
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(1) The Professional Heckler
Considering Filipinos’ renowned cognitive challenges when it comes to getting satire, the “award”-winning political satirist known as “The Professional Heckler” who in his Twitter account describes himself as “A humor blogger from the Philippines” may be in trouble. For that matter, just being “from the Philippines” puts him squarely within the kill zone.
His In Memoriam article on the “demise” of Senator Tito Sotto’s “common sense” as expressed in the following mock epitaph which opens the article, may be funny. But some powerful folk may not be in the mood for a bit of a laugh…
The People of the Philippines deeply regret
to announce the not-so-shocking demise
of Senator Vicente ‘Tito’ Sotto III’s
COMMON SENSE last August 29.
On September 5, 2012, it died yet again making
it ‘double dead’ – botcha sotto speak.
The lawmaker’s common sense is survived by his
22 fellow senators who opted to keep mum
on the issue of plagiarism.
In lieu of flowers or prayers,
the public is requested to just remain
vigilant and critical.
Interment was never announced.
It just happened.
Considering how I was crowned “one of the most enthusiastic hecklers of the politically-passionate” by no less than the Noted One himself way back in September 2006, I sympathise with The Professional Heckler. His blog goes as far back as April, 2007 so I count him as one who wields equal claim to the title.
In any case, Professional Heckler may have other more pressing things to worry about. The embattled Senator Sotto reportedly said that “the new law against cybercrime may be used to penalize those who make defamatory statements online.”
(2) Raissa Robles
The self-described “investigative journalist” has quite a dossier of journalistic infamy in our archives. Robles was instrumental to the success of the whole trial-by-media fiasco that was the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona. Her “contribution” to this “noble” endeavour was a full-court-press on Corona and his wife Cristina Corona that stood upon three questionable premises:
(1) Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) made it a point to appoint Mrs Corona to the Board of Directors of John Hay Management Corporation (JHMC) in 2001.
(2) There was, supposedly, a “possible conflict of interest” in an SC justice being married to a Board member of the JHMC both of whom were appointed by GMA to those positions.
(3) Mr Corona sat in the SC as a justice courtesy of GMA’s “reward” and Mrs Corona enjoyed a plum Board position in the JHMC over the rest of the period of GMA’s cling-on presidency.
Robles also mounted a “crowdsourcing” effort to supposedly get to the bottom of the Coronas’ allegedly vast property holdings in the United States by encouraging her community of readers to post “evidence” to prove this allegation on the comment sections of her blog.
(3) Magtanggol de la Cruz and Carmela Fonbuena of Rappler.com
One of the cornerstones of the case against Corona during his impeachment trial was the existence of alleged foreign currency accounts to his name. On account of the Philippines’ bank secrecy laws, those accounts and the cash balances within them were at the time legally invisible to the media. Yet in a series of Rappler.com news “reports”, de la Cruz and Fonbuena revealed not only the amount of money kept in these accounts but also the account number of one of them.
Rappler.com itself has a track record of erroneous “news” reporting. The most recent instance of this sloppy journalism was highlighted by blogger Paul Farol who cited Voltaire Tupaz’s and Judy Pasimio’s reports on the gunning down of tribal leader Timuay Lucenio Manda’s son Jordan in early September. “Manda was ambushed and shot at by several men while he was riding a motorcycle with his son, who he was bringing to school in Bayog, Zamboanga del Sur. Manda survived the shooting, but his son was instantly killed.”
Not one but two Rappler.com “reports” erroneously cast Manda as harbouring an absolute “anti-mining” position — an allegation denied by Manda himself in a subsequent press statement.
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Recall that for an allegation of libel to hold water, the following elements need to be present: “(a) imputation of a discreditable act or condition to another; (b) publication of the imputation; (c) identity of the person defamed; and, (d) existence of malice.” [Daez v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 47971, 31 October 1990, 191 SCRA 61, 67].
You be the judge.