The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that “environmentalists and Internet users have rallied behind Esperlita “Perling” Garcia, an antimining advocate who was arrested on Thursday on libel charges for a purported critical post on Facebook in spite of the Supreme Court’s suspension of the cybercrime law.”
To recall, the Supreme Court en banc, in its a Resolution dated 9 October 2012, issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) “effective immediately and for a period of one hundred twenty (120) days, enjoining public authorities from enforcing Republic Act No. 10175 (Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012).” Some may be asking why she was arrested on charges of internet libel when the effectivity of the Cybercrime Law is currently suspended?
Unfortunately, the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 (RA 10175; full text) is NOT the only law that deals with online libel. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again — libel committed through the internet is already covered by an existing law, the Revised Penal Code. RA 10175 did not repeal the pertinent provisions on libel under the Revised Penal Code and, in fact, explicitly stated that the new provisions on cybercrimes, libel included, is without prejudice to any liability and prosecution under other laws.
In other words, online libel is not new. It has been there all along. It’s surprising to hear arguments based on the assumption that cyber libel is new, imposed under RA 10175. What RA 10175 accomplished is to increase the penalty for libel “committed through a computer system or any other similar means.” RA 10175 also empowered government law-enforcement agencies to a degree, if we base it on the petitions questioning the law, in excess of what the Constitution allows. [See primer.]