The Supreme Court was asked yesterday to stop the imposition of several provisions in the controversial Cybercrime Law during the oral arguments held on January 15 for the petitions filed against it, reports.

Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, the fourth person to file a petition against the law, opened the session by comparing the Cybercrime Act, which has been slapped with a temporary restraining order (TRO) last year, to a dormant vampire.

“As cyber-Dracula lies helpless in its sleep, we plead for the final decisive action to banish our anger, anxiety and fears altogether,” he said.

Lawyer Harry Roque, who filed the fifth petition alongside columnist Ellen Tordesillas, asked the Supreme Court to strike down Sections 4 (c)4 and 4(1), which criminalize libel committed online, as the provisions were deemed too general and vague.

However, Associate Justice Marvic Leonen said that it is the state’s duty to protect the reputation of its citizens, citing the case of Chris Lao, who was cyber-bullied when a video of him driving a car through a flooded street was made public.

Bayan Muna Representative Neri Javier Colmenares also deemed the law unconstitutional, pointing out that people who will be prosecuted for online libel will be placed in double jeopardy as they will be tried for going against both the Cybercrime Law and the Revised Penal Code. “The law allows what the Constitution prohibits so that law should be struck down,” he said, adding that the punishment for online libel should not be raised a degree higher as there isn’t a great distinction between that and libel done via traditional media.

Colmenares also said that almost forms of libel can be considered as cyber-libel as print publications use computers to process their stories, and Justice Antonio Carpio also pointed out that the law does not distinguish whether a computer is connected online or not.

Atty. Rodel Cruz discussed the law’s take-down clause, saying that rules on warrantless searches and seizures should be the same whether online or offline. Lastly, Atty. Jesus Disini Jr. argued that the law’s provision on the collection of real-time data should be covered by a court order, instead of solely relying on the "conscience of the law enforcer."

The next arguments about the law will take place on January 22, with Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza discussing the government’s stand on the law’s enforcement.

(Photo by Scott* via Flickr Creative Commons)

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